Our previous post about Canada's pending
anti-spam legislation (CASL) mentioned a key exception for
charities: commercial electronic messages that are sent by a
registered charity and whose primary purpose is to raise funds for
that charity are fully exempt from CASL.
However, there are some questions around that exception's
scope. First, what is required to make a message's
"primary purpose" the raising of funds?
Second, what does CASL mean by "raising funds", and is
that the same as the Canada Revenue Agency's definition of
"fundraising"? CRA's Fundraising by Charities Guidance Document
CG-013 states: "As a general rule, fundraising is any
activity that includes a solicitation of present or future
donations of cash or gifts in kind, or the sale of goods or
services to raise funds, whether explicit or implied."
It is not clear on CASL's face whether "raising
funds" per CASL is the same as "fundraising" per the
However, Imagine Canada now reports that Industry Canada has provided the
following guidance on the fundraising question:
Any activity that fits into the CRA "fundraising"
definition will be captured by CASL's "raising funds"
exception. So long as an organization is a registered charity, it
can send commercial electronic messages whose primary purpose fits
into the CRA "fundraising" definition without express or
implied consent, and without the content that CASL requires of most
commercial electronic messages.
Some other activities that do not fit into the CRA
"fundraising" definition will also be covered by
CASL's "raising funds" exception. Apparently these
include newsletters promoting fundraising events even if they
mention (or presumably link to) corporate sponsors, promoting
charitable activities with cost-recovery components, and promoting
events and ticket sales whose proceeds go directly to the charity
(e.g., by performing arts organizations).
CASL's provisions regarding commercial electronic messages
come into force on July 1, 2014, and this is indeed helpful and
timely guidance for Canadian charities that are trying to comply by
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