Is your nonprofit ready for 2022? Whether your organization is gearing up for the midterm elections, legislative advocacy, or administrative activism, there are several steps you can take to prepare your team NOW. These are our Top 10 nonprofit New Year’s Resolutions for the exciting year to come.
- Schedule your election season advocacy training now. While elections happen later in the year, candidates are launching their campaigns, and primary election season is just around the corner. Make sure your staff is ready by training them on how your nonprofit can engage with candidates and voters while remaining in compliance with state and federal law.
- Is your election season policy up to date? Have your staff and board review and sign it. Many nonprofits are perfectly situated to get out the vote and pursue important policy agendas, but these activities can trigger conversations that implicate nonprofit election season advocacy rules. By having a policy (and sticking to it), you create a layer of protection for your organization as it confidently moves into 2022.
- Build accountability advocacy into your 2022 plans to ensure year-round effectiveness. Nonprofits can hold their elected officials accountable for how they serve their constituents. There are a variety of activities in which nonprofits may engage to remind legislators and elected officials that their issues matter, educate constituents about officials’ positions and actions, and demonstrate to officials that their votes will NOT go unnoticed.
- Have a 501(c)(3) and a 501(c)(4)? Get set up to grant unused lobbying capacity from the (c)(3) to the (c)(4) at the end of the year with our brand-new guide – Maximizing Your Advocacy! Why? Lobbying can count as one of a (c)(4)’s primary purpose activities, helping it to maintain the required balance between nonpartisan and partisan (secondary activity) work.
- Prepare to educate candidates and political parties on your issues. An election year is a perfect time to capitalize on any heightened interest people have in the issues important to your communities. While 501(c)(3)s cannot provide research, strategy, or support to one candidate or political party, they can use this opportunity to educate candidates in a nonpartisan manner and even influence candidate and political party platforms.
- Resolve to support democracy in 2022. The IRS permits 501(c)(3) nonprofits to engage in charitable activities, including nonpartisan activities that support democracy, expand the electorate, and encourage civic engagement provided the activities further the organization’s mission. Determine if your state’s election laws have changed for registering or voting, and build voter education and outreach into your advocacy work.
- Brush up on your knowledge of state lobbyist registration and campaign finance reporting requirements. Depending on what level of government you are working to impact, you may trigger reporting requirements at the local, state, or federal levels. These laws could require you to track both your administrative and legislative activities and any expenditures you make on ballot measure campaigns (in addition to independent expenditures if you happen to be a (c)(4) working to influence candidate elections). Luckily, we have a wealth of state law resources available on our website, including a NEW practical guidance lobbying series.
- Take stock of your capacity to engage in advocacy, including identifying your strengths (and weaknesses) as an organization to maximize your impact at the legislature and beyond. Where should you start? Our Advocacy Capacity Tool is a good place to begin. By evaluating your goals, plans, strategies, partnerships/networks, operations, and more, your nonprofit can put itself in the best position for advocacy success.
- Get social (on social media that is)! Social media offers nonprofits an opportunity to amplify their advocacy to reach communities far and wide. Whether your organization is building its presence on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, or elsewhere, make use of online advocacy as a tool to expand your supporter base and activate public policy campaigns. Just remember that tax code nonprofit advocacy rules will still apply, and check out our guide to Public Policy in the Digital Age to remain in compliance.
- Take time for yourself. Just because you work for a nonprofit or serve on a nonprofit Board doesn’t mean that you can’t step away from time to time to re-center and engage in the activities that bring you happiness and joy. Just like the last couple of years, 2022 is almost certain to bring with it a unique set of challenges. Stay focused, stay diligent, but also stay motivated by taking time for YOU.
As always, if you have any questions about your nonprofit’s ability to advocate, please reach out for free technical assistance by clicking here or calling 866-NP-LOBBY. Our staff is available as a resource, eager to help, and excited for what is certain to be a promising new year.