Nonprofit Tweets of the Week – August 15, 2014


Sad week: Ferguson, Robin Williams … Have a listen to Friend Like Me while perusing our curated nonprofit tweets of the week:

  • Rick Cohen: Missing in Action in #Ferguson: Key Government Leaders Don’t Show up – NPQ – Nonprofit Quarterly
  • Independent Sector: Robin Williams spread joy off-screen through charity work  … [LA Times] #RobinWilliams
  • Nonprofit Quarterly: The #IceBucketChallenge: What can #nonprofits take away from this social media trend?
  • Lucy Marcus: Boardroom 101: What do directors do? Above Board with Lucy Marcus for @BBC_Capital #corpgov
  • Gene: Any IRS moratorium on enforcing electioneering restrictions against churches lifted, but … [see below] JD Supra
  • Gene: Moratorium on IRS investigations of tax-exempts during Congress’s probe of IRS audits of conservative nonprofits [is still ongoing] JD Supra
  • National Council of Nonprofits: Charitable registration legalities (e.g. mysteries) Resources updated!
  • Alliance Magazine: This is COMMON SENSE philanthropy: a response to ‘Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World’
  • HuffPost Impact: 10 reasons why investing in girls’ education is an absolute must #globalmotherhood #jnj

Nonprofit Tweets of the Week – August 8, 2014


I’ll be on Nonprofit Radio today talking with host Tony Martignetti about nonprofit collaborations. Hope you catch us live (10 am PT / 1 pm ET) or later on iTunes. Have a listen to Michael Winslow (Police Academy sound effects dude) performing Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love while perusing our curated nonprofit tweets of the week:

  • USD Nonprofit Institute: USD and CalNonprofits release first authoritative study on the economic impact of CA NPs #USDSOLES #CausesCount
  • Erin Bradrick: Nonprofits generate 15% of California’s GDP, 4th largest industry @calnonprofits
  • Robert Egger: GREAT video from @CalNonprofits detailing the economic impact of #nonprofits (including $40B in out-of-state money)
  • Kim Keel: Can your #NPO answer these questions? #duediligence @BridgespanGroup [How to Research a Nonprofit’s Organization and Operations]
  • Nonprofit Quarterly: How the #nonprofit sector better serve young professionals? #millennials
  • For Purpose Law: Distinguishing a Board’s Steering and Rowing Work – NPQ – Nonprofit Quarterly
  • Nonprofit Quarterly: A free guide for executive #leadership for #nonprofits
  • Gene: How Does a Nonprofit Board Know When a CEO Is ‘Just Minding the Store’? @eugenefram
  • Harvard Business Review: So You Want to Join a Board
  • Bolder Advocacy: Can a #nonprofit say that on social media?? Find out! #webinar [August 12]
  • Nonprofit Times: Employment Agreements #nonprofit
  • National Council of Nonprofits: Looking for a fiscal sponsor? Tips and resources
  • Nonprofit Quarterly: 5 Bad Reasons to Choose a For-Profit Social Enterprise over Nonprofit
  • HuffPost Environment News: The Three Core Questions to Determine: When Is a Company Serious About Sustainability?

Charities and Issue Advocacy: Doing it Right – Part Two


This post is a continuation of last week’s post on issue advocacy:
Charities and Issue Advocacy: Doing it Right - Part One.

A communication is particularly at risk of political campaign intervention when it makes references to candidates or voting in a specific upcoming election; however, the IRS has emphasized that “the communication must still be considered in context before arriving at any conclusions.” The IRS has further stated that “[a]ll the facts and circumstances need to be considered to determine if the advocacy is political campaign intervention.”

For example, let’s take the case of a charitable organization whose mission is to educate the public about community development issues. Right before an election, the organization released an ad regarding community development issues, including the need for mass transit. Funding issues regarding the new mass transit project have been hotly debated by two state senate candidates competing for the same elected office, with one candidate in favor of the project and the other against it. The ad does not name a candidate or a particular political party, but it does encourage voters who are in support of the mass transit project to show their support when electing their next state senator. The IRS found that such an ad would violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention because (1) the ad was released shortly before the election and (2) the ad took a position on an issue that was a prominent issue in a campaign that distinguished the candidates.

On the other hand, if the organization had a pattern of engaging in such advocacy during non-election years using the same means and scope, and it just happens this election year the candidates have taken a strong platform position on the issue, which is out of the control of the organization, then the IRS may view such activity as issue advocacy and not as prohibited political campaign intervention. Although there are no clear answers, the IRS factors can help a charity determine if its issue advocacy communications fall dangerously close to prohibited political campaign intervention.

