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New Anti-Spam Legislation & How it Affects Non-profits in Canada

Most western industrialized countries have legislation to enable the government to pursue and punish spammers. Up until now, Canada has been an exception. But on July 1, 2014, new anti-spam legislation will come into effect.

This legislation has many non-profits worried. While there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the legislation, let us put your biggest fear to rest: The legislation does not mean that you can no longer send emails to your mailing list. It does, however, stipulate 3 things that you need to do when sending.

Beware of False Information

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) has been a standard selling technique for centuries. The early literature for cash registers in 1879, sold on the basis that your employees are stealing from you and this machine will stop that. If marketers can raise sufficient fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the minds of a buyer, then he or she will buy the product if it appears to remove the fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Lots of consultants are doing seminars to increase FUD levels in order to sell their services to help you comply with the impending new laws. Many of them give the impression that if your intended recipients have not explicitly asked you to send them something, then you cannot send it. This is incorrect.

Government Position

Canada’s legislation is similar to that of almost all other countries. The Canadian government summarizes its legislation as follows:

Consent: You must have expressed or implied consent to send a message.

Identification: You must clearly and simply identify yourselves and anyone else on whose behalf the message is sent.

Unsubscribe Mechanism: In every message you send, you must provide a way for recipients to unsubscribe from receiving messages in the future.

Let’s consider each of these in turn.


If someone explicitly states that they want to receive your newsletter, that is expressed consent to receive your newsletter.

But what is implied consent? Unfortunately most legislation, including Canada’s, does not define what constitutes implied consent. But this is a good thing, because consent can be implied by different sets of circumstances, and legislators could not anticipate every possible set of facts that would lead to implied consent.

Certainly if you have been sending someone a newsletter every month for two years, and the recipient has never asked you to stop, that indicates implied consent.


If you are sending email on your own behalf, and not doing it for someone else, this should not be an issue for you at all. When you send bulk email, the email is entirely about your non-profit’s activities, and usually the return email address is obviously directed to your non-profit: [email protected]

Occasionally you may send email on behalf of someone else, perhaps a sister organization working in the same charitable space as yours, that does not have the ability to do bulk email itself. When you do this, make sure your email says so: “This email is sent by MyCharity on behalf of AnotherCharity, whose mission is…”

Unsubscribe Mechanism

Every bulk email you send must have a link to an unsubscribe mechanism. It is easy to add a link that sends a reply to [email protected]

The regulations to the Canadian legislation also indicate that if you have a website, you must have an unsubscribe page on your website.

One of the most important aspects of an unsubscribe mechanism is that it must actually work. If someone sends you an email or checks a box on a form (paper or electronic) that says “Don’t send me stuff”, then you must stop.

Can Sumac Help?


Sumac can send your bulk email for you: your monthly newsletter, annual reports, and special issue notices. It can also automatically record when you sent an email to each recipient. So, if the issue of consent arises, you can point to the fact that you have been sending the recipient emails for months or years, which shows implied consent.


This is rarely an issue for non-profits. However, note that when you use Sumac to send bulk email, you can set it up to clearly indicate the sender and reply email address as your charity.

Unsubscribe Mechanism

Here are some Sumac features that support unsubscribing:

Unsubscribing via a link – If your newsletter contains a link which sends an email to [email protected], then Sumac can receive the emails and automatically set the communication preferences for those contacts to “Do Not Send” for example.

Unsubscribing via a webpage – If you integrate your website with Sumac, then you can have a page on your website where people can set and change their communication preferences. Preferences set and changed on your website are automatically recorded in your database, so the next time you send bulk email the updated preferences will be taken into consideration.

Ensuring you do not send to people who have unsubscribed – With Sumac, you can specify communication preferences for each contact in your database. Many non-profits, for example, will include preferences like “Do Not Send Newsletter” or “Do Not Solicit” or “Only One Solicitation Per Year.” With communication preferences marked for each contact, you can use Sumac’s simple Search Builder to ensure contacts marked as “Do Not Send” are eliminated from mailings.


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