Charitable purposes and activities that benefit youth


Reference number

June 24, 2013

This guidance replaces CPS-015, Registration of organizations directed at youth.

A. Introduction

1. The Canada Revenue Agency’s Charities Directorate registers charities under the Income Tax Act. It also ensures that registered charities continue to meet all associated legal and administrative requirements.

2. This guidance explains the Charities Directorate’s interpretation of the relevant common law (case law or court decisions) and legislation (the Act) to determine whether an organization established to benefit youth is eligible for registration as a charity under the Act.

3. Many organizations that have purposes and activities that benefit youth consider applying for registration as a charity. For information about this and other options, go to the webpage Make an informed decision about becoming a registered charity.

4. In this guidance, unless otherwise stated, relevant terms and concepts are defined as follows:

“charity” and “registered charity” include all three types of registered charities as defined under the Act: charitable organizations, public foundations, and private foundations

“organization” includes registered charities (charitable organizations, public foundations and private foundations), as well as applicants for registration

“youth” means young people, without restriction to a specific age range, which will depend on the nature of the charitable purposes and activities in question. For example, activities for latch-key children benefit a different age group than activities for post-secondary school students

“at-risk youth” generally refers to youth who are in danger of not making a successful transition to healthy and productive adulthood as a consequence of a range of possible issues, including, but not restricted to, learning difficulties, socio-economic environment, social relationships, and family/school situations

5. An organization must meet a number of general requirements to qualify for registration under the Act. For detailed information about registration requirements, see Guidance CG-017, General requirements for charitable registration.

6. This guidance provides general information only. All decisions about specific organizations are made individually, applying the law to the facts in each case. The facts may come from the organization itself or from other information available to the Charities Directorate.

B. Purposes and activities that benefit youth

Purposes that benefit youth

7. The purposes Footnote 1  of an organization as contained in its governing documents are the objectives it is created to achieve. The activities of an organization are the ways in which it furthers these purposes. Footnote 2 

8. To be registered as a charity under the Act, the law requires that an organization’s purposes:

9. While purposes in each of the four categories of charity described above can benefit youth, purposes that address or prevent specific problems faced by youth—such as juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, depression, family conflict, and suicide—can be charitable under the fourth category.

Public benefit

10. The public benefit requirement means that a purpose, generally through its activities, must deliver a tangible or objectively measurable, and socially useful, benefit to the public, or a sufficient segment of the public. Footnote 3 

Eligible beneficiaries

11. Eligible beneficiaries are the members of the public who can potentially qualify to receive benefits from a purpose or from the activities that further a purpose. Different charitable purposes have different requirements about how eligible beneficiaries are defined. Sometimes, restricting eligible beneficiaries is justified, or even required, based on the nature of the purpose. Other times, benefits must be available to the public as a whole. This means that some purposes that benefit youth must be available to all youth, while other purposes can restrict benefits to particular youth. Below are examples under the first three categories:

12. Generally, fourth category purposes that benefit youth must be open to all youth. However, fourth category purposes that address or prevent specific problems faced by youth can be restricted to particular youth when the restriction is relevant to the purpose. For example:

13. For more information on how to properly define eligible beneficiaries, see Policy statement, CPS-024, Guidelines for registering a charity: Meeting the public benefit test.

Activities – sufficient structure and focus

14. Generally, the public benefit from a charitable purpose should be a reasonably direct result of the purpose and of the activities that will be conducted to further it, and be reasonably achievable.Footnote 5  Vague, general benefits to the public at large will be unlikely to deliver the necessary benefit.Footnote 6  Also, the benefits of an incidental activity that does not further an organization’s purpose (such as an occasional social event held by a charity with a purpose to relieve poverty) will not satisfy the public benefit requirement.Footnote 7 

15. To show that an activity can reasonably be expected to provide the necessary public benefit, substantive evidence of a causal connection is needed. In most cases, this means that an organization must show that an activity has sufficient structure and focus to actually address or prevent the specific problem faced by youth.

16. An organization established with a purpose of helping youth deal with identified problems, and that provides only recreational activities that are not structured and focused on addressing these problems, cannot qualify for registration. For example, simply keeping youth off the streets does not, in and of itself, further a charitable purpose. Without monitoring, teaching, or some sort of structure and focus, it will be difficult to establish that an activity is addressing or preventing identified problems.

