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Canada Issues -- June/July 2004 Public Policy Update

  1. CRTC Telemarketing Regulations
  2. CRA Charity Representative

1.  CRTC Telemarketing Regulations

While the regulations are already in effect, members are still encouraged to write letters to the Canada Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) about its new regulations on telemarketing. A sample letter to the CRTC is included below.

The new regulations will affect both charities that make their own telemarketing calls in-house and third-party, for-profit telemarketing firms that represent charities. There are no exceptions or exemptions for volunteers, existing or past donors, or individuals with a previous relationship with the charity.

The more onerous provisions would require that:

  • The caller (whether a charity or telemarketer) must provide a toll-free telephone number that an individual can use to provide questions and comments about the call. This disclosure must also come before the caller can ask for a particular individual. This number must be staffed during business hours.
  • If an individual asks to be placed on a do-not-call list, the caller must immediately act on the request without requiring the individual to do anything further.
  • Beginning October 1, a caller must provide to an individual who wants to be placed on a do-not-call list a unique registration number to confirm receipt of each do-not-call request.
  • If an individual requests to be placed on a do-not-call list during a call, then the telemarketer must ask if the individual wants to be placed on ALL of the do-not-call lists of organizations represented by the telemarketer.

AFP has sent a formal letter to the CRTC on behalf of all its Canadian members asking the commission to change significantly the provisions mentioned above and give charities more time to comply with the new requirements. AFP is also working with other sector organizations.

SAMPLE LETTER

(Please fax your letter to the CRTC at (819) 994 - 0218 by June 18.)

Charles Dalfen, Chairman Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N2

Dear Chairman Dalfen: I am writing to express my strong concerns with the recently announced telemarketing rules that will dramatically affect charitable giving to my organization, [ORGANIZATION NAME].

While I understand a need for some level of regulation, these regulations seem to ignore the unique role and characteristics of Canada's charitable sector. As a result, they create additional burdens for charities that will significantly reduce the effectiveness of charity solicitations, and the work these important organizations, such as [INSERT ORG NAME] do in communities across Canada. And, they will do little to enhance public privacy or protection.

I support charities having to disclose who they are, or if using a telemarketer, who the telemarketer is and what charity it is representing. In addition, charities and telemarketers should automatically respect an individual's desire to be placed on a do-not-call list. As one of more than 2,500 members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in Canada, I comply with these requirements already through our strong Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice.

However, other aspects of the regulations are unreasonable and are over-burdensome. Requiring a charity to have a toll-free number that is staffed during business hours is extremely onerous and may not be an option, especially for smaller charities. The same is true for the requirement of providing individuals who want to be placed on a do-not-call list with a unique registration number. Many charities simply don't have the resources to set up such a system.

What is especially worrisome from a donor relationship standpoint is having to disclose the required toll-free number before asking for a particular individual or providing any other information. Charities typically have five to 10 seconds at the beginning of a phone call to attract an individual's interest in why they're calling. Under the new regulations, that time will be spent disclosing information about a toll-free number. The average person is not going to respond to that type of phone call. That information should be provided, but having to provide it at the beginning of the call is unreasonable and prevents charities from reaching out to people in an effective and efficient manner.

In addition, what about donors who are familiar with a charity? This type of disclosure would be an extremely strange way to begin a conversation with a long-time supporter. I am also very concerned about telemarketers having to ask an individual if he or she wants to be placed on all of the do-not-call lists of organizations represented by the telemarketer. This requirement will penalize charities that aren't even being represented during a solicitation.

The No. 1 reason people give to charity is because they are asked. This requirement will prevent many charities from contacting potential donors who might be interested in giving once they hear about the organization and its programs. Its very arbitrary nature penalizes those charities that use third-party telemarketers. Charities that make calls in-house won't ever be in jeopardy of individuals being placed on their do-not-call list without getting the chance to talk to them in person.

Finally, the CRTC gave charities almost no time to comply with these new requirements. There are undoubtedly some charities that are still not aware of these changes. There also will be tremendous burdens in training volunteers to comply with these new requirements. I hope you will consider giving charities additional time to comply with a revised set of regulations that allow the appropriate balance between the charitable organization's need to fundraise and the legitimate right of the public to have requests to be placed on do-not-call list respected.

Telemarketing plays a significant role in the fundraising efforts of [ORGANIZATION NAME]. These new regulations will make it extremely difficult to: [FUND A PROGRAM, REACH OUR GOAL, ETC.]

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future. Sincerely,

LINKS: The CRTC decision and explanation of the regulations: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/archive/ENG/Decisions/2004/dt2004-35.htm

For GR Chairs: At the next chapter meeting, please encourage members to write letters to the CRTC on this issue. The process to amend the regulations may involve both lengthy legislative and legal actions, but the CRTC needs to be aware of the number of charities these regulations will affect. Chairs should consider copying the sample letter and using it as a handout at a meeting or emailing it to members.

2.  CRA Charities Representative

The Charities Directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has created a new position at the agency to assist charities with issues or questions that cannot be dealt with through normal channels.

The new "Charities Representative" will help charities deal with issues related to the following:

  • Complaints about the level or quality of service
  • Standards of service that were not met
  • Charities and individuals who do not feel they were treated in a fair and transparent manner
  • Information requests from charities that need help to voluntarily comply
  • Other complaints of a general nature

The representative cannot reverse application decisions or other technical determinations and can be consulted only after a charity has first tried to resolve its issues through the regular process.

The program was in place on May 3, 2004, and will be operational for one year under a pilot program. At the end of the period, the Charities Directorate will assess the results to see if the program should be continued or enhanced.

Organizations can reach the charities representative by calling toll-free 1-866-303-3016 (in the greater Ottawa area, call 613-948-8608) or via email at charities-bienfaisance-resource@ccra-adrc.gc.ca.

For GR Chairs: Members should be made aware of this new service of the CRA.

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