CASL Compliance and What it Means for Your Organization

November 17, 2022

On July 1, 2014, the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) came into effect to protect people from spam and other online risks. 

This law sets out the requirements for sending commercial electronic messages (CEMs), to an electronic address. In addition to emails, the CASL applies to SMS and other messaging to mobile phones and devices.

In this blog, we’ll help you understand how registered charities are exempt from the CASL and how CanadaHelps assists charities in complying. Please note this blog is not legal advice. Charities can learn more about the CASL from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the Commission and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) CASL websites.

Are Registered Charities Exempt From the CASL?

The CASL applies to registered charities and has three general requirements that charities must follow to send a CEM.

  1. Obtain consent
  2. Provide identification information
  3. Provide an unsubscribe mechanism

However, CEMs sent by or on behalf of a registered charity are exempt from the CASL where the primary purpose of the CEM is to raise funds for the charity.

Charities that do not meet the requirements set out by CASL may need to pay a penalty for each violation. The maximum amount for each violation is  $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses.

How Does CanadaHelps assist Charities to be CASL Compliant?

CASL Requirement 1: Obtain Consent

There are two types of consent charities can obtain under the CASL, express and implied.

Express Consent

This is when the recipient has explicitly agreed to receive newsletters or other commercial electronic messages from your charity. One common way charities obtain consent is by including a radio button or checkbox in their donation form to ask for consent. 

Charities using CanadaHelps donation forms, ticketed events, or P2P tools will have this functionality automatically built into their forms.

Implied Consent

Charities can also obtain implied consent from their supporters. Consent is implied when you have an existing business or non-business relationship with the recipient. 

The CRTC clarifies that a non-business relationship includes situations such as when a supporter makes a donation or gift to the registered charity, does volunteer work, or attends a charity meeting. This implied consent lasts for two years from the start of the relationship.

CASL Requirement 2: Provide Identification Information

In each CEM, charities must include the following identification and contact information.

  • The charity name;
  • The charity mailing address; and
  • One of the following: the charity phone number, email address, or website.
Source: Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

The CanadaHelps Donor Management System (DMS) has mechanisms in place to help ensure charities meet these CASL identification requirements easily using merge fields.

In the DMS, a merge field is placeholder text that will eventually be replaced with data from the DMS once. Thus. charities with the DMS can use merge fields to pull data unique to individual donors, contributions, and other areas from the DMS, and populate that information in their emails to create highly personalized messages.

Merge fields are a convenient way to auto-populate donor names, phone numbers, emails and other information from the DMS without spending time looking up and entering that information manually. Successful charities take this functionality a step further by adding these merge fields to their email templates ahead of time. That way, they don’t need to manually type out and add these merge fields every time they send a bulk email.

Below, you’ll find the four DMS merge fields charities should consider including in their emails to comply with CASL identification requirements:

  • The {domain.name} field corresponds to the Organization’s Name
  • The {domain.address} field corresponds to the Organization’s Address
  • The {domain.phone} field corresponds to the Organization’s Phone
  • The {domain.email} field corresponds to the Organization’s Email

Here’s how to check and update your charity’s identification and contact information that corresponds to each of the merge fields above in the DMS.

Once you’ve checked and updated your charity’s identification and contact information, you can add these merge fields to your DMS email templates. Typically, charities add these merge fields at the bottom of the email in the footer. Here’s how to do it in the DMS.

CASL Requirement 2: Provide an Unsubscribe Mechanism

The third requirement of the CASL is for charities to provide an unsubscribe mechanism that is simple, quick and easy for the end user.

To help charities comply with this requirement, the DMS email builder automatically includes an unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email template. Here’s how to find it in the email builder.

The best part about this feature? The unsubscribe button is a permanent part of every DMS email template. That means you won’t need to worry about accidentally removing or deleting the required unsubscribe button in your CEMs!

Key Takeaways

Since the CASL does indeed apply to charities, it’s important to be aware of the requirements and take the necessary steps to ensure compliance. The only time charities are exempt is when the primary purpose of the CEM is to raise funds for the charity. 

Charities using CanadaHelps fundraising tools and the DMS will have an easier time complying with CASL requirements. With the CanadaHelps donation form, charities can automatically request consent. Charities using CanadaHelps DMS can save valuable time by adding merge fields in their DMS email templates to auto-populate the required identification information in their emails. In addition, every email template in the DMS automatically includes an unsubscribe mechanism. 

Charities can try these DMS features now by signing in to the DMS!

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