How Can Nonprofits Comment on Policy During an Election Season?
Election season can be a time of heightened awareness of the issues your nonprofit works to improve everyday. How can nonprofits, who risk losing their exempt status if they cross the line into partisan politics, respond to proposals or statements without appearing to influence the upcoming election in any way?
The Governor, one of our US Senators, both US Representatives and much of the state legislature are up for re-election and are still making policy or policy comments. Their opponents are also making statements as are other incumbents and candidates for office. It may be in the best interest of your organization’s mission to either support or refute these statements or actions. While your responses can be an excellent opportunity to get your message our or to set the record straight, one must tread carefully.
The Alliance For Justice has just published two excellent papers to help nonprofits stay in the game and stay non-partisan.
- The first paper, Commenting on Candidates and Campaigns, provides practical advice on how to respond to comments made by candidates during an election.
- The second paper, Praising and Criticizing Incumbents, urges nonprofits to focus on the official actions, and be conscious of the timing as well as your own past advocacy history.
For more information about legally and effectively participating in this election season, try some of these resources:
- MANP’s Raise Your Voice Toolkit
- Nonprofit Vote’s 501c3 Permissible Activities Checklist
- Nonprofit Vote’s Staying Nonpartisan Resource Webpage
Don’t be silenced because of fear of running afoul of election season rules. Be cautious and intentional. Stay non-partisan, but stay in the game.