17. Sufficient structure and focus can be shown in various ways, including:

18. When eligible beneficiaries of fourth category purposes are restricted to particular “at-risk” youth (those directly affected by, or experiencing, the identified issue or problem), other youth can also participate in the activities or programs by serving as role‑models, allies, and champions to attract at‑risk youth to those activities, and help provide charitable benefits as well as structure and engagement. However:

19. Examples of activities that could further purposes that address or prevent specific problems faced by youth include:

C. Other topics

Advancement of education and youth

20. To further advancement of education purposes, information or training activities must be provided in a structured manner and for a genuinely educational purpose—that is, “to advance the knowledge or abilities of the recipients—and not solely to promote a particular point of view...”.Footnote 9  The form of these activities requires an actual teaching or learning component. What is needed is a legitimate, targeted attempt at educating others, whether through formal or informal instruction, training, plans of self-study, or otherwise. Simply providing an opportunity for people to educate themselves, such as by making available materials with which this might be accomplished but need not be, is not enough.

21. Examples of educational activities include:

22. In the case of youth, activities that develop emotional and moral maturity, the ability to effectively interact with others, teamwork, co‑operation, good citizenship, and leadership skills will also be considered to be educational in most cases, provided the necessary form (an appropriately structured teaching or learning component) is present.

23. Examples of activities that may advance education include:

24. To a limited extent, ancillary and incidental activities that do not have a teaching or learning component are permitted, particularly if they form part of activities that do.Footnote 11   An example would be field trips to reward young students for good behaviour in class.

Social or recreational activities

25. Social or recreational activities are only charitable if they directly further a charitable purpose. Therefore, an organization must show how its social activities provide a charitable benefit.Footnote 12 Footnote

26. Generally, for social or recreational activities to further a charitable purpose, they must be structured in such a way that they provide a charitable benefit to youth. For example, activities such as youth dances, movie nights, concerts, and sporting events that are supervised by qualified, responsible individuals may further a charitable purpose if they are part of a structured and focused approach to dealing with identified issues that affect at-risk youth. Critical factors include the degree of supervision or interaction, and the degree to which the social activities actually further the charitable purposes of the organization.

27. On the other hand, issues such as delinquency or substance abuse will not necessarily or actively be addressed by simply offering opportunities or facilities where social or recreational activities might take place. By themselves, activities for youth such as operating coffee houses, hosting card games, providing video games, or organizing dance parties will unlikely further a charitable purpose.

28. While unstructured social or recreational activities can be offered to provide a constructive alternative to undesirable environments that contribute to youth problems, or to encourage youth to participate in other structured activities conducted by an organization, these unstructured activities are only permitted if they are ancillary and incidentalFootnote 13   to the organization’s charitable purposes.

Sports activities

29. The law does not recognize purposes that promote sport as charitable.Footnote 14   However, some sports activities can further charitable purposes that benefit youth such as when they help build self-esteem, prevent addiction, or assist in the recovery from addiction.

30. Where an organization will further its charitable purpose through a sports activity, it must demonstrate that the activity is a structured and focused attempt to address an identified youth issue. Participation in sports alone is not enough. Substantive evidence of a causal connection between the activity and the delivery of the charitable benefit is needed. For example, when participation in sports activities is shown to be part of a structured program to prevent the delinquency of at-risk youth, the sports activities may directly further a charitable purpose. Therefore, it is not the inherent nature of a sports activity that determines whether it is charitable, but rather how that sports activity furthers a charitable purpose.

31. An organization would need an appropriate selection process that ensures that the at-risk youth identified in its purposes benefit from its sports activities. It is not necessary that only these youth participate, but the factors set out in paragraph 18 of this guidance apply.

32. In the same way, simply providing sports equipment or opportunities for youth to play sports is unlikely to directly further a charitable purpose, unless the program is restricted to providing equipment and registration fees to youth experiencing poverty as an activity to further a relief of poverty purpose.

33. For more information, see Policy statement CPS-027, Sports and charitable registration.

Drop-in centres

34. A drop-in centre can be operated to further a variety of charitable purposes. Each purpose could provide benefits to a different category of youth. For example:

35. Drop-in centres must carry out structured and focused activities that are clearly directed toward addressing or preventing specific problems facing youth. Drop-in centres can also allow youth to help deliver activities or participate in decision-making processes (for example, serve as board or committee members, assist in maintaining facilities, and plan and carry out fundraising activities). They usually include counselling and/or life skills training, together with:

36. To show that their activities are structured, focused, and clearly directed toward addressing or preventing specific problems facing youth, drop-in centres can use appropriate qualification criteria and screening processes to select individuals that will interact with youth.


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