Question: Legal Advocacy

Depending on your nonprofit’s certification you are under different laws surrounding the kind of legislative positions you can take. This is an area in which I have very little knowledge but am curious about. I wanted to reach out to you as nonprofit professionals all over the states regarding what you know about legislative advocacy.

What is the limit of the advocacy a 501(c)(3) can do? Can you support political candidates, bills that affect or do not affect your organization, or encourage your supporters to legislate on your behalf?

If you could post a comment and share what your organization does regarding advocacy, that would be extremely helpful. Make sure to include your nonprofit’s status or whether you’re a government agency.

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3 Responses to Question: Legal Advocacy

  1. Marjorie Fine says:

    You should refer to the Alliance for Justice-they have great information on this. In brief, you can do almost anything except say “vote for…… But do look at their website and call them for information-and don’t be afraid to advocate. Also check out what it takes to get a 50l h tax status. Thanks, Margie

  2. Chuck sheketoff says:

    501(c)(3)s can lobby — within limits. see http://www.afj.org, write your questions to advocacy@afj.org and check out the web workshop at http://afj.convio.net/site/Calendar/1783723164?view=Detail&id=102721&whence=http%3A%2F%2Fafj.convio.net%2Fsite%2FCrmRest

  3. From a community college perspective, I talked to an American Association of Community Colleges representative a couple of years ago about how the community college foundation for which I work could explore advocacy; here were a few high points from that conversation:
    ? It’s always more effective to have students, volunteers, or others in the community advocate on behalf of a college priority than for the primary spokesperson to be from the college.
    ? Consider how any advocacy would appear if reported in a newspaper. Would the college’s efforts cause a public outcry?
    ? As public nonprofit institutions, the college should not be championing specific candidates. Colleges can and should provide information in a neutral (non-partisan) manner that engages the public in a debate about the issues.
    ? If the college wants more visibility for the college and for key issues, one of the best ways to achieve this is to offer a public forum for political candidates to debate relevant issues. This may get the candidates to visit the campus and see the positive programs offered as well as the obvious needs of the college and its student body. And, it may garner some media attention for the college.
    ? The media’s a powerful tool. The college can invite the media to its activities (e.g., forums) and distribute articles on relevant issues to our supporters. It can also invite media representatives to actively participate, e.g. by moderating a debate.
    ? It may be possible to enlist corporate sponsorship for legislative forums or similar activities as a way for sponsors to prove they’re good citizens.

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