CASL (the anti-spam act) will apply to charities when it comes into force on July 1, 2014. The good news for charities is that the recently published Industry Canada regulations say that electronic messages are not spam if they are:

sent by or on behalf of a registered charity as defined in subsection 248(1) of the Income Tax Act and the message has as its primary purpose raising funds for the charity

That means that if a charity sends an email asking for a donation, it is not spam. But the Act does apply to emails a charity might send where that is not the “primary purpose”. The Act applies to any electronic message a charity sends that “is of a commercial character”, which means that one of its purposes is to “encourage participation in a commercial activity”.  That includes the promotion of or offer to sell a product or service. For example, a charity that is in the arts that sends an email promoting an upcoming exhibit, play or concert would have to comply with the Act. It is unclear at this time the extent to which “primary purpose raising funds for the charity” saves emails from being of a commercial character.  A request for a pure donation would.  Soliciting attendance at a paid fundraising event may or may not.  Hopefully we will get some guidance on this from the CRTC. The grandfathering and transitional provisions will apply to charities similar to anyone else.  Charities do however benefit from some additional definitions of implied consent by virtue of the definition of “existing non-business relationship” which includes

  • anyone who has donated within the past 2 years; or
  • volunteers who performed work or attended a meeting within the last 2 years.

The bottom line is that any charity that sends emails or other electronic messages that are of a commercial character for any reason other than a primary purpose of raising funds must comply with the Act just like any other business. For more detail about CASL see my previous blog posts, particularly the 5 part article series.