Charities reaping billions of dollars each year from well-meaning Canadians aren't legally bound to make public their full audited financial statements. But, surely, they have an ethical obligation to do so. Transparency should be paramount when capitalizing on other people's generosity.
As reported by the Star's Raveena Aukahh and Amy Dempsey, these are some of the biggest players in the charitable sector, with the (Major 100) charities receiving $3.6 billion of the $9.7 billion donated each year. Yet several in this group didn't want their full financial statements posted publicly. Getting that data required a special request to the Canada Revenue Agency.
What is there to hide? Well, fully one-quarter of the (Major 100) had so much money already in hand they could run their programs for three or more years with no additional fundraising at all. Yet they're still asking for people's money. Others continue to spend in excess of 40 per cent of their donations, or more, on fundraising instead of the cause they're supposed to be serving.
As far as donors are concerned, that's useful information. All charities should be required to post their full audited financial statements on line. It's the best way to inspire public confidence in giving. "
Update November 2018: Since 2011, 96 of Canada's Major 100 charities post audited financial statements online. This is a significant improvement from 70 in 2011.
Charity Intelligence hopes all Canadian charities that receive donations over $1 million will be financially transparent with donors. We will continue to measure financial transparency for donors.
February 22, 2016: Charities Directorate issues new guidance. For smaller charities, with income over $250,000, the Charities Directorate guidance is that audited financial statements be prepared.