Nonprofit organizations (501(c)(3)’s) play an important role in the policymaking process by educating and engaging citizens, and lobbying decision-makers for stronger protections. But, we can also play an important role in the democratic process by working, in nonpartisan ways, to encourage citizens to vote and to make our issues part of the public debate.
Yes – it is acceptable for 501(c)(3) nonprofits to lobby elected officials. However, there are rules governing how often, how much, and timing of lobbying efforts. Additionally, and most importantly, a 501(c)(3) organization may not engage in partisan political activity or do anything that can be seen to be supporting or opposing a candidate for office. You should consult with an attorney before undertaking any election-related activities.
The Alliance for Justice is a great resource for these and other issues. Check out their publications and factsheets for additional information on legally permissible advocacy and election-related activities.
Here are some of our favorite resources for answers and insights on nonprofit advocacy these days, especially in the digital realm.