Nonprofits, Advocacy & Politics
What you CAN and CAN’T do
about voter education
Statewide alliance of 1,500 nonprofits
Bring a strong voice to government, philanthropy, public
* Full time lobbyist/policy director in Sacramento
* Offices in San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles
* CalNonprofits Insurance Services provides insurance to
8,000 nonprofits and more than 13,000 nonprofit staff
About the California Association of Nonprofits
What is lobbying? What isn’t?
Can nonprofits lobby?
What nonprofits can’t do related to elections
What nonprofits can do
Get Out the Vote (GOTV)
Direct lobbying: Communicating to an elected official or their
staff in favor or against a particular bill, or urging people to
vote for or against a proposition.
Grassroots lobbying: encouraging people to call their
representatives and urge them to vote a certain way.
Can nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations do lobbying?
What is lobbying?
Choose which test to have used on you:
1. “Insubstantial” test
Informal rule of thumb: 5%
2. Expenditure test
A % of your expenses (so it excludes volunteer activity), depending on budget
size, but usually 10 – 20%, of which up to 25% can be spent on grassroots
If you want the expenditure test used, file Form
5768 (called the 501(h) election) – only 1 line to fill out!
Online calculator for amount: www.bolderadvocacy.org/501h-lobbying-calculator
(Note: Communicating to voters on how they should specifically vote on ballot
measures falls under direct or “regular” lobbying.)
Nonpartisan research or analysis. You can take a position as long
as the content is not limited to one side.
Educating legislators about an issue without bring up specific
Defending your organization to government
(example: a legislative body investigating whether you are
Testifying in response to a written request by a legislative body
Advocating with administrators as long as it’s not about a specific
piece of legislation
Some things that don’t count as lobbying
If everyone who worked or volunteered in healthcare
nonprofits voted . . .
If everyone who worked or volunteered in the environment
voted . . .
If everyone who worked or volunteered in the
arts voted . . .
Nonprofits are already known and trusted by
Nonprofits believe in participatory democracy
Nonprofits know what is at stake
Nonprofits are effective vote mobilizers
Endorse a candidate
Oppose a candidate
What nonprofits CAN’T do about voting
What nonprofits CAN do about voting
Get Out the Vote (GOTV)
3 components of voter engagement
Have voter registration materials at your site: be willing to
register for any party; do address changes, too
Integrate voter registration into your activities
Set up table at the theatre lobby
Send info home with kids
Give out flyer on how to register online at
workshops, board meetings
Remind ineligible people they should get their
friends to register and vote!
Voter registration: what you CAN (and should) do
Take stands on ballot propositions and explain why
Publish or publicize nonpartisan analysis (California League of
Women Voters has good stuff)
Hold a candidates forum or encourage
people to go to them
Voter education: what you CAN (and should!) do
BolderAdvocacy.org: detailed legal info
CalNonprofits.org: analysis, tools
California League of Women Voters
Sample policy re elections to give to staff: