Through their programs in Israel, Save a Child’s Heart provides life-saving cardiac treatment to children from developing countries, and trains medical professionals from these countries to provide treatment in their home communities. Approximately 40 Canadian volunteers – most of whom have just finished high school or are in their first years of university – travel to Israel each year to volunteer in the Children’s Home, where children stay pre and post-surgery.
Save a Child’s Heart applies diligent volunteer screening and security clearance practices, which in May 2015, hit a setback. The local police department had altered their regulations in a way that affected the organization’s security checks for international volunteers. As an accredited Imagine Canada Standards Program organization, however, they knew where to turn.
“Our office contacted Imagine Canada for advice. Our children come first, and we needed to make sure we were doing everything we could to keep them safe,” explains Marni Brinder Byk, Executive Director of Save a Child’s Heart Canada. “We also wanted to make sure we were meeting standards and hoped, perhaps, another organization had the same challenges. With the guidance of Imagine Canada staff, we figured out an appropriate solution that was specific to our needs.”
Standards Program accreditation shaped policies while strengthening the organization
“It is comforting to have a resource to assist you in best practices – in all areas. Our accreditation has made us accountable – to each other, to our stakeholders, and to our donors,” says Marni, who credits Standards Program accreditation, which the organization first obtained in 2013, with shaping Save a Child’s Heart’s policies and procedures in general, and governance policies in particular.
Marni herself first became familiar with the process in 2015. Having recently arrived at the organization, she found herself responsible for completing an annual compliance report - an experience she describes as daunting but highly rewarding: “I have worked exclusively in the charity sector for 16 years, but have learned more about governance and best practices in the last three years, thanks to Imagine Canada.”
According to Marni, having comprehensive policies in place has taken the guesswork out of decisions, both big and small, and strengthened the health of the organization, with many positive outcomes, including:
- They have become a leader for their international organization.
- The board is more competent, confident and proud of their practices and operations.
- They were named in the Financial Post’s 2017 Charities of the year: Our annual picks of Canada’s most efficient and accountable charities.
- They recently received their largest pledge to-date.
We are all so busy trying to raise funds and engage donors, and sometimes we put off reviewing policies and procedures. Both the compliance and the reaccreditation process allow us to pause and spend time on these items,” says Marni.
“Someone once said to me that they didn’t have time to get accredited and it was too time-consuming. Guess what? If you have everything in order, it shouldn’t be difficult. If it is difficult, it means you need Imagine Canada more than you are willing to admit. If you have a great cause, your organization can only benefit from following best practices.”
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Photos courtesy of Save a Child’s Heart
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.