Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation, effective July 1, threatens to turn nonprofit membership and marketing teams into outlaws. Have you evaluated your communication plan to make sure you're operating within legal boundaries?

What is CASL?

Officially known as the Electronic Commerce Protection Regulations, Canada's anti-spam law centers on individual privacy, with no fewer than three government agencies taking part in overseeing and enforcing it. Boiled down to the basics, CASL prohibits email marketing without the express consent of the recipient. (This applies to both push and pull marketing tactics.)

The definition of email marketing is likely different than you expect, though. What you might call friendly membership recruitment, Canada might call illegal. CASL paints nearly all email messages from an organization — corporate and nonprofit alike with the same broad brush: if it promotes someone or something, it could be subject to CASL rules.

So if you're trying to grow your membership, sign up attendees for your events or raise money for a cause, you need to make sure your message can get past the CASL gatekeepers.

3 things to consider

Canadian officials say there are three pertinent considerations when evaluating your compliance:

  • Who is your audience? Donors, supporters, volunteers or members from the past two years are considered to have an existing business relationship with nonprofits. In many cases, this relationship includes consent to contact them with informational messages.
  • What kind of message are you sending? Marketing that is sent to individual email addresses is subject to CASL regulations. The first order of business is to make sure no part of the message is false or misleading.
  • Do you clearly identify yourself and offer recipients a way to opt out? Transparency is key: Be sure you offer clear contact information and a free unsubscribe option in your messages.

Courtesy of CASL

Additional resources

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has developed a compliance guideline to help organizations adhere to the CASL regulations. A webinar is available as well.