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Imagine Canada

Strong Charities. Strong Communities.

Standards FAQ

What are the mission and goals of the Standards Program?

Mission: To build excellence within Canada’s charities and nonprofits through common standards of practice and to strengthen confidence in the sector.

Goals: Help Canadian charities and nonprofits improve their practices in five foundation areas: board governance, financial accountability & transparency, fundraising, staff management, and volunteer involvement.

Increase the transparency of charities and nonprofits in these foundational areas. Recognize organizations that meet the standards. Strengthen public confidence in individual charitable and nonprofit organizations and the sector as a whole.

Our organization is interested in becoming accredited. What level are we?

To determine your organization’s level, use your average revenues over the last three years (charities should use the amount on line 5100 of their Registered Charity Information Return (T3010) along with the average number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees over the last three years.

The definition of full-time employment can vary from one organization to another but it is generally defined as between 35 and 40 hours of work per week, 52 weeks per year.

Nonprofits that are not registered charities must submit their most recent financial statements identifying their annual average expenses.

Level 1 – Organizations with up to 10 FTE employees and up to $3 million in annual expenses.
Level 2 – Organizations with up to 50 FTE employees and up to $10 million in annual expenses.
Level 3 – Organizations with more than 50 FTE employees or over $10 million in annual expenses.

Standards levels revised June 2018

How many standards are there? How are they organized?

There are 73 standards for charities and nonprofits to strengthen sector capacity in five fundamental areas:

  • Board Governance
  • Financial Accountability & Transparency
  • Fundraising
  • Staff Management
  • Volunteer Involvement

Can I find out if an organization is in the process of becoming accredited?

Imagine Canada does not disclose the names of the organizations that are currently applying for accreditation. However, a complete list of accredited organizations can be found on this website.

How can I become a peer reviewer?

All individuals interested in becoming a peer reviewer must be recommended to serve on the Peer Review Panel by the Board Chair or the most senior staff person of a Canadian charity or nonprofit. Interested individuals will also be asked to complete an application to be reviewed by the Standards Council. If you are selected to serve on the panel, you will be required to sign confidentiality and conflict of interest agreements before reviewing applications.

I believe an organization that has been accredited has violated the Standards. What should I do?

Organizations that have been accredited through the Imagine Canada Standards Program are required to comply with all Standards in order to maintain their accreditation. If you feel that an accredited organization is not operating in compliance with the Standards, you can register a complaint by completing and submitting our Complaints Form. Complaints are reviewed by a Complaints Committee that is at arm’s length from Imagine Canada. For more information on how to submit a complaint and what happens once a complaint has been registered, download our Complaints Policy.

The Standards Program sets standards in five key areas - board governance, financial accountability & transparency, fundraising, staff management, and volunteer involvement. They are intended to reflect a standard for governance and when met will help to ensure a well-run and transparent organization. The Standards are not a comment on how an entity operates in any specific situation and do not give Imagine Canada any jurisdiction or right to comment on a day to day operational issue.

What is the Standards Trustmark?

The Standards Program Trustmark signals that an organization has demonstrated compliance with each of the Imagine Canada Standards. The accredited organization is permitted to use the Trustmark annually for a period of five years, contingent on demonstrating ongoing compliance via the completion and submission of an annual compliance report and license fee.

What happens after the five-year period to use the Standards Program Trustmark has expired?

After the five-year accreditation period, organizations are required to re-apply to become accredited and enjoy the use of the Standards Program Trustmark. During this process, organizations must prepare their application, submit it for a staff review and if successful, to peer review. Please note that a previous accreditation status should not be regarded as a guarantee or an indicator of a future successful accreditation.

How can my organization use and incorporate the Standards Trustmark?

All accredited organizations have an important role to play in strengthening the recognition for the Standards Program Trustmark and building momentum for the Standards Program. To better inform your organization’s stakeholders about the Standards Program, we recommend that electronic uses of the Trustmark link to Imagine Canada’s Standards Program website.

Aside from your organization’s website, there are a variety of ways in which your organization can use and incorporate the Standards Program Trustmark including:

  •     Annual report
  •     Newsletters
  •     Advertisements
  •     Program, fundraising or other brochures
  •     Letterhead (electronic/paper)
  •     Employee or volunteer recruitment ads and orientation materials
  •     Direct mail/email campaigns
  •     Funding proposals and/or stewardship
  •     Social media activity (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  •     In an online awareness campaign
  •     In email signatures

If you happen to have other ideas as to how organizations can use the Trustmark or if you would like to share some of the ways that your organization has chosen to use the Standards Program Trustmark, please let us know!

How was the Standards Program developed?

We worked in partnership with Volunteer Canada and the HR Council to establish the Standards Program and had many consultations and conversations with leaders of Canadian charities and nonprofits.

This background work began in 2006. We hosted a Standards Forum  in 2010, which led to a public launch of the Program in 2012.


Our National Partners

  • great west life
  • Lawson Foundation
  • Muttart Foundation
  • RBC Foundation
  • Suncor
  • TD Bank
  • investors group

Learn more about our National Partners and other supporters.

Charitable Registration Number: 119218790 RR0001