The Canadian Anti Spam Legislation (CASL) is coming into effect July 1, 2014 and I've been giving workshops on the legislation to help non profits ensure they're in compliance by the end of June.
If you aren't sure what CASL is, it's a new piece of legislation that is intended to help control misuse of people's email addresses by unscrupulous marketers (of both the for and non-profit varieties) through defining the circumstances under which it is ok to send someone a commercial electronic message. Commercial electronic messages are defined as emails whose purpose (or one of its purposes) is to engage in commercial activity. Unfortunately for non profits that includes asking people for donations or financial support in the form of event tickets or other transactions. And it's additionally particularly unfortunate that the legislation carries an up to $10 million dollar fine for organizations, per infraction, a terrifying number to be facing as a possible penalty.
At a time when the Canadian government has recently raised stamps by a significant amount, therefore increasing the cost of physical mailings, curbing the sending of electronic messages as well seems rather cruel. And while I'm onside with the frustration around the legislation, I have to admit that I'm encouraged by the opportunity it presents for non profits to consider how they are using people's contact information to build lists and gain support.
The primary thrust of CASL is around the concept of consent, interpreted as "did the person who you are now sending a group email to consent to receive this type of email? " In practice, that looks like ensuring that people chose (and they had to choose, not opt-out of a decision) to be contacted about donations, updates about your organization, actions they can take to support your organization or causes it represents, etc. The reason this brings me some measure of satisfaction is that really, this is a question all non profits and movement builders should be considering anyway. We should not be sending every message to anyone who has ever touched our organization -- or whose business card we got at a networking event -- we should only be targeting the folks who have clearly and willingly indicated that they do in fact want to be in our inner circles.
I'm delivering a webinar on CASL for non profits this coming week, June 11th at 1pm PST in collaboration with Martha Rans, a lawyer who specializes in serving the non profit community. We'll be going into more detail about what non profits can do to prepare for CASL, including:
- What you need to do if you already have consent from your lists;
- What you need to do if you have not clearly obtaind consent in the past;
- How to draft an internal policy to help ensure CASL compliance within your organization going forward;
I promise we'll do our best to make it less dry than all that sounds, and more importantly to ensure Canadian non profits understand both the legislation and email best practices going forward. You can register for the workshop here.