Charities are not prohibited from engaging in all election-related activities. Charities can engage in nonpartisan and neutral activities, such as publishing voter education guides, and activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. However, if voter education or registration activities show bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another, (b) opposed a candidate in some manner, or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, then these activities would constitute prohibited political campaign intervention.

Finally, charities should be aware that activities by their employees can unintentionally expose them to engaging in prohibited political campaign intervention. Individuals have First Amendment rights of free speech and can engage in political campaign activity in their individual capacity. And charity employers do not want to stifle their employees’ rights, but they must protect themselves from exposure to charges of engaging in prohibited political campaign intervention. Organizations should have clear policies in place, and provide their employees with training on these policies. Here are a few tips to help avoid prohibited political campaign intervention by employees:

  • Do not allow employees to use the organization’s assets or facilities for their electoral work, including the organization’s issued emails or staff’s time.
  • Do not allow employees to use their work email account to pass on information about individual candidates.
  • Do not publicize an individual’s personal election choices in organizational materials.
  • Do not support or oppose candidates at an organization-sponsored event.
  • Use visible disclaimers.
  • Check that appropriate disclaimers are used by others (e.g., when an individual is speaking in his or her individual capacity, that individual’s title in the organization, if stated, should be for identification purposes only).

Issue advocacy is a powerful tool for charities to impact public policy issues. Charities should continue to speak out on causes and issues that are important to them, but they also should be aware that the difference between issue advocacy, lobbying and prohibited political campaign intervention are important to recognize and can affect charities’ tax-exempt status.


Political Ads: Issue Advocacy or Campaign Activity Under the Tax Code? (Erika K. Lunder)

Nonprofit Radio: Your Nonprofit in Politics (Emily Chan)

Revenue Ruling 2007-41

The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Organizations (IRS)


- Michelle Baker

Michelle Baker is is a San Francisco-based attorney interested in social impact.


Nonprofit Tweets of the Week – August 1, 2014

Business man showing superhero suit

Happy to be in L.A. for the CalNonprofits Policy Convention where I’m joined by several of the tweeters below. Have a listen to John Legend‘s If You’re Out There while perusing our curated nonprofit tweets of the week:

  • Nonprofit Times: New on the blog: @Ms_Nonprofit shares tips for new #nonprofit CEOs
  • Robert Egger: Complaint filed with IRS regarding tweet from nonprofit Growing Hope on mayoral election MLive [Ed. 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from engaging in certain political intervention activities, including endorsing candidates for public office. Consider whether a tweet from an authorized user of your Twitter account can get you into trouble.]
  • Rebecca HamburgCappy: Mad about Hobby Lobby? Then you should be furious about #forcedarbitration: AFJ … via @AFJustice
  • Law Firm for Nonprofits: The #IRS is still crippled by the tea party scandal #teaparty #nonprofits
  • Gene: How many funders will not fund newer charities that filed a 1023-EZ to get 501(c)(3) status because of the need for greater diligence?
  • San Francisco Chronicle: #Oakland nonprofits on edge as measure could boost minimum wage to $12.25
  • For Purpose Law: Bylaw[s] Are Sometimes Like a Decades-Old Hairdo – Yours May Need Some Updating
  • V.R. Thompson: Recruiting and Vetting Nonprofit Board Members Bridgespan
  • Gene: Is corporate philanthropy being replaced by corporate citizenship and #CSR? Is that a good thing? Nonprofit Quarterly
  • Rick Cohen: Social Impact Bonds: Phantom of the Nonprofit Sector – look for the high dudgeon reactions of some true believers Nonprofit Quarterly

CalNonprofits Policy Convention: Hot Topics in Nonprofit Law


Today, Public Counsel senior staff attorney Sarah Stegemoeller and I will be presenting a workshop on Hot Topics in Nonprofit Law for the CalNonprofits Policy Convention. We’ll be presenting on the following topics:

  1. Anatomy of a Fundraiser
  2. Unrelated Business Income
  3. Social Enterprise
  4. Employee, Independent Contractor, or Volunteer?
  5. Permissible Lobbying for 501(c)(3)s
  6. Election Year Challenges for 501(c)(3)s
  7. Social Media
  8. Charitable Asset Diversion

Referenced Resources:

Fundraising Issues for Nonprofit Organizations – Public Counsel

Unrelated Business Income Tax Explained - Michele Berger

What’s a Social Enterprise? – Social Enterprise Alliance

Worry-Free Lobbying For Nonprofits: How To Use The 501(h) Election To Maximize Effectiveness – Alliance for Justice

Electoral Activity – Bolder Advocacy, Alliance for Justice

Influencing Public Policy in the Digital Age – Alliance for Justice




Charities and Issue Advocacy: Doing it Right – Part One

Glossy validation button

Advocacy is a broad term that covers a range of activities that seek to bring about change. One form of advocacy is lobbying, defined as activities that attempt to influence specific legislation. Charities are permitted to engage in lobbying activities, so long as those activities represent an “insubstantial” part of their overall activities.

Another form of advocacy is known as issue advocacy, which includes public support for or opposition to a particular cause or policy without a call to action on specific legislation (lobbying) or a candidate for elected office (political campaign intervention). Charities can engage in unlimited issue advocacy that does not fall within the definition of lobbying or political campaign intervention.

Charities are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for elective public office. Charities cannot contribute to or fundraise for political campaigns; cannot endorse or oppose a candidate; and cannot use charity resources without giving equal opportunity to other candidates. This applies to all political campaigns for elective office at the federal, state and local level. Charities that violate these rules can lose their tax-exempt status.

Although charities can engage in unlimited issue advocacy, they must avoid issue advocacy that functions as political campaign intervention. The IRS takes a case-by-case approach, looking at the facts and circumstance of each case, and focusing on whether an ad or statement includes anything that indicates a candidacy should be supported or opposed based on the issue. If an activity exhibits a preference for or against a candidate, then the IRS is likely to find that an organization has engaged in prohibited political campaign intervention. A preference can be subtle, such as a reference to party affiliation or “distinctive features of a candidate’s platform or biography” that can identify a candidate.

Although there is no bright line test, the IRS has identified several factors to consider when evaluating whether a charity’s issue advocacy communication falls within the definition of prohibited political campaign intervention including the following:

  1. whether it identifies one or more candidates for a public office;
  2. whether it expresses approval or disapproval for one or more candidates’ positions and/or actions;
  3. whether it is delivered close in time to an election;
  4. whether it refers to voting or an election;
  5. whether the issue it addresses has been raised as an issue distinguishing candidates for a given office;
  6. whether it is part of an ongoing series of communications by the organization on the same issue that are made independent of the timing of any election; and
  7. whether its timing and the identification of the candidate are related to a non-electoral event, such as a scheduled vote on specific legislation by an officeholder who also happens to be a candidate for public office.

The IRS has also identified factors that tend to show that advocacy communication on a public policy issue does not constitute campaign intervention including the following:

  1. the absence of factors (1) through (7) above;
  2. the communication identifies specific legislation, or a specific non-electoral event outside the organization’s control that the organization hopes to influence;
  3. the communication’s timing coincides with a specific non-electoral event outside the control of the organization that the it hopes to influence;
  4. the candidate is identified solely as a government official who is in a position to act on the issue in connection with a specific event (such as a legislator who is eligible to vote on the legislation); and
  5. the candidate is identified solely in a list of legislation’s key sponsors.


See also Charities and Issue Advocacy:  Doing it Right – Part Two 


- Michelle Baker

Michelle Baker is is a San Francisco-based attorney interested in social impact.


Nonprofit Tweets of the Week – July 25, 2014


Photo credit: Purvis

It’s been a challenging week for the world and an appropriate time for reflection. Have a listen to Van Morrison‘s Enlightenment while perusing our curated nonprofit tweets of the week:

  • Lucy Bernholz: What are nonprofits for? Chronicle of Philanthropy [Ed. Sometimes the issue with whether a nonprofit should have tax-exempt status as a charitable organization is not the absence of a public benefit but too much private benefit.]
  • Gene: Excellent analysis of problems for #nonprofit startups that file Form 1023-EZ Hunton & Williams
  • Sandra Feinsmith: How the IRS Revamped Tax-Exempt Applications – AICPA Insights
  • AFJ Bolder Advocacy: California Policy Update for Nonprofit Advocates … #CA #nonprofit
  • Nonprofit Quarterly: Why your organization needs board-adopted policies that distinguish between the “board” and “board member”
  • Bridgespan Group: Nearly 50% of 214 CEOs surveyed reported getting little or no help from their boards when first taking the position
  • Law for Change: Risk Planning & Board Liability by @mikevolkov20
  • Stanford Social Innovation Review: Examining the #HobbyLobby decision through a social enterprise lens: @rtesposito @pelsinger @nyulaw
  • For Purpose Law: Is It Advisable To Have An Advisory Board?
  • Heidi Roizen: Hey entrepreneurs! Check out this free online course from @StanfordBiz taught by Bob Sutton @work_matters

