Talk of charitable organizations and the federal tax code has dominated portions of the presidential election up to this point, and rightly so. However, it's also shed further light on misinformation and misunderstandings about nonprofit organizations and charitable work itself. This isn't limited to outside observers of nonprofit and philanthropy work, rather it persists with those who work at nonprofits and foundations themselves, particularly as it pertains to policy and advocacy work.
In many ways, this is understandable.
As Alliance for Justice highlights in a new primer for how 501c4 organizations can be used for good, "There are more than 35 different types of nonprofit organizations in the United States that have been granted special status under the Internal Revenue Code."
This stuff gets real complex, real quick. Which is why we're excited to share this new resource.
“Primer on Social Welfare Organizations: Using 501(c)(4) Organizations for Good" is a handy, comprehensive resource that addresses concerns of nonprofits and funders alike: how to take advantage of the unique capabilities of 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations to drive positive social and political change.
“It’s true that the type of nonprofits known as 501(c)(4)s have been caught up in controversy in recent years, and all the publicity might leave activists worried about risk or wondering if (c)(4)s are worth their investment,” said Abby Levine, Director of AFJ’s Bolder Advocacy program. “We want to clear up this uncertainty and encourage people to explore the usefulness of (c)(4)s. The truth is, (c)(4)s can absolutely play a great role in bringing about positive policy change, and can be an indispensable part of a coordinated strategy with other types of nonprofits. But you have to know the rules that apply to these nonprofits to be effective and stay on the right side of the law.”
The new primer can be downloaded here. It covers the big questions that advocates and funders ask, including how 501(c)(4)s are unique, what kinds of activities they can undertake, who donates to them, and what rules govern donor disclosure. Brief descriptions of real-world examples help illustrate how (c)(4)s have played key roles in advancing causes such as marriage equality and immigration reform.