Alliance for Justice works closely with advocates and organizations focused on ensuring reproductive autonomy for all people and, all too often, we oppose anti-choice laws and policies at the state and federal level. In this resource guide, we have collected advocacy success stories from reproductive rights, health, and justice organizations and paired them with resources to support advocacy groups working on policy goals ranging from federal legislation to ballot measures to voter mobilization.
Do you have an advocacy-related question? You can reach out to us for technical assistance Monday – Friday during standard business hours.
Keep reading for resources to make your reproductive rights, health, and justice advocacy even bolder!
Advocacy Essentials: Reproductive Rights, Health, and Justice
This new guide is designed for organizations working on reproductive rights, health, and justice issues. It is a short overview of the laws and regulations that apply to 501(c)(3) public charities when they engage in lobbying and advocacy, including during an election time.
What Is Advocacy?
Effective advocacy enables reproductive rights, health, and justice organizations to shape the public discourse on important reproductive health issues and ensure that those most affected by reproductive oppression have a voice in the policies that impact their lives.
The term “advocacy” encompasses a broad range of activities that can influence public policy. From research and public education to lobbying and voter education, advocacy is the number one way nonprofits can advance the issues they care about and help bring about systemic, lasting change.
- What is Advocacy? Definitions and Examples from the Reproductive Rights, Health, and Justice Movements
New to advocacy or wondering where to grow? Use our free Advocacy Capacity Tool to measure your strengths and identify areas of improvement.
Influencing Local, State, and Federal Legislation
There are times when lobbying is essential in order to create policy change. Under federal law, lobbying generally consists of communications that are intended to influence specific legislation. Nonprofits can and should lobby, but 501(c)(3) public charities need to stay within their annual lobbying limit. To learn more about how your public charity can maximize your lobbying limit, read our publication Worry-Free Lobbying for Nonprofits: How to Use the 501(h) Election to Maximize Effectiveness.
“Lobbying is not a topic often included in law school curricula. Allowing If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice chapters to participate in approved lobbying activities empowers our students to learn about and engage in the legislative process. Partnering with Alliance for Justice makes that possible. Because of our joint semester trainings, chapter leaders understand the guidelines and parameters of lobbying as part of a 501(c)(3) organization, allowing them to add to their advocacy toolboxes and strengthen their leadership skills.”
– Lina Houston, Director of Campus and Community Programs, If/When/How
- Being A Player: A Guide to the IRS Lobbying Regulations for Advocacy Charities
- Keeping Track: A Guide to Recordkeeping for Advocacy Charities
- Public Charities Can Lobby
- Maximize Your Lobbying Limit: Electing the 501(h)
- What is Lobbying Under the 501(h) Election?
- 501(h) Lobbying Calculator
- When Does Your Activity Become Lobbying?
- Grants & Lobbying – What Funders Need Grantees to Know
- Using Our Voices to Act for Women in Washington… and at Home by Center for Reproductive Rights
Ballot Measure Advocacy
Battles over reproductive rights issues are increasingly playing out in the ballot measure arena and 501(c)(3) public charities can and should weigh in. Public charities can proactively initiate ballot measures, react to measures proposed by others, and support or oppose ballot measures and encourage the public to vote accordingly. The IRS considers ballot measure work to be a lobbying activity so don’t forget to track this activity so you stay within your organization’s lobbying limit. Lastly, please check out our Resource Library and sort by state to ensure you are also complying with state laws related to ballot measure advocacy.
“In order to accommodate the base building strategy necessary to mobilize lower propensity voters, it is imperative that 501(c)(3) grassroots Reproductive Justice organizations are equipped with the resources and tools to achieve optimum civic engagement success. Our ballot measure work around Amendment One was good, but could have been far stronger with the proper time and resources to increase voter participation.”
– Cherisse Scott, Executive Director, SisterReach
- Ballot Measures and Public Charities
- Ballot Measures and Recalls: Basic Rules for 501(c)(3) Public Charities, 501(c)(4)s, and Unions
- Ballot Measure Toolkit
Social Media for Education and Mobilizing
Digital media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are important vehicles for educating, informing, and mobilizing people on reproductive rights, health, and justice issues. Nonprofits can legally use social media for advocacy, but should know when social media needs to be counted as lobbying, and how to ensure partisan content does not get attributed to the organization.
- Influencing Public Policy in the Digital Age: The Law of Online Lobbying and Election-related Activities
- Legal Tips On Using Social Media For Advocacy: How 501(c)(3) Public Charities Can Use Social Media for Policy Change
- 5 Social Media Strategies to Amplify Your Advocacy: The Story of the EACH Woman Act – by All Above All
Election-Related Activities for 501(c)(3)s – It’s Legal. It’s Effective. It’s Doable!
