In 2011, Canadian Feed The Children (CFTC), an established international development agency, had a choice: either make a significant turnaround or face difficult decisions about the organization’s future.
“CFTC was doing good work, but we were a small player in a large market, confused with many other brands. We needed to strengthen our board and management practices and build the trust of our stakeholders. We recognized an opportunity to rethink CFTC, moving it from charity to change agent, and we were seeking to benchmark against best practices at every level,” says Debra Kerby, CFTC’s President & CEO. Imagine Canada’s new Standards Program laid out just the pathway the organization needed. “We understood that if we pursued Standards Program accreditation, it could become our roadmap to best practices across the organization.”
The Standards Program is Imagine Canada’s accreditation program for nonprofits and charities, designed to build excellence through common standards of practice and strengthen Canadians’ confidence in the sector. Working through the accreditation process helps organizations to improve in five foundational areas: board governance, financial accountability and transparency, fundraising, staff management and volunteer involvement.
“We definitely considered the volume of work and time involved in seeking Standards Program accreditation, but we also knew that it would significantly up our game on a strategic level,” explains Kerby. “We worked hard as a team, we reached out to larger organizations and we tapped into our board’s private sector experience. We also turned to the Imagine Canada team to guide us through the process.”
As Kerby describes it, achieving Standards Program accreditation in 2013 marked a turning point for CFTC. The organization emerged with greater clarity around board roles and responsibilities, and strengthened board engagement, strategic thinking and the ability to attract strong talent. Donors stayed engaged during a time of massive change and conversations shifted from a focus on overhead and ratios to investment for long-term change.
“Very early, our improved systems and structures – a direct result of the Standards accreditation process – started to earn us recognition,” says Kerby. “We won the Voluntary Sector Reporting Awards three years in a row, reaching ‘Exemplar’ status. And we were recognized by the Financial Post as one of Canada’s top charities for efficiency and accountability in both 2016 and 2017. Of course, there was lots of team pride as well!”
These changes at CFTC, and their public recognition for excellence in governance and financial reporting, have impacted all areas of operations and led to their ability to attract significant financial resources, including more six-figure gifts from private donors and $14 million in multi-year contribution agreements from the federal government.
“CFTC transformed from facing the question of organizational viability in 2010 to becoming a trusted organization repeatedly recognized for excellence today. The heightened credibility we have earned has led to greater support to deliver our mission,” says Kerby. “To any charity considering Standards Program accreditation, I would say: Believe. The program will transform your organization and allow you to further your mission beyond your imagination.”
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About the Author
Marlene Oliveira is a copywriter and communications consultant at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity. Marlene specializes in helping nonprofits to produce better content and has worked in the sector since 1999. Marlene’s approach is to work with clients and community members, tapping into the knowledge and wisdom they already possess, to help their communications ‘flow’.
Guest contributions represent the personal opinions and insights of the authors and may not reflect the views or opinions of Imagine Canada.