«Speak for Yourself Nonprofit Advocacy Toolkit Contents Can Charities Lobby? What Exactly is “Lobbying” What is Not Lobbying? What are the ...»
Amendment 41 also has exceptions for campaign contributions, unsolicited items of trivial value and awards, informational material, and gifts from relatives or friends on special occasions. Organizations may pay for a government employee’s admission and meal at a reception or meeting if that person is scheduled to speak. Nonprofits may pay for reasonable expenses for a convention, fact-finding mission, trip, or other meeting if the person is schedule to present or represent government provided that the nonprofit receives less than 5% of its funding from for-profit entities.
To ensure compliance with Amendment 41, nonprofits should set up systems to track gifts and things of value provided to government employees each year, particularly elected officials, to avoid exceeding the $50 limit.
Funding Lobbying Efforts Organizations supported wholly or in large part by government grants are subject to the different, more stringent rules of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-122. With three very limited exceptions, nonprofits are not permitted to use federal funds to engage in lobbying activities, although they are permitted to lobby with money from other sources.
The three exceptions are:
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1. Technical and factual presentations to legislative bodies on topics directly related to the grant.
(The legislative body must have requested the information.)
2. Lobbying state legislatures to influence legislation that would help to reduce the cost of carrying out program activities, or to avoid the impairment of the organization’s ability to carry out its program activities. (The lobbying must be pragmatic in nature, not ideological.)
3. Lobbying activities specifically authorized in the grant or contract.
Private foundations are not permitted to lobby or earmark grants for lobbying. They can make general purpose grants or even grants for a specific initiative with a lobbying component as long as the initiative’s non-lobbying component of the budget is greater than the amount given by private foundations. The IRS sent a letter to the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest that answers many questions about foundations, funding and lobbying. The letter can be found at ww.clpi.org/doc_pdf/clpiIRS.pdf.
Community foundations can earmark grants towards lobbying, but they are subject to the same limitations as other 501(c)(3) nonprofits and any money they give specifically for lobbying counts against their financial limit.
The Alliance for Justice, www.allianceforjustice.org, has a publication, “Investing in Change: A Funder’s Guide to Supporting Advocacy” specific rules for foundations to fund nonprofit advocacy efforts.
Nonprofit Activities During an Election There are rules governing what charitable nonprofit organizations can and cannot do leading up to and during an election. The most important thing to remember is that a 501(c)(3) nonprofit must remain nonpartisan at all times. An organization may support or challenge a piece of legislation or an issue, but may not support or criticize an elected official or candidate for office. If a particular issue is a hot partisan item and each candidate has a clear and opposing view on the issue, nonprofits should exercise caution in how outspoken they are about that issue so that they do not appear to be supporting one candidate.
Voter registration Voter education on the process of voting (where to vote, information on elections and election process) Voting rights and election reform Colorado Nonprofit Association Advocacy Toolkit 9 Get Out the Vote (GOTV)– Encourage and facilitate voting of your community and members Federal funds may not be used for voter registration. You may use any other source of funds for voter registration purposes. Nonprofits may target GOTV activities towards traditionally underserved or underrepresented areas or populations; they may not target populations based on their political or ideological leanings.
Election day activities – Election Monitors, non-partisan GOTV, etc.
Voter education on the candidates and ballot issues Supporting and opposing ballot questions – These activities are subject to normal lobbying limits.
There are no limits on non-partisan voter education on ballot measures that presents both sides of the question. Regular lobbying limits apply if your organization endorses “yes” or “no.” Publish legislative scorecards – Scorecards must be provided for all officials eligible to vote.
Scorecards leading up to an election should be prepared and used in the same manner as in nonelection times. It is best to avoid publishing scorecards leading up to an election if your organization has not regularly published them in the past.
Candidate questionnaires – Questions must be nonpartisan and cover a broad range of topics. If a particular topic is a partisan debate topic, such as abortion, gun control, etc., avoid asking questions about that topic. Reprint the exact answers of the candidates, and give equal opportunities to all candidates to answer and publish answers from all candidates.
Candidate forums – All candidates must be invited and equally encouraged to attend. If a majority of candidates cannot attend, Be sure to remain nonpartisan in questions and cover a broad range of topics. If a particular topic is a partisan debate topic, such as abortion, gun control, etc., avoid asking questions about that topic.
