Do I need a responsive website?

If you are like most small business entrepreneurs or small organizations, a website is something you rarely think about. However, a website is an absolute necessity in business today. A decade ago, you threw up a site and forgot about it. Today, to be relevant and connected to the engaged consumer, a website has to be much more. A website also has to be responsive.

A responsive website is one that adapts to the size of the user’s screen. So if a user visits your site with an iPhone or an iPad, or other device, the text won’t be too small, the menus will work, and the overall appearance is a professional. However, this is not the only reason you should have a responsive site.

On April 21st, 2015, Google updated its dreaded search rank algorithms. This means that its criteria for determining which websites are shown at the top of search results was drastically altered. If your website is not responsive – i.e. does not display well and clearly on smartphones and tablets, then you are in big, big trouble for three key reasons.

1. The web  has gone mobile.

Each day there are more mobile users. The web is no longer a tool limited to computers, and it won’t take long until mobile devices are the predominant way to access information online. Smartphones are easier to use than PCs, cheaper, and growing at astonishing rates in emerging markets. In short, mobile is not just some fad that will go away.

2. We love our phones.

Sure, some of you reading this may decide that you hate being perma-connected, but for the most part we love carrying around Google Maps, checking Facebook on the go, sending emails and texts, and some of us even use smartphones to make phone-calls! With all of this convenience and functionality, it’s no wonder that smartphones are not going away.

3. Google has started to punish you if you are not mobile friendly.

Like it or not, and whether your visitors use mobile devices or not , this has already happened. If your web presence is not responsive, then you are on Google’s naughty list, just waiting for one of your competitors to overtake you. This alone should be reason enough to make your website responsive.

Making a responsive site does not have to cost a fortune, and the benefits in this case, far outweigh any investment required.

Not sure how responsive your site is? Still have questions or need help? Contact me to learn more.


What is the Best Legal Structure for My Social Enterprise?

What is the best legal structure for a social enterprise?

There is no one definition of social enterprise. In general, a social enterprise is a profit-making activity that has a social purpose. A social enterprise can be legally structured in many different ways. It can be run by a charity, a non-profit, a for-profit or a hybrid corporation called a community contribution corporation.

A charity and a non-profit are different under the Income Tax Act (Canada). A charity must be registered with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and carry on charitable activities. A non-profit is not a charity and has to be operated for a purpose other than profit.

A charity, other than a private foundation, can carry on the social enterprise itself, if the activity qualifies as a related business. The benefit to carrying on the social enterprise for the charity is that a charity is not-taxable, and therefore profits from the social enterprise are not taxable. This allows all the profits to be used for the charitable purpose of the charity. However, the social enterprise activity must meet the definition of related business. [If the social enterprise is activity of the charity, then the charity is also liable for the social enterprise.]

CRA takes the position that a non-profit can only make incidental profit. Therefore, this is not a good structure to use to raise funds that will be sent to another entity, such as a charity. However, a non-profit can be a good structure for a social enterprise where the activity itself carries out the social purpose. For example, a restaurant that teaches people without a job how to cook may be structured as a non-profit, because the goal is not to make money to send to another project. Instead, the goal is to teach people a skill and help them gain employment.
A for-profit corporation is also used to carry out social enterprise activities. The benefits of running the social enterprise in a for-profit corporation is that a corporation can carry out any legal business activity, and the liability from the social enterprise is separate from the charity. While a for-profit is taxable, it can reduce its income by 75% by making gifts to a Canadian registered charity.

A new alternative in Canada is using a hybrid corporation called a community contribution corporation (CCC) or a community interest corporation (CIC). These new corporate structures are available in British Columbia and there is legislation pending in Nova Scotia. For tax purposes these new corporations are treated the same as are for-profit corporations – they are taxable.

However, under corporate law, they are required to have a social purpose, and there are restrictions on the use of assets to ensure the funds are used for the social purpose. A regular for-profit can use its funds in the same way, the only difference is that the CCC legislation requires the CCC to use the funds for the social purpose. Thus, this type of corporation can give the public some certainly that the funds will be used for a social purpose.

This has been a brief overview of the legal structures that can be used to carry out a social enterprise. The best choice will differ depending on the goals of the social enterprise and nature of the activity.

Kate Lazier is a partner in the Charity and Non-Profit group at Miller Thomson LLP,, 416.595.8197, @charitylawcan