Nonprofit Rules of Engagement*
Equal Outreach – all contact with and materials sent to campaigns should be the same for every candidate running for a particular position. For example, if a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian and Independent areall running for mayor, you must send information to all four candidates. If a candidate contacts you for more information, document that contact and if other candidates reach out to you, you must offer them the same information.
Documentation – keep a calendar of each time you reach out to a candidate and every time a candidate contacts you. This will help you keep track of your equal outreach efforts.
An organization may take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office as long as the message does not in any way favor or oppose a candidate. Be aware that the message does not need to identify the candidate by name to be prohibited political activity. A message that shows a picture of a candidate refers to a candidate’s political party affiliations, or other distinctive features of a candidate’s platform or biography may be prohibited political activity.
A website is a form of communication. If an organization posts something on its website that favors or opposes a candidate for public office, it is prohibited political activity. It is the same as if the organization distributed printed material, or made oral statements or broadcasts that favored or opposed a candidate.
If an organization establishes a link to another website, it is responsible for the consequences of establishing and maintaining that link even if the organization does not have control over the content on the linked site. Because the linked content may change, the organization should monitor the linked content and adjust or remove any links that could result in prohibited political activity.
*This site is intended to provide guidance on federal lobbying laws but is not legal advice and we would advise you to consult an attorney if you have specific concerns. This information was adapted from the Alliance for Justice’s series on nonprofit and foundation lobbying and advocacy. Visit www.afj.org for more information.
1 http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=179462,00.html, accessed on June 25, 2008
2 http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=179464,00.html, accessed on June 25, 2008
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