E-mailing a weekly or monthly newsletter to the people interested in your organization is a great way to keep them informed and engaged in your programs and events.

But there a few things about that newsletter that you have to be aware of to make sure you are not breaking the law.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) regulates who you can send your newsletter to as well as what the newsletter can contain.

First the good news – you may not be breaking the law. In fact, with most electronic mailing services, it is actually quite difficult to NOT comply with the CASL rules, as long as you are using their templates and services correctly.

Now the bad news – but it is still fairly easy to break the law if you are not careful. These laws came into effect in 2014 so if you are using a template from before then or using a template created by a non-professional, there is a good chance that template is not in compliance with CASL.

CASL basically has just 3 things in it that you have to be aware of:

  1. Consent
  2. Identification
  3. Unsubscribe mechanism.

Consent means that only people who have agreed to receive your newsletter can receive it. That means, you asked them physically to sign up to receive the newsletter at a fundraiser, gala, conference or you asked them electronically on your website if they wanted to sign up for it. As a safety tip – sending your newsletter to that person you ‘just know would be interested in reading up on your fundraiser’ is against the law. And you could be fined. And the fines can be quite high. For an organization, the fine can be up to $10 million.

One final comment about consent – there are two types of consent. Express and implied. Express consent is what is described in the above paragraph—someone wrote down their email address and name specifically to receive a newsletter. The implied consent would be person who volunteered at your organization or attended a fundraiser and the consent is implied. We at Zeal Access would suggest sending that person an email first asking them if they want to receive the newsletter first (i.e., switch that implied consent to an explicit one).

Identification means that the newsletter must state clearly what organization the newsletter is from. This includes its name, address, phone number, and/or url.

Unsubscribe mechanism means that somewhere in your newsletter there is an icon that the person can click on to unsubscribe to future newsletters. And if they unsubscribe to the newsletter but still receive the newsletter after doing that, your organization could be fined.

It is strongly recommended that only 1 person be in charge of the mailing list. When multiple people volunteer to assist in managing the newsletter, different mailing lists can lead to confusion over which is the most up-to-date list that only contains those people who have subscribed to the letter (and not unsubscribed).

Finally, it should be noted that CASL applies to any newsletter an organization sends that includes information about fundraising events, charitable lotteries, the purchase of goods or services by the organization, or any advertisements. So, if your newsletter just contains news and information about the latest research or past events, CASL would not apply. HOWEVER, it is still strongly recommended that those newsletters still comply to the 3 basic tenants of CASL (consent, identification, and unsubscribe mechanism). It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Two brief videos about CASL are shown below.