Charities now have more freedom to shape policy

And your nonprofit can help guide how this is implemented

Is your community concerned about the impact of a piece of policy or legislation? Well, there is good news. New rules, that are just being finalized, will support charities and nonprofits that want to address those issues.

Under the new rules, charities can use any amount of their resources to address public policy issues. Draft guidelines for implementation currently propose enabling a broad range of activities, including research, communications, advocacy and mobilization.

Right up until last fall, the rules were a lot tighter. Engaging in public policy discussions was deemed “political activity”, and charities were forbidden from using more than 10% of their resources on it. But the courts ruled last summer that the 10% limit should be removed and the definition of “political activity” was a problem. So the government has acted.

New legislation has been passed that redefines efforts to change laws or policies policy as “public policy dialogue and development activities” (PPDDA). The legislation removes references to “political activity” and permits charities to engage in an unlimited amount of that work, up to 100% of their activities if they choose.

Draft guidelines have been proposed to guide implementation of the law, and charities and nonprofits can comment on them until April 23rd. You can read about them here https://bit.ly/2GuaFjA and comment on them by emailing consultation-policy-politique@cra-arc.gc.ca . (Make sure you have your say.)

In short, the draft guidelines propose that “a charity may devote up to 100% of its total resources to public policy dialogue and development activities that further its stated charitable purposes” in order to “influence the laws, policies or decisions of a government, whether in Canada or [abroad]”.  

The draft guidelines specifically propose that charities can provide information, conduct research, disseminate opinions, engage in advocacy, mobilize people, make representations, host forums, convene discussions and communicate on social media on any issue that relates to their charitable purposes.

Charities would still have to refrain from promoting a candidate or a party. Charities would be able to support issues or policies supported or opposed by a political party, but should not name, single out, endorse or oppose a specific party or candidate in any case.

For just a bit more good news, the new policy will make these changes retroactive and even covers those charities that were under review as a result of the old policy.  Charities will file the same forms as last year, but will NOT have to complete the sections on “political activity”.

Click here if your community wants to be informed or engaged on these issues. 

Back to Issues