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Charity Leaders Discuss Media Coverage: Is Public Confidence Being Eroded?

(Oct. 29, 2007) More than 200 charity leaders gathered recently in Toronto to discuss the state of media reporting on accountability, transparency and regulation of the charitable sector.

The event, “The Charitable Sector and the Media: Accountability and Reporting,” was co-hosted by the Canadian Journalism Foundation and Imagine Canada in response to negative media stories that threaten to erode public confidence in the charitable sector. It featured a panel consisting of:

  • John Macfarlane, editor, Toronto Life, and moderator of the panel
  • Frances Larkin, CEO, United Way of Toronto
  • Dom McCreesh, chair, Imagine Canada
  • Martin Connell, chair, Toronto Community Foundation
  • Kevin Donovan, journalist, Toronto Star

Donovan opened the forum by stating that the charitable sector was suffering from a number of abuses.  He added that proper government regulation could curb many of those problems and hypothesized a future headline and story where the federal government renewed public confidence in charitable giving in part by telling the public which charities were good and which were bad.  Larkin offered her support for government regulation in her remarks.

In contrast, McCreesh noted the positive aspects of self-regulation, while Connell went even further, saying that not only could self-regulation solve instances of wrongdoing but also that government regulations had the potential to hurt the “good charities,” particularly the smaller ones.

Dianne Lister, LL.B., CFRE, vice president of external relations and advancement at Trent University in Toronto, and the incoming chair of AFP’s Ethics Committee, spoke during the question-and-answer session about AFP’s Code of Ethical Principles and Standards. Just prior to the forum, AFP circulated a press release announcing that its code of ethics had been expanded and now allows for for-profit businesses to join as members.

These same issues will be discussed another time in November when the forum is held once again during the Greater Toronto Chapter’s Congress 2007.