Although this website focuses on foreign activities of Canadian registered charities, I would be remiss in not mentioning that there are many ways to perform good work abroad that are outside the charitable sector. For example, you could:
1. make personal donations of cash or in-kind items to foreign charities, with no tax receipt from a Canadian charity;
2. have your business make a donation to a foreign charity or cause with no tax receipt received, provide sponsorship to a foreign charity, or advertise in the publication of a foreign charity. Some people refer to this as corporate social responsibility or CSR;
3. invest in developing countries or set up a branch of your business in a developing country. Obviously investing is not enough unless the business is going to conduct itself according to high standards of ethical and business practice;
4. establish a for-profit “non-profit,” which is a for-profit corporation set up with the intention of helping people rather than making a profit (examples include Google.org and many for-profits involved with micro-loans);
5. establish and utilize a Canadian non-profit corporation without charitable status—this is particularly useful if your donor, such as the Canadian government, does not require a tax receipt;
6. volunteer at home or abroad;
7. many Canadians remit funds to their families, friends, or former employees in other countries. They do not receive any tax benefit from it but these remittances are very important in assisting others and such remittances are estimated to be about $6 billion per year - almost three times as much as is spent by Canadian registered charities;
It is always important to keep in mind that there are alternatives to being a registered Canadian charity. If a group wishes to avoid being constrained by the rules for Canadian charities conducting foreign operations, then they should consider operating as a for-profit or non-profit entity, not as a registered charity.
GlobalPhilanthropy.ca was created by Mark Blumberg, a lawyer at Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. If you require legal services with respect to non-profit (tax exempt) organizations or charities in Canada he can be contacted at or at 416-361-1982 x. 237. To find out more about legal services that Blumbergs provides to Canadian charities and non-profits please visit the Blumbergs’ Non-Profit and Charities page at http://www.blumbergs.ca/non_profit.php or http://www.globalphilanthropy.ca
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Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.