On the afternoon of our recent Annual General Meeting, we were pleased to receive an e-mail from the Better Business Bureau of Western Ontario indicating that United Way of Chatham-Kent had met all 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. 

Because of the length of this article, I have chosen to submit it in two parts.  Part Two will follow in next week’s column. 

These Standards were developed to assist donors in making sound giving decisions and to foster public confidence in charitable organizations.  The standards seek to encourage fair and honest solicitation practices, to promote ethical conduct by charitable organizations and to advance support of philanthropy.  They are based on the belief that full and accurate disclosure of an organization’s program, management and finances will encourage public support of philanthropy.  BBB charity reports extend beyond a cursory review of a charity’s finances.  The BBB relies on information voluntarily provided by the charity in order to provide donors with the most complete and accurate information possible.  A typical evaluation will examine the following:  Annual Report, any complaints from the public, audited financial statements, board roster, current budget and fundraising appeals.  These materials are carefully examined to determine whether charities meet the 20 BBB Standards. 

The Standards are categorized in four specific areas:  

Governance and Oversight

The governing board has the ultimate oversight authority for any charitable organization.  This section of standards seeks to ensure that the volunteer board is active, independent, and free of self-dealing.  To meet these standards, the organization shall have:

  1.  A board of directors that provides adequate oversight of the charity’s operations and its staff.
  2. A board of directors with a minimum of five voting members.
  3. A minimum of three evenly spaced meetings per year of the full governing body, with a majority in attendance, with face-to-face participation.
  4. Not more than one or 10% (whichever is greater) directly or indirectly compensated person(s) serving as a voting member(s) of the board.  Compensated members shall not serve as the board’s chair or treasurer.
  5. No transaction(s) in which any board or staff members have material conflicting interest with the charity resulting from any relationship or business affiliation. 

Measuring Effectiveness

An organization should regularly assess its effectiveness in achieving its mission.  This section seeks to ensure that an organization has defined, measurable goals and objectives in place and a defined process in place to evaluate the success and impact of its program(s) in fulfilling the goals and objectives of the organization and that also identifies ways to address any deficiencies.  To meet these standards, a charitable organization shall: 

  1. Have a board policy of assessing, no less than every two years, the organization’s performance and effectiveness and of determining future actions required to achieve its mission.
  2. Submit to the organization’s governing body, for its approval, a written report that outlines the results of the aforementioned performance and effectiveness assessment and recommendations for future actions.


Part Two of this article will speak to the remaining two categories:  Finances and Fund-Raising and Informational Materials. 

These Standards for Charity Accountability have been reprinted – in summary form – with the permission of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and the Better Business Bureau of Western Ontario.  The latter organization serves Chatham-Kent, Elgin, Essex, Huron, Middlesex, Norfolk, Oxford and Perth Counties.

 For additional information on the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability, follow the link to www.westernontario.bbb.org


Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, CEO

United Way of Chatham-Kent