top of page


Click the options below for more information:

Charity vs. Non-Profit

Charity vs. Non-Profit

How should the rescue be set up? There are several things to consider regarding how to officially structure the organization. These are some terms you should be aware of:

  • Registered charity

    • Distinct from not-for-profit corporations, charities run programs that meet the charitable activities as outlined by the Charities Directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA.) Registered charities are regulated by the CRA and are able to issue tax receipts to donors.

  • Foundation

    • A foundation is a type of registered charity that primarily exists to distribute funds to other charitable organizations. Canadian foundations may give grants (donations) to other charities; they may exist to be a funding arm for another charity (such as hospital foundations); or they may carry on their own charitable activities.

  • Non-profit corporation

    • These are incorporated as a legal entity separate from its members and directors. Not all non-profit corporations register as a charity with the CRA. They can earn a profit, but profits are used to further its corporate goals (and not be distributed to shareholders, members, or directors).


Review CRA’s information on registering as a charitable organization:

The Government of Saskatchewan provides information about setting up an organization in Saskatchewan.


The following information is not intended as legal advice and should not be considered in place of guidance directly from the CRA.


Regardless of how you set up the organization, you are going to need to report your financial status to CRA every year. Be aware that penalties can be applied to organizations that don’t report and you could lose status as a Non-Profit or Charitable organization. Every year, rescues will need to file a T3010B Registered Charity Information Return, or a T1044 Non-Profit Organization (NPO) Information Return to the CRA. Filling out these forms should be in consultation with the CRA’s online tools. These are some points to know in advance:

  • Some organizations complete the forms internally, while others ask an accountant to complete the form. In any case, the forms should be reviewed by the board prior to sending them to the CRA.

  • In addition to the above forms, charitable organizations must file:

    • A list of the board of directors or trustees using form T1235.

    • Donations or transfers made by the organization using form T1236.

    • Basic information about the organization using the Registered Charity Basic Information Sheet.

    • A copy of the organization’s financial statements.

    • A charitable organization is not required to be audited, but it is encouraged by the CRA if your organization takes in more than $250,000 in a year, and is recommended to ensure accountability and transparency.

For more information, see The In’s and Out’s of Reporting to the CRA by William Harper, CA, or refer to the CRA website. 

Regulatory Framework in Canada²

Rescues operate under a regulatory framework that includes:

  • The federal government is responsible for maintaining common law, federal statutes, the Canadian Criminal Code, and federal social programs.

  • Provincial governments are responsible for maintaining provincial statutes, provincial programs, and provincial oversight.

  • Municipal and Rural governments are responsible for bylaws and local programs.

  • With the assistance of various levels of government, contracts help to secure the structure and validity of funding agreements, insurance policies, and memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with other organizations.

  • Sector Initiatives, such as accreditation programs, help to grow public confidence and can be used to promote the interests of rescue organizations.

Charities in Canada must operate within the laws of the land, whether those laws are directed specifically at charities, or at the community in general. 

Learn more here:

A Checklist for Charities³

Maintaining the status of a registered charity requires due attention. Please note the following guidelines from the CRA: 


  • Engage only in allowable activities. A registered charity is only allowed to operate for the designated charitable purpose. This purpose must see the charitable function of the organization being carried out, and ensure that donations are given to the proper cause. The charity should remain transparent and accountable, not using its activities or purpose to support any business, political group, or private and non-charitable interest. 

    • The organization must ensure that records and receipts are maintained, so that records can be reviewed and audited for accuracy and honesty. These records must be maintained after the life of the organization.

  • The rescue will be required to issue proper donation receipts. For more information on how to do this, please visit

  • Registered charities must annually file a T3010 return Registered Charity Return, along with the required supporting financial data, and must do so within 6 months of its fiscal year end.

  • If the organization undergoes any legal or structural changes, CRA must be informed, and the charitable purpose of the organization must still be held. 

  • When Issuing donation receipts, it is best to view the samples provided by CRA at⁴:

  • Charities can issue receipts for contributions of cash or other items, but not for services. When accepting donations of unusual quality, it is best to have these donations appraised to ensure that the value is correct. Non-cash donations should be assessed at fair market value.

  • Charities cannot issue receipts for services or on behalf of another charity.

Additional Resources

As this topic is complicated, review the following websites to learn more about working with CRA:  

Your Reporting Obligations Under the Canada Not-For-Profit Corporations Act (NFP Act), by the Government of Canada


Instructions for the Articles of Incorporation – Not-for-profit corporations, by the Government of Canada

A Guide to Financial Statements for Not-For-Profit Organizations: Questions for directors

² Regulatory Frameworks in Canada, by Sector Source

³ Basic Checklist for Charities, Government of Canada

⁴ Issuing Complete and Accurate Donation Receipts, by the Government of Canada

Regulatory Framework in Canada
A Checklist for Charities
Additional Resources
bottom of page