Ottawa

Sens Foundation defends methods in wake of critical report

The Ottawa Senators Foundation is defending itself against criticism by a charity watchdog over what portion of the money it raises actually goes to good causes.

Watchdog ranked Ottawa foundation 2nd-last among NHL charities

Senators forward Bobby Ryan, who invites CHEO patients and their families to his suite at Canadian Tire Centre each home game, takes part in the first day of hockey training camp in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Ottawa Senators Foundation is defending itself against criticism by a charity watchdog over what portion of the money it raises actually goes to good causes.

The Sens charity is one of the eight foundations attached to Canada's NHL, NBA and MLB teams that were recently evaluated by Charity Intelligence Canada (CIC).

Based on an analysis of financial statements over the past three fiscal years, CIC concluded the Sens foundation overspent on fundraising, awarding it just one star out of a possible four.

Only 46 cents of every dollar donated to the Senators Foundation actually makes it to worthy causes, CIC found. The rest goes toward fundraising and administrative costs.

Danielle Robinson is president and CEO of the Ottawa Senators Foundation. (CBC)

"If you're looking at being a donor you've got so many better choices than donating to the Ottawa Sens Foundation," said CIC managing director Kate Bahen.

The Senators Foundation refused to respond to multiple requests for comment until after CBC reported on CIC's findings.

Now the charity says its fundraising costs are not as black and white as they appear in the report.

You really have to understand how we're raising our money.- Danielle Robinson, Ottawa Senators Foundation

"You really have to understand how we're raising our money," said Senators Foundation president Danielle Robinson.

She attributes the low cost-efficiency to the team's 50/50 draws at games: because 50 per cent of the revenue from that lottery goes to the winner, the ratios appear less profitable on paper, she said.

'You really have to understand how we're raising our money'

4 years ago
Duration 1:00
Danielle Robinson, the president and CEO of the Ottawa Senators Foundation, addresses criticism from a recent report on pro sports charities. The report found that only 46 cents of every dollar donated to the Sens foundation actually makes it to worthy causes.

However, CIC factored that into its analysis, Bahen said, so the numbers actually appear more favourable than if the 50/50 winnings were included.

The 50/50 draws also only accounted for about 25 per cent of the foundation's total revenue in 2017, according to CIC. Most of what the foundation raises comes from direct donations, while another 25 per cent comes from special events such as galas and golf tournaments.

'We're proud of the work we're doing'

When asked why the Sens Foundation fared so poorly compared to other team charities in Canada, Robinson said other hockey clubs may have different ways of offsetting their charities' administrative costs.

Robinson said the cost of putting on signature events is offset by corporate sponsors.

Sens fans react to charity report

4 years ago
Duration 0:24
A report from Charity Intelligence Canada found that only 46 cents of every dollar donated to the Ottawa Senators Foundation actually makes it to worthy causes, while the rest goes toward fundraising costs.

Direct donations to the foundation, such as those made to support tornado relief in Dunrobin last month, are passed on directly to the community, she said.

The Ottawa Senators Foundation raised $200,000 for local food banks and plans to give an additional $140,000 to community resource centres for counselling services to support tornado victims in Gatineau and Ottawa.

"We're very proud of the work that we're doing," Robinson said.

The Ottawa Senators Foundation has built 15 community rinks to date, including this one at Bayshore Park. (Laura Osman, CBC News )

With files from the CBC's Katie Nicholson and Jacques Marcoux

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