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BEING NONPARTISAN: Guidelines for 501c3 Organizations Presented by.

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1 BEING NONPARTISAN: Guidelines for 501c3 Organizations Presented by

2 A national hub of voter engagement resources and trainings to help nonprofits integrate nonpartisan voter participation into ongoing activities and services. The official voter participation partner of the National Association of Secretaries of State for the nonprofit sector. Visit our website for more on our mission and partners: About

3 TODAY’S PRESENTER Who George Pillsbury Senior Consultant Nonprofit VOTE

4 Tax exempt and tax-deductible: In exchange for donors getting a tax deduction, 501c3 nonprofits must remain nonpartisan The one sentence prohibition: “A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization may not support or oppose a candidate for public office” 501(C)(3) NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS 2014 Midterm

5 BENEFITS OF NONPARTISANSHIP You are a trusted messenger that can reach audiences others don’t You can host candidate forums and events A good place to be for your staff, board and audience Why Nonprofits

6 AGENDA Being Nonpartisan: The Basic Guidelines 1.Voter Registration 2.Voter Education 3.Engaging Candidates 4.Ballot Measures 5.Get Out The Vote Issue Advocacy and More Staff Activities on Personal Time 501c4 Organizations More Resources

7 BEING NONPARTISAN: Basic Guidelines for 501(c)3)s

8 A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization may not support or oppose a candidate for public office. WHAT’S PARTISAN - THE ONE RULE Being Nonpartisan May not – Endorse candidates Donate money or resources to candidates Rate or rank candidates on their positions compared to yours May not – Endorse candidates Donate money or resources to candidates Rate or rank candidates on their positions compared to yours

9 Question: Can our nonprofit let a candidate use our phones for a phone bank or a hall for an event? Answer: Yes, so long as you offer the same to all candidates at fair market value CANDIDATES USING YOUR RESOURCES? Being Nonpartisan

10 Ok to compare candidates on the issues in candidate questionnaires, voter guides Keep your opinion out of it – don’t indicate the right position in the printed guide or on the same page of the website CANDIDATE COMPARISONS Being Nonpartisan

11 SCORECARDS Being Nonpartisan

12 WHAT NONPROFITS CAN DO Nonprofits may conduct nonpartisan voter engagement activities to educate the public and help them participate in elections, including - Being Nonpartisan May – Register Voters Educate Voters Get Out The Vote (GOTV) Hold Candidate Forums May – Register Voters Educate Voters Get Out The Vote (GOTV) Hold Candidate Forums


14 Promote voter registration –Announce deadlines –Provide information on where and when to register to vote Conduct voter registration –Table in your lobby –Register voters at events –Do a voter registration drive COMMON NONPARTISAN ACTIVITIES Voter Registration

15 No endorsements: May not suggest which party to join or candidate to vote for Know your state’s rules: Use our “Voting in Your State” guide. Coordinate with your local election office – VOTER REGISTRATION GUIDELINES Voter Registration

16 Question: Can I help the voter select a party affiliation? Answer: You can explain what it means in your state to register as “unenrolled” or “unaffiliated” and the consequences of party enrollment for primary voting. ____________ Question: What if the person asks about the candidates? Answer: Just remind volunteers to say it’s a nonpartisan effort. Provide a few options for finding more information. VOTER REGISTRATION GUIDESLINES Voter Registration


18 How, where and when to vote –Early Voting –Voter ID Needed –Civic Education Voter Education THE PROCESS OF VOTING

19 CANDIDATES AND ISSUES Sample Ballots and Voter Guides Candidate Questionnaires Voter Education Stay Neutral when mentioning the names of candidates

20 Ask questions on a range of topics Not just yes or no. Let candidates explain view, but give a word limit Send it to all candidates in the race If a candidate doesn’t respond - may list “no response” or use official statements from the candidate’s website CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRES Voter Education It’s only partisan if you provide a correct answer in the same communication


22 Invite candidates to an event Sponsor a candidate forum Send candidates your policy ideas THREE WAYS TO ENGAGE CANDIDATES Engaging Candidates

23 Question: Can a candidate who is invited to an event make a short statement about their candidacy from the podium? Answer: No! Whether invited or not, candidates may not campaign at your events. CANDIDATE APPEARANCES Engaging Candidates

24 At an event Invite all the candidates running for the same office Treat candidates as guests – no campaign materials allowed Remind audience it’s a nonpartisan event and thank candidates for attending Engaging Candidates CANDIDATES APPEARANCES Elected officials may be invited to speak in a non-candidate capacity.

25 Cover a range of issues or topics within your own issue area Provide equal time for the candidates Ask all candidates to attend Have at least 2 candidates to be a “forum” CANDIDATE FORUMS Engaging Candidates


27 Ballot measures are about laws or constitutional amendments Activity on ballot measures is lobbying. It’s influencing the passage or defeat of a law– not the election or defeat of a candidate 501c3 nonprofits may work for or against a ballot measure as a lobbying activity BALLOT MEASURES Ballot Measures


29 501(c)(3)s may - Make the election visible Provide voter assistance Conduct get-out-the-vote drives Remind staff and constituents to vote GET OUT THE VOTE Get Out The Vote

30 Give staff time off: To vote or do nonpartisan election activities Rides to the polls: No campaign materials on the vehicles Celebrate Democracy: Make Election Day special. Have a party. ELECTION DAY Election Day


32 “501(c)(3) organizations may take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office.” (Internal Revenue Service 2006) ISSUE ADVOCACY Issue Advocacy

33 Factors to consider - Increasing advocacy activities during the election season could be partisan History of work on an issue in the past is a key nonpartisan factor Responding to an external event is ok and nonpartisan ISSUE ADVOCACY Issue Advocacy

34 WHAT STAFF CAN DO Nonprofit staff may engage in partisan activities, such as supporting a candidate, outside of normal work hours Question: What about social media anytime of day? Answer: Distinguish your personal use of social media from that of your nonprofit Staff Activities

35 A “social welfare organization” Tax exempt (but no deduction) Unlimited lobbying and advocacy Can support candidates GOING FURTHER - A PARTNER 501(c)(4) Partner 501(c)(4)



38 617.357.VOTE (8683) Nonprofit VOTE 89 South Street Suite 203 Boston, MA 02111 George Pillsbury Julian Johannesen

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