Whether they’ve planned it or not — non-profits are now discovering they’re international causes. And despite the ease in which communications and donations move across borders, laws governing email are about to dramatically change. Last month the tough, new Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) was finalized. This law affects any electronic message sent or received in Canada, no matter what country it originated in.
There’s some alarm that promotional emails from non-profits have not been granted any exemptions from this legislation. While similar to the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act, there are some differences and major restrictions. The differences boil down to:
- Individual opt-in for new supporters is required for email and SMS. You must make it obvious what new supporters are signing up for. A blatantly obvious opt-in checkbox is recommended for each.
- Unsubscribe options must be obvious. Again, checkboxes are recommended.
- Unsubscribe must be immediate. There’s no grace period, so email software must be capable of unsubscribing an email from a list before the next email goes out, even if in the same day. (Check with your email service.)
- Email must include a name and address for the sender, as well as who the email was sent on behalf of.
- SMS messages must include a link to unsubscribe. If the receiver texts back “Stop” or “Unsubscribe” you must have provisions in place to remove them from your list immediately. (If using an SMS service, check with your provider.)
- If you haven’t communicated with a supporter in the last two years, you don’t have consent to email them.
The Canadian government takes the new law seriously with fines up to $10,000,000 for violation.
What you need to do now.
Most likely the law will take effect in the next six months, so quick response can save you a lot of headaches later. The three most important things to do between now and when the law comes into force are:
- Send a message to Canadian supporters on your email list that you haven’t communicated with in the last two years. This grants you “implied” consent, meaning you have an existing business relationship with them. Once the law takes effect, you can’t send an email asking for consent.
- Verify with your provider that your email app and SMS service are compliant. Most can direct you to documentation showing what they’re doing to be ready.
- Make sure all email templates you’ve created are compliant. It’s especially important that your templates include the sender addresses and obvious unsubscribe options.
Following these steps will help keep you in compliance with the law when it takes effect.* This government site on the CASL will give you details on further clarification and the enforcement date as these are announced.
Some non-profits may see the law as a major threat to sending promotional emails in Canada. But it’s important to note that the law was created with the help of legitimate email marketers. On the positive side, once the law is in place, spam will be reduced. This will give more focus to legitimate promotional emails, including those for your cause.
For DonorDrive users.
DonorDrive integrates ExactTarget email, one of the largest and most proven email systems. Rest assured that when the CASL takes effect, DonorDrive is already compliant.
*Global Cloud does not provide legal services or legal advice. Consult your organization’s legal counsel to interpret and apply this information to your specific situation.