According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics there are currently over 1.5 million nonprofits registered in the US. The number includes private foundations, public charities, and various kinds of nonprofits as civic leagues and fraternal organizations.
Nonprofit organizations are considered to be the third sector of the economy, along with government agencies and commercial organizations. They play an important role in the socio-economic development of any country. Such organizations are supposed to reach social, charitable, cultural, educational, scientific goals, protect the citizens’ rights and interests, as well as their health, advancement of sports culture, meet the metaphysical and other intangible people’s needs. These can be public institutions, unions, foundations, associations, etc.
Nonprofit organizations have also become an important part of the American democracy and in this article we would discover more about their role in US politics.
Importance of Nonprofit Organizations
Nonprofit organizations are often involved in political activities in the US. In the form of voluntary associations, civic organizations, and lobbying groups, nonprofit organizations are widely recognized as influential actors in American policymaking and politics.
Being able to operate the public arena in ways that advance general ideas and ideals, nonprofit institutions have a significant advantage in the political engagement sphere.
Besides, nonprofits become essential sites of political mobilization by encouraging community constituents and stakeholders to become civically conscious.
In the world, 30 types of nonprofits exist under that code that qualifies for an exemption of some form from federal income taxes. When it comes to the most basic forms of nonprofit organizations, these are 501(c)(3) charitable organizations and 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations.
501(c)(3) nonprofits are charities that collect money for a specific cause. According to law, they are not allowed to engage in any kind of political activities.
501(c)(4) nonprofits are organizations that support a certain cause or promote a certain idea. Such “social welfare” groups are allowed to engage in limited political activity. However this activity should be focused on supporting a certain mission, not a certain candidate or a party.
The role of nonprofit organizations in politics varies in different countries. You can check the websites of international nonprofits using VPNs from cooltechzone in order to learn more about the particularities of their activity, their responsibilities and rights.
While engaging in any political activities a nonprofit should primarily focus on promoting their mission. So as long as politics is not the entity’s primary aim, a nonprofit organization is allowed to engage in some political campaign activities, for example, lobbying. The IRS defines lobbying as an effort to influence legislation at all levels -federal, state, and local. Lobbying does not include, for instance, nonpartisan analysis of legislation, the expression of a position on issues (as opposed to legislation) of public concern, or action taken in “self-defense” of the organization.
Among the forms of such activities there is participation in the organization of public events (meetings, demonstrations, processions, or pickets), public discussions and speeches, appeals to the public authority as well as activities aimed to adopt, change laws. Besides, one of the main goals of nonprofit organizations is to shape socio-political attitudes via conducting any kind of sociological research.
Nonprofit Representatives May Express Their Opinion About a Particular Candidate or Party Only as a Separate Individual
What else may include a political campaign activity? It covers any attempt to make an impact on opinion about candidates or the outcome of an election for public office. Executives and board members are allowed to express their ideas regarding political candidates and issues only if they do that on their behalf – not through any official organization publications. Thus, when speaking or writing in their individual capacity, managers should start with the statement that their views are absolutely personal.
Nonprofits that wish to join political activities can profit from the distinctions in tax rules for different types of tax-exempt organizations by establishing numerous entities. For example, a charity can create and administer a non-charitable 501(c)(4) organization to conduct lobbying. The two groups must be separately incorporated, have a separate budget, and keep records sufficient to show that tax-deductible donations aren’t used to pay for lobbying. Later, the noncharitable nonprofit can create a political action committee, either as a separate organization or as a separate isolated fund, to engage in political campaign activity.
Nonprofit organizations play an important role in US politics. However, such entities should clearly understand their responsibilities and rights regarding engagement in any political activities in order to avoid any violations.