PANO supports the advocacy rights of all nonprofits. We believe that nonprofits can and should participate in advocacy and public policy efforts that affect their organization, community and the people they serve. Use your voice today!
Engage Your Elected Officials
Elections and Voter Engagement
Can Pennsylvania 501(c)(3) nonprofits engage in election and voter engagement activities?
Absolutely. Nonprofits have a constitutional right and responsibility to engage in the electoral and policy-making processes. Though federal regulations require that nonprofits remain strictly nonpartisan (neither supporting nor opposing candidates for elected office), there is still so much that can and should be done including voter education guides, voter registration, get-out-the-vote drives and candidate forums. Each of these activities is legally permissible if conducted in a strictly non-partisan manner. You will find excellent resources below to help get you started.
Important Dates 2015:
October 5: Last day to REGISTER before the November election
October 27: Last day to apply for a civilian absentee ballot
October 30: Last day for County Boards of Elections to receive voted civilian absentee ballots
November 3: MUNICIPAL ELECTION
Nonprofit Voter Engagement Resources
Encourage your staff, volunteers and those you serve to make their voices heard! For more on nonpartisan get-out-the-vote and the benefits of voting check out these resources:
• Election Rules and Resources from Independent Sector
• A 501(c)(3) Guide to Nonpartisan Voter Engagement from Nonprofit Vote
• Nonprofit VOTE - Nonprofit VOTE partners with America’s nonprofits to help the people they serve participate and vote. They are the largest source of nonpartisan resources to help nonprofits integrate voter engagement into their ongoing activities and services.
• Nonprofit Votes Count - Nonprofit Votes Count is a nonpartisan, national campaign to encourage every eligible nonprofit
staff and volunteer to register and vote.
• National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) - NVRD is a single day of coordinated efforts to create awareness of voter registration opportunities.
Resources for Voters with Disabilities
A voter has a right to receive assistance in the voting booth or when voting by Absentee Ballot or Alternative Ballot.
Any voter who needs help to vote because of:
• Disability, or
• Inability to read or write
May be given assistance by anyone the voter chooses, other than:
• The voter’s employer or agent of that employer,
• An officer or agent of the voter’s union, or
• The Judge of Elections
Special thanks to our friends at Disability Rights Pennsylvania for making these resources available!
- Voting Laws Flyer119.35 K | 7/27/2016
- Your Right to Get Assistance Voting1.4 Meg | 7/27/2016
- Disability Rights PA Flyer740.16 K | 7/27/2016
- Disability Rights PA Membership Application88.19 K | 7/27/2016
Every charitable nonprofit can and should make its voice heard on issues that are important to its mission and to the people or cause the nonprofit serves. As advocates, nonprofits are sometimes required to speak up about policies, laws, and regulations; lobbying by nonprofits is permitted by law. Read more in Independent Sectors Lobbying Guidelines and the National Council of Nonprofits Federal Rights page. You can also download our Standards for Excellence Educational Resource Packet.
Lobbying Registration Fee
As of 12/15/2014 the lobbying registration fee is $300. Visit the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Lobbying Disclosure Registration site.
Philadelphia Lobbying Rules
In 2010, Philadelphia city added a new chapter to the Philadelphia Code entitled "Lobbying". The new lobbying code requires that those who attempt to influence legislative or administrative actions of City government may be required to register as lobbyists or principals and to file reports of their lobbying expenses (within 10 days of first activity as a lobbyist or principal). The annual filing fee is $100. Read more and register
Pittsburgh Lobbying Rules
In 2009, Pittsburgh City Council past an ordinance that mandates that any person engaged in compensated lobby activities that aim to influence decisions made by Pittsburgh government officials, be registered with the Office of the City Controller (within 10 days after they begin to lobby). The annual registration fee is $100. Read more and register
Additional Resources and Information:
• Updated Manual for Accounting and Reporting
• PA Department of State - More Resources on Lobbying Disclosure
• State Ethics Commission - Visit this page for a copy of the law, the regulations, the manual for reporting and more
• Pennsylvania Lobbying Manual
Federal Electioneering Rules
Charities are strictly prohibited under Federal Law from engaging in electioneering. Electioneering is participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office. Charities cannot endorse any candidates, make donations to their campaigns, engage in fund raising, distribute statements, or become involved in any other activities that may be beneficial to or detrimental to any candidate for public office.
Charities must operate in non-partisan mode. Charities must be aware that engaging in prohibited campaign activity could result in excise taxes imposed on the money spent electioneering; loss of tax-exempt status, and more severe penalties for flagrant violations. Contributions to charities that lose their tax exempt status are not deductible by the donors for federal income tax purposes.
The IRS recognizes that voter education and issue advocacy (lobbying)are important charitable services. Charities are permitted and encouraged to educate the public on genuine issues related to charitable mission. However, electioneering is primarily about the candidate rather than the issue.
Connect with PANO
- Your Right to Get Assistance Voting