Central Texas’s 7,000 nonprofits are in a unique position to enage their clients in the election process, but too many are worried about crossing a line. Because they’re beholden to the general good will of the community, they don’t want to offend any prospective donors, volunteers, or partners. And they also may be worried about offending their clients by taking a political stance.
There’s also the fear of losing their 501c3 designation.
But there are lots of ways nonprofits can encourage participation in the election process that don’t cross any lines. In fact, in some ways, nonprofits have a responsibility to engage.
Many nonprofits know too well the situations, needs, and challenges their clients face, including the fact that their clients may not be able to speak up for themselves. Whether because clients fear repurcussions, are unaware of their rights, or are being marginalized from participating, a nonprofit can represent the interests of their clients in the election process. The trick is, though, to distinguish supporting a cause or policy as opposed to a candidate.
Federal rules dictate that charitable and educational nonprofits must remain nonpartisan and not support or oppose a candidate or political party. Beyond that, though, there are a number of ways nonprofits can participate in the democratic process.
Leading up to an election, nonprofits may:
- Help people register to vote
- Distribute nonpartisan materials on candidates or ballot measures
- Host nonpartisan forums for candidates
- Help voters understand elections and the voting process
- Educate candidates on their nonprofits’ issues
On Election Day, nonprofits may:
- Allow staff time off to vote
- Encourage and help people get to the polls to vote
- Allow staff to spend part or all of Election Day doing nonpartisan get out the vote activities
- Encourage staff and volunteers to sign up as poll workers or translators
- Involve staff members as nonpartisan election observers
For more information on how your nonprofit can engage in the democratic process and make sure your organization’s voice is heard, visit NonprofitVote.org.