Nonprofits + Elections: Voter + Candidate Engagement
Many nonprofits mistakenly believe they can’t get involved in elections at all. 501(c)(3) nonprofits are banned from endorsing candidates, but there are numerous ways nonprofits can–and should–work to promote voter and civic engagement as part of their charitable and educational mission during the election season.
Election Law Basics for Nonprofits
- Free Webinar Recording from Nonprofit Vote: Nonprofits, Nonpartisanship & Misinformation: What Nonprofits Can (and Should) Say about the Election (2020)
- We have compiled checklists and resources to help 501(c)(3) nonprofits ensure their election year advocacy and get out the vote efforts remain nonpartisan.
- 501(c)(3) nonprofits can use this sample to develop an election year memo or employee handbook policy to remind their staff and volunteers that certain election activities on behalf of the organization, or using the resources of the 501(c)(3), are prohibited.
- 501(c)(4) organizations can participate in political (or campaign intervention) activities under federal tax law. Find election year guidance for 501(c)4 organizations here.
- Follow MANP’s blog, where we’ve got a range of posts related to election season dos & don’ts!
- More questions? Bolder Advocacy has answers!
Get Out the Vote – GOTV!
Our democracy–and the nonprofit sector–depend on good government and fair and open elections. When candidates are elected by a minority of eligible voters, they may not represent or understand the issues nonprofits care about.
Nonprofits are particularly well suited to encourage voter participation among their staff, volunteers and constituents. Not only do nonprofits reach populations that are less likely to vote, but they are effective in increasing turnout among these groups—reducing disparities in who votes based on age, income, and race/ethnicity.
But, MANP’s 2020 member survey revealed that only about 20% of our members typically participate in Get Out the Vote activities. Here’s what you and your organization can do to improve on that!
- NonprofitVote’s “Nonprofits Countdown to the Election” makes it incredibly easy to encourage staff, clients and other stakeholders to participate in democracy and vote!
- We’ve compiled more tips, tools and sample messaging to get started with Get Out the Vote efforts.
- Download and use the following graphics!
Get the Candidates (and the Media) Talking About Nonprofits
Nonprofit businesses employ 1 in 6 Maine workers representing a workforce of over 98,000 and channel the energy of about 400,000 volunteers annually. This is a voting block that candidates will want to reach.
- Learn how to use the data from our Adding Up Impact report to build connections with our Frames that Work toolkit and resources.
- Check out our blog post on candidate education.
- Understand the rules of commenting on candidates and campaigns.
- Nonprofit Marketing Guide has six things you can do to improve your chances of earning valuable coverage between now and November.
MANP’s goal is to educate nonprofits and legal and effective advocacy and election season activity, to educate candidates about the impact and potential of the nonprofit sector, and to educate voters by soliciting information directly from candidates on how they would strengthen and partner with the sector if elected. MANP does not endorse candidates or promote or endorse any political party. All activities are designed to comply with the IRS guidelines for acceptable political activity of a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization.