Nonprofits and Elections

MPP logo The Minnesota Participation Project is MCN's civic engagement initiative. Visit MPP's homepage for detailed resources; below is a brief overview.

Charitable organizations have a key role to play in educating and activating voters. While 501(c)3 organizations are prohibited from partisan activity, they can and should engage in nonpartisan efforts to encourage civic participation.

Keep in mind that a 501(c)(3) organization can never endorse, contribute to, work for, or otherwise support or oppose a candidate for public office. The organization’s resources, including work time, computers, phones and meeting spaces may never be used in partisan electioneering activities. However, in no way does this prohibits officers, members or employees from participating in a political campaign as private citizens.

As the election season grows near the possibilities are great. MCN will be working with nonprofits to conduct nonpartisan voter registration and get-out-the vote activities, issue advocacy and candidate forums.

Nonpartisan Voter Registration and Get-Out-the-Vote Activities

Drives must be designed to educate the public about the importance of voting. Activities cannot be biased for or against any candidate or party. Nonprofits can target areas for this effort in nonpartisan ways. For instance, nonprofits may target low-turnout areas, low income populations, minority populations and students. Targeting cannot be based on belonging to a political party. Nonprofits may also target registration and turn out efforts to the areas or people they serve.

Issue Advocacy

A nonprofit can and should inform candidates of its positions on particular issues and to urge them to go on record supporting those positions.

Candidate Forums

Nonprofits may invite candidates to meetings or to public forums sponsored by the nonprofit. The invitation must be extended to all serious candidates. It is best to write to all of them simultaneously and to use identical language in the invitation. It is not necessary that all candidates attend. Even-handedness must be maintained. Each candidate must be given an equal opportunity to answer any questions. 

 
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