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Nonprofits have a vital role to play in our democracy and helping citizens get engaged. Nonprofits have the constitutional right to engage in the electoral process, although federal regulations require that nonprofit organizations remain strictly nonpartisan. This means that nonprofits can neither support nor oppose candidates for elected office or a particular political party—whether at the federal, state, or local levels.
What nonprofits CAN do:
- Voter registration activities
- Distribute voter guides
- Get-out-the-vote drives
- Candidate questionnaires
- Candidate forums
You should check IRS rules and regulations governing all of these activities before proceeding with your planning.
Some things nonprofits should NOT do:
- Endorse a candidate for public office
- Make a contribution to a campaign or a party
- Lend space to a candidate or a party
- Allow your staff to contribute time to a campaign at the expense of your organization (in other words, no campaigning on work time!)
- Restrict rental of your mailing list or facilities to certain candidates or parties
ask candidates to sign pledges on any issue (tacit endorsement)
Top three reasons for your nonprofit to engage in electoral activities:
- Election-related activities can raise the visibility of your issues.
- Election-related activities are an important way for the people and communities you serve to be engaged in civic life.
- Election-related activities can be a first step toward building ongoing relationships with elected officials that your organization may need to work with later.
- IRS Election Year Fact Sheet
- IRS Examples and Analysis of Voting and Election Activities by Charitable Organizations
- Bolder Advocacy
- Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest
- Nonprofit VOTE
Encourage your constituents to vote! Register to vote in Oregon, or update your registration.
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