Medical Malpractice, Supported Employment, Nonprofits
July 30, 2008
E-governance, Prenatal Care in Utah
June 25, 2008
Governance, State Budget Reports
May 29, 2008
Childhood Obesity, Stadium Funding, Local Economic Development
April 30, 2008
State Rankings, Healthcare Legislation
March 26, 2008
Nonprofits and Elections
Are nonprofit organizations the “sleeping giants” of the
democratic process? There’s much to
support this idea. Credibility, trust,
and access to potential voters who have often been underrepresented in the
electoral process are strong credentials.
There are many legal, permissible, nonpartisan activities
that nonprofits can engage in to mobilize, register, educate, and motivate
in Utah is Dismal!
There’s simply no other way to describe voter turnout in
Utah. First, only 56.8 percent of
eligible Utah residents are actually registered to vote.
In the 2006 statewide election, only 36.7 percent of
registered Utah voters turned out. That
ranks us 51st including all states and Washington, D.C. The National average was 47.8 percent.
More recently, in the June 2008 Primary Election, less than
8 percent of Utah registered voters cast ballots.
In checking election-day conditions, there were no reports
of bombs, machine gun fire, traffic jams, or severe weather.
No-No’s for Elections
Nonprofit organizations can help, but be aware of limitations
on involvement in elections and lobbying.
The very status as a nonprofit can be jeopardized, even suspended. In some past cases, interpretation by the
IRS of these restrictions has been somewhat narrow, some feel even politically
Regardless, there are basically three activities that are not
permissible for 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations:
Nonprofits Can Do
or oppose a candidate – implicit or explicit.
any campaign contributions – time, money, or facilities.
activities with a candidate.
Just as with good accounting and financial management
practices, nonprofits are cautioned to be familiar with what is and is not
permissible for them to do relative to political campaigns. Debate them at will, but ignore them at your
Here are some activities that are permissible for
Employees, members or officers
of 501(c)(3) organizations can
participate in a political
campaign provided that they
say or do everything as a private
citizen and not as spokespersons
for the organization or while
using organization resources.
voter education, registration, and get-out-the-vote activities.
candidates and even political parties about your organization’s issues.
candidates to meetings or hold a public forum sponsored by your
organization. Important: The
invitation must be extended to “all serious candidates.”
a public policy agenda with your board to identify long-term changes to
legislation that might benefit your issue or organization. It
is important to not suspend public policy advocacy efforts in an election
There are no
unimportant elections. The numbers, of course, indicate differences
where presidential elections far outdraw local primaries, and gubernatorial
races outpace isolated bond elections.
Nonprofits and the people they serve deserve quality service
and quality elected leaders. Neither
happens by accident. While election
rules for nonprofits may seem vague, common sense is generally the best guide. The commitment to a good civil society ,
however, cannot be vague.
The steps are really quite easy:
Change will happen with or
without us. Don’t be left
who the candidates are and what they stand for.
sure to vote! Early voting and
voting by mail make the process very convenient.
others to vote.
Here are some great sites to search for guidance and
Rules and Tips: Nonprofits Can Help America Vote
Revenue Ruling 2007-41
Voter Engagement Network is a “one-stop-shop” for nonprofit voter
Year Activities and the Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention for
Section 501(c)(3) Organizations (IRS)
Mobilization: Engaging Nonprofits and Individuals in Democracy (Minnesota
Council of Nonprofits)
Minnesota Participation Project
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