While this Election Day is not nearly as dramatic as last year’s presidential election, it is consequential for local government such as school boards, city councils, judgeships, and township trustees.
Nonprofits are on the front lines of meeting community needs. Members of nonprofit boards, staff, and volunteer corps should know their local elected officials and should communicate their organization’s impact on a regular basis.
This level of advocacy is critically important; however, the IRS is quite clear in its rules about 501(c)(3) restrictions on political activity:
“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”
Nonprofit leaders are often so concerned about violations of this rule — real or perceived — that they avoid advocacy efforts all together. Let’s also be clear — nonprofit leaders often are so busy managing the needs of the organization that they put advocacy very low on their priority list.
With election season upon us, we want to share two incredibly useful, nonpartisan nonprofit resources.
The BoardSource campaign Stand for Your Mission can benefit every size and type of nonprofit because of the impact public policy has on the sector. Their website has information on why public policy matters, how the board can play a role, and how other organizations have made a difference through advocacy.
The team at BoardSource also created a discussion guide for boards to use as an educational resource so that board and staff leadership can build their capacity in this regard.
“Now this is not about jumping into partisan politics. And it’s not about endorsing or opposing political candidates. Nonprofit advocacy is about helping those who set public policy understand how the choices they are contemplating — the decisions they are making — will positively or negatively affect the people we serve. Nonprofit advocacy is about standing for our missions.”
The League of Women Voters, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, continues to be a leader in fact-based and nonpartisan civic information. They answer questions such as:
- How are the new legislative and congressional maps being re-drawn?
- What candidate and issue information will be on the ballot?
- What policies are being debated and voted on at the State House?
- How can I find out more about local government?
You can also use their Voter Guide before you head to the polls.
Thank you for all you do to serve our community. We hope these resources are useful to you during this election cycle and for years to come.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO