Rules for Charities Engaging in Advocacy

The advocacy chill for Canadian charities wanting to advocate may not be as frigid as you think. 

In Canada organizations that are federally registered as charities must adhere to a set of rules set out by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) that limit their engagement in certain types of political activities.  This has led to a self imposed "advocacy chill," by some charities who mistakenly stop advocating completely for fear of losing their charitable status.

In fact there are a number of allowable advocacy activities – more than you may realize.  These are clearly set out in a excellent, short publication by the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations entitled: Influencing Public Policy: Rules for Charities Engaging in Advocacy.  The three CRA categories of advocacy include:
Unrestricted Activities – examples include:

  • public awareness campaigns to help the public make informed decisions related to the work of the charity
  • lobby, communicate or meet with an elected representative or public official, whether you request the meeting or they ask to meet with you

Limited Activities for which you can allocate up to 10% of your resources- examples include:

  • letting the public know that a law, policy or decision of any level of government be retained, opposed or changed
  • launch a call to political action ex: encouraging the public to contact an elected representative regarding a law, decision or policy

Restricted Activities

  • directly or indirectly support or oppose a political candidate
  • connect your charities views to any political party or candidate for public office

There is a lot more scope for your group to share your experience, knowledge and insight with government than you think.  They can't govern effectively without your input.


To access the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations' document Download Influencing Public Policy -Calgary.  You'll also find links to other useful resources.

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