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Urgent Call to Action: National Do-Not-Call List

Dear AFP Canadian Member:

Please contact the closest member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology (INDU) as soon as possible and encourage them to support amendments that exempt all nonprofits, not just those charities registered under the Income Tax Act, from the proposed national do-not-call list.

Bill C-37 would create such a list and AFP has been working to ensure charities would not be affected by this list and its requirements. While our political education efforts have gone well, the proposed call list exemption is only for those charities registered under the Income Tax Act. While this is a step in the right direction, this approach neglects the interests of tens of thousands of incorporated nonprofits that are not "registered" charities. These would include women's advocacy groups, community associations, little league and minor hockey, and a very wide range of other nonprofits.

Two amendments were introduced that would have provided a broader exemption for all charities, not just those registered under the Income Tax Act. Please urge your members of the House to support either of those broader amendments and request that the committee reconsider and accept one of them.

While the currently proposed amendment would cover some charities, it would be gravely detrimental those excluded charities for several reasons. First, it would affect any type of communication, whether for public education, issue awareness, volunteer coordination or solicitation. Charities that don't use the phone for solicitation, but use it for other reasons to contact the public, would be affected and have to use the list.

Second, many people are not necessarily aware of what types of diverse organizations the term 'charity' encompasses. Many may not realize that universities, hospitals, research groups and other organizations they might typically support would not be able to contact them if they put their names on the do-not-call list.

Third, AFP is not asking for a blanket exemption for charities to contact individuals as many times as they want. Fundraisers that follow AFP's Code of Ethics or similar code must give individuals the opportunity to opt-out of any additional communications. Charities must still respect the wishes of the donor if they don't want to be contacted. But a do-not-call list doesn't even give a nonprofit the right of first contact - to be able to contact an individual for the first time and see if they're interested in knowing more about an issue or supporting the organization. After all, the number one reason people give is because they are asked. A do-not-call list prevents this from happening.

Four, we can look to the American experience. The U.S. do-not-call list exempts charities. There have been very few, if any, complaints against charities and absolutely no interest on the part of government to include charities in a future do-not-call list. By all accounts, the government and American consumers have been very satisfied with the list.

Fifth and finally, the list will have a detrimental impact on giving. According to AFP's State of Fundraising 2004 Survey, approximately 20 percent of Canadian charities/nonprofits use the phone to solicit funds. Organizations with annual budgets greater than $50 million used telemarketing services to raise funds, as did charities with budgets less than $500,000. A majority of these charities receive up to 30 percent of their overall contributions from telemarketing, although some indicated that telemarketing accounts for nearly 70 percent of their fundraising. These organizations' funding will be threatened by working under the requirements of a do-not-call list. A list would only make fundraising more difficult for charities, forcing them to spend more money on fundraising and less on programs.

AFP respects every individual's right to privacy. But this right must be balanced with the real needs of nonprofits to interact with people, solicit donations and provide services to communities across Canada . The evidence suggests that most people are not bothered by calls from charities (see AFP's formal committee comments for more discussion of this point).

What You Can Do

  1. Please call the closest member of the House of Commons INDU Committee as soon as possible and tell them about the impact a do-not-call list would have on your organization. Feel free to use the sample script below. Use the paragraphs that apply to your organization or that you feel comfortable with.
  2. 'My name is ( name), and I work at the ( name of charity) in ( location). I understand that the Industry and Natural Resources Committee is currently considering Bill C-37 that would create a national do-not-call list. I understand that two amendments were offered (but not accepted) that would have created a broader exemption, one that would exempt all nonprofits in addition to those charities registered under the Income Tax Act. I strongly urge you to request that the committee reconsider and accept one of those amendments.

    'The bill currently contains an amendment that includes an exemption of calls only for those charities registered under the Income Tax Act. While this is a step in the right direction, this approach neglects the interests of tens of thousands of incorporated nonprofits that are not "registered" charities under the Act.

    'My organization uses telemarketing all the time, not only to solicit funds, but also to raise awareness about issues and educate the public. Often times, our phone call is the first time that an individual hears about a particular issue in their community. But that kind of communication would be severely restricted under a do-not-call list that only exempts certain charities, as opposed to all nonprofits.

    'Let me assure you that my organization respects the wishes of donors. If we call them and they don't want to hear from us anymore, we won't contact them ever again. But a do-not-call list prohibits even an initial contact for those incorporated charities not registered under the Income Tax Act, which is especially damaging since many people often tell us that they're so glad we called and told them about these issues in their community.

    'The right of privacy must be balanced with the right of charities to raise the funds they need to provide critically needed services in communities across the country. Any bill that prohibits charities from contacting people eliminates that balance, and I urge you to ask the committee to reconsider and accept one of the amendments that would create a broad exemption, one that would exempt all charities, not just those charities registered under the Income Tax Act.

    'Thank you for your time and consideration.'

    Here is the list of the INDU Committee members along with their phone numbers in Ottawa, please call the member closest to you. Please note that the members marked with asterisks '**' are the main INDU Committee members.

  3. If you would also like to contact your local Member of Parliament (MP) about this issue, go to the Parliament website at www.parl.gc.ca. Click on the appropriate language, and you'll see a search function that will identify your MP based on your postal code.
  4. If you have time, write a quick letter, reiterating the points you made on the phone, and fax it to the MP.
  5. Urge your colleagues, board members, and major donors and volunteers to make their own calls.

If you have any questions, please Jason Lee, director, government relations, at jlee@afpnet.org.

Thank you for your action on this very important issue.

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