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How to Prepare Your Nonprofit Organization for CASL

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If you are part of a nonprofit organization, you most likely use email as a way to reach out to supporters and gain donations. Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) comes into effect on July 1, 2014. What do you need to know about CASL and how it relates to your nonprofit organization? We're here to help you understand the new legislation.

Does CASL apply to our organization?

Yes, CASL does apply to registered charity organizations and nonprofit organizations.

How does CASL define a nonprofit organization?

CASL defines a nonprofit organization as: "Nonprofit organizations who are organized and operated exclusively for social welfare, civic improvement, pleasure or recreation or for any purpose other than profit, if no part of their income is payable to, or otherwise available for the personal benefit of any proprietor, member or shareholder of the organization unless the proprietor, etc. is an organization whose primary purpose is the promotion of amateur athletics in Canada."

What types of messages does CASL apply to?

CASL applies only to commercial electronic messages (CEMs). A CEM is an electronic message (email, text message, some types of social media messages) that encourages the recipient to participate in a commercial activity. For example, CEMs can advertise or promote goods and services or an investment opportunity. CEMs often encourage the recipient to call a number or visit a web page in order to participate.

If your message is not commercial in nature CASL laws will not apply to it. If you are sending a CEM, you will have to obtain express consent (or, in some cases, implied consent) from your contacts.

Even if your message is not considered to be a CEM, it is still a best practice to include an unsubscribe mechanism so contacts can opt out of receiving messages if they want to.

What is the difference between express consent and implied consent?

Express consent refers to a contact who has given you explicit permission to contact them through electronic messages. Contacts can opt-in through an online or physical signup form, over the phone, at the point of sale or by responding to a coupon offer or contest.

CASL states that you are not allowed to pre-check a consent box on a signup form. This is to ensure that consent is expressly granted by the customer and not assumed by the business. For example, if you are creating an online signup form, you cannot default the checkbox to be pre-checked on an item such as "I agree to receive emails from Company XYZ." The customer must decide to check the box on their own.

Implied consent is less direct. It refers to a contact for whom it is reasonable to believe that you have permission to send messages. Implied consent is based on you having a prior relationship with the contact. Your contacts may qualify for implied consent if they have:

  • Bought or leased a product or service from your organization in the past two years
  • Entered into a written or electronic contract with your organization in the past two years
  • Enquired or applied to your organization in the past six months
  • Done investment or gaming with your organization in the past two years
  • Made a donation to your registered charity or political organization in the past two years
  • Volunteered with your registered charity or political organization in the past two years

These are a few examples of situations where a contact would qualify for implied consent.

Even if you have implied consent, you will eventually have to obtain express consent so there is no doubt that your contacts want to receive electronic messages from you. It is also a best practice to regularly ask your contacts to re-opt-in to ensure that their consent is current and active.

For contacts who you first made contact with before July 1, 2014: Your implied consent will expire on July 1, 2017.

For contacts who you first made contact with after July 1, 2014: Your implied consent will expire two years after you initially made contact.

How do I make my CEM compliant with CASL?

Once you have obtained consent to send, there are two elements you must include.

  • Clearly identify yourself: In order to go along with CASL compliance, you need to identify yourself or your organization as the sender. Enter your name or your organization name as the sender. Also, do not include information in your message which is false or inaccurate. Using false information to mislead subscribers is prohibited.
  • Include a simple opt-out option: Every electronic message that you send needs to have an opt-out mechanism so subscribers can easily take themselves off your contact list if they no longer want to receive messages from you. Most organizations focused on CASL compliance just include a link that subscribers can click to remove themselves. This option is simple and keeps customers satisfied.

What types of nonprofit messages are exempt from CASL?

CASL does not apply to the following nonprofit messages:

  • Messages that promote fundraising events or are intended for fundraising
  • Messages that promote nonprofit activities that might include a cost-recovery element (such as charging a small fee for participants in order to pay for materials for the event)
  • Messages that promote events or ticket sales where the proceeds go directly to the nonprofit organization

What steps should our nonprofit organization take?

First of all, review all the messages you are currently sending out. Determine which messages are CEMs and which ones are not.

If you require consent to send any of your CEMs, obtain consent by asking your contacts to opt-in to receive your messages. Keep a detailed record of who provides opt-in consent, and when and how, in case you ever need to produce proof of consent.

Take the time to educate your staff and volunteers and ensure that everyone who will be sending messages understand CASL. A simple and effective way to get your staff up to date is to sign up for one of our free interactive daily webinars. Webinars take place daily Monday-Friday at 1:00 p.m. EST. Our compliance experts will guide you through CASL and answer any questions you have.

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