The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) Is Going into Full Effect – Are You Ready?

June 8, 2017 Heather McLean

This blog post has been updated to reflect that the Private Right of Action (PRA) provision of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) has been indefinitely suspended and will not take effect as scheduled on July 1, 2017.

The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) came into effect July 1, 2014 and is applicable to anyone who sends commercial electronic messages. This means that  if you have an email address in your email house file belonging to a Canadian, even if your nonprofit is based in the U.S. or any other country outside of Canada, this law applies to you. Canadian registered charities do have additional exemptions under the law.

CASL laws allowed for a 3-year provisional period that began July 1, 2014 to allow businesses and nonprofits to prepare for the legislation. During this time, many nonprofits reviewed their email marketing programs for compliance, and Blackbaud ensured all of our products used to send email facilitated your ability to do so.

Most importantly, the provisional period gave time to gain express consent from Canadians on your email house file. Have you done so? The grace period ends July 1, 2017.

To be honest, the rules under CASL closely mirror email marketing best practices, so hopefully you already have most of them in place.  Sending transparent, relevant messages to those who asked to hear from you is the best way to enjoy long-lasting relationships with your email subscribers. When this law first came into effect in Canada, it caused widespread panic.  However, time has shown that smaller, more engaged, email files are a positive for email deliverability and fundraising performance.

Before July 1, make sure you are on the right side of CASL…

3 Ways to Ensure That You’re CASL Compliant: 

1. Get Express Consent from Canadians:  Express consent must be provided from all Canadians onyour file starting July 1 unless you have a prior business relationship with them in the preceding 24 months, such as making a donation, volunteering or attending a meeting organized by you.  You stillhave a few weeks to ask them to provide express consent, which is the gold standard and doesn’t expire like implied consent does.

  • Review your email file for email addresses ending in .ca or for any mailing addresses residing inCanada.
  • Send them a special email letting them know that they may no longer be able to receive emailsfrom you unless they take action to re-subscribe.  (Canadians are very used to these types ofcommunications, especially lately.)
  • Track the date, time and method of their consent.  If consent isn’t provided by July 1, remove themfrom your email list or mark them as inactive.  Don’t send any future commercial messages at thistime unless they qualify under the implied consent exception (you will need to be very diligent in your tracking of consent status).

2. Review Your Optin Process: The onus is on the nonprofit to prove express consent has been provided to receive emails from you.  And there is very specific instruction provided for language that must be included under CASL, regardless of whether the email collection method is electronic or paper.

  • Do you have clear and obvious language on all of your forms requesting permission to email future messages (this should include the name of your nonprofit in the language)?
  • Are your opt-in boxes left unchecked?
  • Does your form clearly indicate the name, address and either a telephone number, email address, or web address of your nonprofit?
  • Do you let subscribers know that they may withdraw consent (“unsubscribe”) at any time?
  • Do you have a process for recording and tracking consent? It is advisable to track the date, IP address, opt-in URL, offline opt-in method and time that the individual joined your list.

3. Ensure Future Messages are CASL Compliant: CASL also stipulates certain information is present on your email messages, so that they aren’t false or misleading to recipients.  These really are best practices anyway, but it’s a good idea to review your email templates / stationery to ensure this information is hardcoded into every message you send.

  • Does the email clearly identify the nonprofit sending the message?
  • Does the email identify the Email Service Provider? (For Luminate Customers, this is the ‘Powered by Blackbaud’ logo appended to your message.)
  • Do you have a clear way to unsubscribe?
  • Does your email contain a valid mailing address and either a telephone number, email address, or web address for your nonprofit?

When it comes to email, it turns out less is more.

Remember that the penalties are substantial (and that’s all the reason you need to comply), benefits can accrue to your email marketing program from following these email best practices. Whether your subscriber is Canadian or not, the key to improved email performance is transparent, relevant and timely messages.

Despite widespread panic about the email marketing armageddon that would result when CASL was first introduced, precipitous drops in email housefile sizes have not resulted. In fact, the 2016 Luminate Benchmark Report shows that one year after CASL, Canadian nonprofits saw benefits from more rigor around email best practices in the form of 15% organic email growth and industry-leading performance for the percent of email contacts who donate.

Note – If you have concerns about CASL compliance, you should seek guidance from your legal counsel.

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