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The Rules of Advocacy

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Some nonprofits are uncertain about what are allowable political activities.  But understanding the rules is easy. 

B. Holly Schadler’s “The Connectionis an invaluable tool for nonprofits operating in the United States.  It discusses what is legal under newer Supreme Court rulings. Schadler outlines limits on advocacy depending on nonprofit Internal Revenue Service classification.   

A nonprofit classified as a 501(c)(4) is allowed to publicly endorse candidates but one classified as a 501(c)(3) cannot. 

Advice for nonprofits that want to have greater influence through advocacy is to “team up.”  Schadler encourages 501(c)(3) nonprofits to build alliances with 501(c)(4) nonprofits and explains how this can be done within the limits of the law. 

Some of the many free online resources on how a nonprofit can advocate legally and effectively can be found using the following links: 

National Council of Nonprofits

Independent Sector: Nonprofit Advocacy

To say abreast of political issues and changes in advocacy rules, consider becoming a member of local nonprofit support centers that provide legislative updates.  Nonprofits in North Carolina can find quick links to information on the state’s lobbying law and lists of state elected officials on the N.C. Center for Nonprofits website.

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