LTC Non-Partisan Org.

The prohibition against partisan activities by 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations is defined in the federal tax code by a single statement that says that nonprofit organizations defined as 501(c)(3) charities may not conduct partisan political activities in support of or opposition to a candidate running for public office. In other words, 501(c)(3) nonprofits must remain nonpartisan. Whether activities are considered partisan depends on the “facts and circumstances” of the activity.

Prohibited Partisan Activities

This prohibition against partisan activities is generally known to mean that 501(c)(3) nonprofits may not:

  • Endorse or oppose a candidate running for public office.
  • Make a campaign contribution to or expenditure for or against a candidate.
  • Rate candidates on who is most favorable to your issue.
  • Let candidates use the organization’s facilities or resources, unless those resources are made equally available to all candidates at their fair market value.

Being nonpartisan does not mean non-participation. The IRS states that 501(c)(3) organizations may conduct any range of activities to promote voter participation, educate voters or connect with candidates so long as it is nonpartisan. The remainder of this guide discusses the many ways nonprofits can engage voters and talk to candidates – so long as they do so on a nonpartisan basis.

For example, 501(c)(3) nonprofits may –

  • Conduct or Promote Voter Registration
  • Educate Voters on the Voting Process
  • Distribute Nonpartisan Sample Ballots, Candidate Questionnaires, or Voter Guides
  • Organize Get-Out-the-Vote Activities
  • Encourage and Help People to Vote
  • Host or Co-Sponsor a Candidate Forum
  • Educate the Candidates on Your Issues
  • Continue to do Issue Advocacy During an Election

Staff and volunteers should be nonpartisan when working for or representing the organization. However, “off the clock” or on personal time, they are free to do partisan work for a candidate or party. (See fact sheet on What Nonprofit Staff Can Do)