Although the 2012 election is now over, there are still many things nonprofits should be aware of when it comes to political activity.
With the passage of Citizen’s United in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door to a flood of political campaign contributions that are either a facilitator of free speech or an opportunity for an organization or individual to “buy” an election, depending on one’s point of view. Either way, the landscape is shifting dramatically and nonprofits would be wise to familiarize themselves with the guidelines dictating political contributions/activity.
As indicated on the IRS website, “all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” However, there are exceptions as it further states, “activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.”
So the name of the game here is whether or not political activity can be deemed partisan. Even so, there are still ways for nonprofits to become more involved and engaged in the political process. To read the full IRS guidelines, click here.