Any business owner knows that a successful business needs the support of its community, and that success also comes from giving back to ensure your community receives the support it needs to grow and thrive. There are a lot of options to choose from, though, and not all charities are as reputable as they purport to be, so how can you provide responsible business philanthropy?
While many charitable organizations are working hard to support their causes, there are some that are damaging the reputations of all charities by mismanaging, diverting, and failing to disclose assets. In 2013, it was discovered that, between 2008 and 2012, more than a thousand non-profit organizations in the United States indicated a “significant diversion” of assets on their federal disclosures, which include theft, investment fraud, embezzlement, and other unauthorized uses of funds. In Canada, there are currently more than 82,000 charities in operation, to which Canadian donors directly give approximately $40 billion a year. However, while all Canadian charities fall under the primary regulation of the federal Charities Directorate (part of the Canada Revenue Agency), only 800 to 1,000 charities are audited on average each year. Following that audit, approximately half are informed that they have done something wrong, but Canadian tax law prevents the CRA from warning the public about charities that may be making fraudulent claims.
A charity’s reputation can be hindered by more than outright fraud, though. In some cases, mismanagement of funds can be associated with fraud, theft, and embezzlement, but in other cases, a charity may be allocating too many funds to fundraising or marketing, or it may be paying its staff and CEO too high a salary in comparison to the amount of funds that end up being allocated to the services the organization claims to provide.
In other words, just because a charity is large, well known, or because it looks impressive on paper doesn’t mean it’s going to provide your business with the best means of community contribution. It is important that, in order for your donations to contribute the most to the cause your business believes in supporting, you research the charitable or non-profit organization.
How can you tell if a charity is financially responsible? Look for transparency and accountability. Your business has the potential to make substantial contributions to the charity that speaks to your philanthropy, and that means you are a valuable part of that charity, so you should expect transparency and accountability from that charity. You should be able to easily gain access to financial data, including income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and fixed costs like salary information. If you are denied access to this information or are refused answers to your questions, it could be an indication that the charity is mismanaging its funds.
That said, fraudulent and mismanaged charitable organizations only represent a fraction of the charitable organizations that are out there. There are many that work hard to benefit their causes right in Edmonton, and taking steps to ensure your business is supporting one of these reputable charities is an important way to ensure corporate responsibility throughout your philanthropy.
Here are a few examples of Edmonton-based charities that have worked hard to earn the respect and support of Edmonton businesses.
“Sport Central is a registered charity that provides children of low-income families with sports equipment so they can get out to enjoy the sports offered in their communities,” explains Sheldon K. Oleksyn, executive director.
“We support qualified children from the ages of four to 17 in 14 different sports, including bicycles. If a child outgrows their equipment and they are still living at or below Alberta’s poverty-line, they can bring their equipment back and we will provide new equipment that fits.
“We also preserve the dignity of families in need so they can help their children without shame or embarrassment. We think every Canadian child should have a bike and a pair of skates,” he stresses.
“We also collect, reuse, repair and recycle equipment,” Oleksyn adds, “with over 50 different drop-off locations across Greater Edmonton, and we have over 215 agencies and organizations that refer children and their families to us every year.”
The now 26-year-old charity believes strongly in the “power of sport” to teach multiple life lessons—and to prepare children to be contributing citizens to their city or community. “We help get kids active so healthy patterns of exercise and activity can be started at a young age.”
How does Oleksyn recommend you choose the right charity?
“I suggest companies look for charities that share their values and can provide practical ways for employees to get involved,” Oleksyn describes. “Some charities do most of their work over a desk. Others, like Sport Central, require a lot of interaction, hands-on work, and fun activities. Our volunteers and supporters receive training and get to see happy kids get equipment and bikes on a daily basis. Choose the kind of experience that is the most meaningful to your group.”
Crestwood Veterinary Centre
Crestwood Veterinary Centre has been providing major and minor medical care to Edmonton’s pets since 1975, says Todd Scott, DVM. They are also a big supporter of the Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society.
“Dogs with Wings is an organization that breeds, raises, and trains dogs for various service needs for people in Alberta,” Scott explains. “This includes guide dogs for the visually impaired, assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities or people bound to a wheelchair, autism support dogs, and dogs to attend counseling or trial sessions for victim services facilities.
“The Crestwood Veterinary Centre provides all aspects of veterinary care, alongside any emergency medical or surgical care necessary for Dogs with Wings. In addition to our veterinary care, we are proud sponsors of their annual gala, graduations, and several of their puppies.
“Working with Dogs with Wings gives us the unique opportunity to support the service dogs that are responsible for dramatically changing the lives of many Albertans in need. For some families, their new assistance dog is their first experience in owning a pet. It is rewarding to see the difference a dog can make in their lives,” he smiles.
The Crestwood Veterinary Centre also supports the Edmonton Humane Society and other local rescue organizations, including Zoe’s Animal Rescue and Whitecourt Homeless Animal Rescue Foundation (WHARF). “We offer discounted services, including emergency care, wellness, rehabilitation, and surgical treatment for animals in their care,” Scott explains.
How does Crestwood Veterinary Centre recommend you choose the right charity?
“If you become involved personally in any organization you chose to support, your return will be far greater. It makes the decision process a lot easier when you can see the difference your efforts are making, whether they are based financially or personally.”
TAHK Projects Ltd.
A general mechanical contractor and gabricator with locations in Grande Prairie, Sherwood Park, Hinton, and Calgary, “TAHK Projects works with organizations that have meaning and importance to our employees and owners,” a representative explains. “We contribute to organizations that support the healthy growth and development of children. As a result, we give to sports teams, children’s hospitals, and other health care facilities.
“We host an annual golf tournament, with proceeds going to the Zebra Child Protection Centre, an important organization that works to support children who have suffered abuse. In the last three years, the tournament has raised over $140,000.”
In addition, TAHK Projects, which has been in business for 11 years, is a sponsor for the Edmonton Minor Hockey Bantam team, gives to cancer charities and other organizations across Western Canada, and also donates funds or other needed resources during times of community crisis, like the Fort McMurray wild fires.
“The employees at TAHK Projects also volunteer their time with different organizations, such as, the Renfrew Educational Services program in Calgary for children with special needs.”
“We feel it’s important to be an integrated part of the community, and we can help achieve that by taking an active role in the development of the community’s social, health, and athletic resources.”
In 2016, TAHK Projects was one of the recipients of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) National Philanthropy Award.
How does TAHK Projects recommend you choose the right charity?
“Do your due diligence and vet the organization to ensure it is legitimate. This includes asking for its charitable registration number. You can also request financial data and look for consistent management and costs over several years, and you can volunteer and see firsthand how the charity functions and how the contributions are being used.