Nonprofit Tweets of the Week – July 18, 2014

Businesswoman Conducting Meeting In Boardroom

This week featured Malala Day and Bastille Day. And today is Nelson Mandela Day (“take responsibility for making the world a better place, one small step at a time”)! Have a listen to Beyonce’s Run the World (Girls) while perusing this week’s tweets on nonprofits, philanthropy, governance and social enterprises:

  • Nonprofit Quarterly: House slashes IRS tax enforcement division by 25% & total budget by 13%, gutting expectations of robust oversight
  • Sandra Feinsmith: IRS to Rubber-Stamp Tax-Exempt Status for Most Charities After Scandal | TIME
  • Gene: Hobbled IRS can’t stem ‘dark money’ flow Public Integrity | IRS Nonprofit Unit sidelined
  • Erin Bradrick: IRS to Ease Process of Approving Tax-Exempt Organizations with form 1023-EZ:
  • National Council of Nonprofits: New principles of recommended best practices 4 leadership & organizational culture identified by @SmartNonprofits
  • National Council of Nonprofits: Updated Principles and Practices for #nonprofit excellence Thank you @SmartNonprofits 4 your leadership
  • Independent Sector: We wrk hard to build capacity for emerging ldrs in the NP sector. Here are 4 things we’ve learned along the way:
  • La Piana Consulting: Five obstacles to #nonprofit partnerships  “Making Decisions or Making Nice?” [Blog] #collaboration
  • Philantopic: [Report] Lessons in #FunderCollaboration @PackardFdn @BridgespanGroup #philanthropy
  • Rob Reich: Worthwhile read from @jcanales on the evolving role of foundations in the US. Chronicle of Philanthropy
  • AAPIP: 40% of all giving circle donors are under 40; 64% of minority donors via @Philanthropy @AAPIPcircles
  • Council on Foundations: A New Form Of Giving via @Forbes #philanthropy #csr
  • Nonprofit Quarterly: YMCAs must continue to fend off challenges to their tax-exempt status
  • Tech Soup: Net neutrality: What it is and why #nonprofits should care. | #nptech

Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio



Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio is celebrating its 200th show this Friday. 

I hope you’ll join Tony for Nonprofit Radio’s 200th show at 10:00 am PT / 1:00 pm ET on Talking Alternative or later on iTunes.

Board relations. Fundraising. Volunteer management. Prospect research. Legal compliance. Accounting. Finance. Investments. Donor relations. Public relations. Marketing. Technology. Social media. Every nonprofit struggles with these issues. Big nonprofits hire experts. The other 95% listen to Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio. Trusted experts and leading thinkers join Tony each week to tackle the tough issues. If you have big dreams but a small budget, you have a home at Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio.

Nonprofit Radio attracts 9,000 listeners each week from all over the world. It’s an invaluable resource, particularly for small and medium-sized nonprofits that may not have the access to the wealth of experts Tony is able to bring to the show. I’ve had the great pleasure of being a regular contributor since 2011.

Congratulations Tony! And thank you for your great contribution to the nonprofit sector.

Nonprofit Radio 200th


CalNonprofits 2014 Policy Convention


This year’s CalNonprofits Policy Convention is an assembly of nonprofit leaders with thought-provoking views and insights on the crucial policy issues facing nonprofit organizations today. It is designed to spark dialogue and “big-picture” thinking.

I’ll be joining Public Counsel senior staff attorney Sarah Stegemoeller in presenting a Pre-Convention workshop on Hot Topics in Nonprofit Law:

A multi-topic potpourri of legal issues and very practical advice about charitable fundraising, election year challenges for nonprofits, hot-button employment law issues, asset diversion/financial controls, lobbying, unrelated business income issues, social enterprise and social media – just to name a few!

The Convention will be highlighted by the release of Causes Count: The Economic Power of California’s Nonprofit Sector — the first report of its kind to examine the sector’s size, scope and economic impact on California. I’m also looking forward to the closing plenary debate on the impact of hybrid organizations and social enterprises on the nonprofit sector. Rich Cohen of The Nonprofit Quarterly and nonprofit attorney Cecily Jackson-Zapata will be among those participating in the debate.

We are passionate proponents of nonprofit advocacy and are huge fans of CalNonprofits and the policy-oriented direction it is taking under its esteemed CEO Jan Masaoka. Nonprofit leaders will benefit greatly from attending both the Policy Convention on August 1 and the Pre-Convention Workshops on July 31. Hope to see you there!