The term “non-profit organization” (NPO) refers to organizations and associations of all kinds that benefit from special tax exemptions to which they’re entitled one they’ve met the requirements of the Income Tax Act. NPOs are not allowed to offer tax incentives to those who contribute to their activity.
A charitable organization, or charity, is a sub-category of non-profit organizations in the strictest sense of the term. It refers to organizations registered by virtue of the Income Tax Act, which must meet a certain number of criteria that exempt them from paying income tax and allow them to issue receipts for donations that can be claimed as tax credits. Unlike NPOs, a charity must apply for registration as a charity, which Revenue Canada can grant, reject or revoke, whatever the case may be.
If NPOs have one or several activities that do not meet the definition of a “charity,” even if they’re non-profit, they cannot be considered, in the eyes of the law, as charities.
To register as charitable organization, please see the page on this topic.