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Advocacy Guidelines for 501 (c) (3) Non-profit Organizations

Many congregations are concerned they will lose their 501(c)(3) status if they get involved in advocacy.  Contrary to common perception, there is much your congregation can do and not be in trouble with the IRS.  The following guidelines can be used to help determine if what you, as a congregation,  may or may not do..

The simple guideline is that we must abstain from partisan politicking. We may speak to issues, but may not take sides for or against persons.

As congregations, we may NOT:

  •  donate money and/or services to candidates
  •  donate money and/or services to political parties
  •  engage in campaigning – working for or against candidates’ election to office
  •  endorse candidates as a congregation
  •  put our material favoring one party or candidate
  •  do anything else as a congregation that is obviously partisan

However, we MAY:

  •  hold forums where all candidates are invited and given equal opportunity to speak
  •  spend up to 5% of our budget to influence legislation through lobbying either directly (by contacting elected officials) or indirectly (by encouraging
  •  have elected officials speak at church services or other events
  • endorse candidates individually, as private citizens
  •  educate people about issues and distribute educational material that does not favor one party or candidate
  • conduct impartial voter registration.