Candidate education – Educate all of the candidates equally on public interest issues.
Rent mailing lists and facilities to organizations, legislators, and candidates – Rentals must be made at fair market value and if made available to members of one party, must be available to members of all other parties. It is best to follow rental procedures established independent of election cycles.
Establish a controlled 501(c)(4) organization
Endorse candidates for public office* Make any campaign contributions* Make expenditures on behalf of candidates Restrict rental of their mailing lists and facilities to certain candidates Ask candidates to sign pledges on any issue (tacit endorsement) Increase the amount of incumbent criticism as election time approaches Publish or communicate anything that explicitly or implicitly favors or opposes a candidate *While nonprofit organizations cannot participate in or contribute to a candidate’s campaign, volunteers, staff or board members of an organization may do so provided that they are acting as individual citizens, not on behalf of the organization.
Tips for Contacting Legislators By Mary Kay Hogan, formerly of Aponté and Hogan (Colorado Nonprofit Association’s lobbyists) Whether it is a phone call or personal letter, communication from constituents is appreciated and welcomed by legislators. Writing an effective letter or email is not a difficult task. Here are a few guidelines.
Personal Letterhead Write on personal or business letterhead, if possible, and sign your name over your typed signature.
Return Address Be sure your exact return address is on the letter, not just the envelope. Envelopes often get discarded.
Even though your address is on the letter, be sure to also state that you are a constituent or that you work in the legislator’s district, if applicable.
Identify the Subject Identify your subject matter clearly. State the name and bill number of the legislation you are writing about at the top of the page (e.g. RE: SB 80).
NO FORM LETTERSAvoid stereotyped phrases and sentences that give the appearance of form letters. They tend to identify your message as part of an organized pressure campaign, and are often discarded. Make your own letter, in your own style, incorporating your organization’s key message.
Be Reasonable Don’t ask for the impossible, don’t threaten, and don’t say “I’ll never vote for you again unless…”.
Be Brief All of your letters should be one page, one sided. Attachments to support your views are fine.
Always say thank you!
Address style The Honorable ___________, Colorado State Senate or House of Representatives 200 East Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO 80203 Tips for Hosting a Legislative Visit By Mary Kay Hogan, Aponté and Hogan (Colorado Nonprofit Association’s lobbyists) Personal visits are an extremely effective means of engaging your legislator(s) on issues of interest to your organization. Legislators want to meet and hear from their constituents, and learn about organizations that help their constituents. However, they are very busy people, so it is crucial to make the most of the time you have with your representatives and senators.
The best time to schedule a legislative visit is during the summer and fall, when the legislature is not in session. The Colorado Legislature meets from January through the beginning of May, therefore this is not the optimal time to request a site visit from your legislator.
How to learn who your elected officials are: You can learn who represents you personally or the area where your organization is located by calling your county clerk or visiting www.vote-smart.org.
Before your visit Invite your legislator in advance by phone, and follow up with a letter confirming the date and • time of the meeting. Expect no more than one hour for a typical site visit.
Make it easy for your legislator to meet with you. Offer several possibilities and do your best • to accommodate their schedule.
Prepare a good fact sheet about your organization or legislative issue (tips below).
• Learn in advance where your legislator stands on your issue or the mission of your • organization.
Be prepared to explain how your organization affects voters in the legislator’s district.
• Dress appropriately for the visit – normal business attire is acceptable.
After the visit:
Follow up with a thank you note along with any information that you promised during the visit.
Keep in touch during legislative session – contact your legislator on issues of interest to your organization, and remind him/her of his/her visit to your facility.
Lobbying and Advocacy Resources Colorado Nonprofit Association 455 Sherman St., Ste. 207, Denver, CO 80203 (303) 832-5710, (800) 333-6554, Help Desk can be reached at extension 222 or info@ColoradoNonprofits.org Colorado Nonprofit Association’s Business Member Directory includes contact information for businesses and consultants that work with nonprofit organizations. www.ColoradoNonprofits.org.
State of Colorado information State webpage: www.colorado.gov Secretary of State: www.sos.state.co.us General Assembly: www.leg.state.co.us To find your elected officials www.congress.org or www.vote-smart.org IRS Tax Exempt and Government Agencies www.irs.gov/charities or www.irs.gov/eo (exempt organizations) Nonprofit Advocacy Resources