Federal tax law recognizes the importance of 501(c)(3) organizations’ participation in the democratic process and the law allows public charities to engage in a wide variety of nonpartisan election-related activities, including voter registration and voter education. The role public charities play during an election must be educational, encourage civic participation, and remain nonpartisan at all times. Remember to use caution because the law does explicitly prohibits activity by 501(c)(3) organizations that supports or opposes candidates for public office.
“It’s vitally important when engaging in movement building that having a robust civic engagement program that incorporates voting, advocacy and accountability of elected officials is a part of the strategy. Building the electoral power in communities that are often left out and overlooked is crucial to breaking down institutional and systemic barriers. Alliance for Justice has helped Black Women for Wellness navigate what sometimes are treacherous waters of building political power within the spirit of 501(c)(3) work as well as think through the different possibilities of how we can continue to do this work big, better and stronger in future years.”
– Nourbese Flint, Sisters in Control Program Manager, Black Women for Wellness
- Rules of the Game: A Guide to Election-Related Activities
- Election Checklist for 501c3 Public Charities: Ensuring Election Year Advocacy Efforts Remain Nonpartisan
- Sample 501c3 Organizational Policy for Election Season
- Commenting on Candidates and Campaigns: How 501c3s Can Respond During an Election Year
- Praising and Criticizing Incumbents: How 501c3s Can Hold Elected Officials Accountable for Official Actions
- Election Activities of Individuals Associated with 501c3 Organizations
- Candidate Questionnaires and Voter Guides
- Hosting Candidates at Charitable Events: Ensuring Candidate Appearances Remain Nonpartisan
- Voter Registration Rules for Private Foundations
- Setting the Record Straight: How Your 501(c)(3) Can Distribute Voting Records or Legislative Scorecards
- Hosting Candidates Debates: Public Charities Can Educate the Community Through Candidate Debates
- 501(c)(3) Organizations and National Party Conventions
- Mobilizing Young Voters and Empowering Young People by Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE)
Working Together: Building Nonpartisan Partnerships
Nonprofits can, and often should, work in coalitions with other organizations. Working in a coalition allows you to have a greater impact and lends credibility to your efforts. It also allows organizations to share financial, staffing, and organizing resources. It is important to understand that there are different advocacy rules that apply to coalitions.
“There is strength in numbers. We can achieve so much more together than we could if we were each working on our own. By coming together as a coalition, we help to increase the reach of our groups and advance our goals. Having the support of Alliance for Justice has helped us to maximize our coalition’s ability to do non-profit advocacy work and effectively represent and organize around our issues.”
– Allison Glass, State Director, Healthy and Free TN
- The Connection: Strategies for Creating and Operating 501c3s, 501c4s, and Political Organizations
- Comparison of 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) Permissible Activities
- Comparison of 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and Political 527 Organizations
- The Practical Implications of Affiliated 501c3s and 501c4s
- Guidelines for Joint 501c3 and 50c4 websites
- Allocation of Costs and Reimbursement of Expenses Between 501c3 and 501c4
- Sample Grant Agreement for a Grant from a 501(c)(3) to a 501(c)(4)
“While WV FREE is our main operation for our reproductive rights and justice work, our c4, the WV FREE Action Fund, plays an important role and enables us to take our advocacy to new heights. We’re able to ramp up our lobbying on important reproductive rights and justice issues and we can engage in electoral politics, supporting candidates who believe in our mission. Beyond that, having distinct entities gives our funders confidence and peace of mind that we are engaging in smart advocacy and keeping clear distinctions for our work within the proper IRS guidelines. I’m constantly singing high praises for AFJ. I know I can call on the staff when I have a question – and they can tell you: I do call! They’re advocacy whizzes! I make referrals to them all the time, too. I think it’s an important resource that we all take advantage of. We can be a more effective force for social change when organizations across movements operate as efficiently as possible. In these times of deep political divides, we have to do all that we can to cross every T and dot every I. AFJ helps ensure that. Thanks, AFJ!”
– Margaret Chapman Pomponio, Executive Director, WV Free
Judicial Nominations and Holding Judges Accountable
Increasingly, judges are deciding cases that directly affect women and girls’ reproductive health. 501(c)(3) public charities are legally allowed to influence the Senate confirmation of federal judicial and executive branch nominees. Attempts by public charities to influence these confirmations is considered lobbying. Unless the judge is an elected official (remember public charities cannot support or oppose candidates running for public office), 501(c)(3)s can advocate for the selection of judges that will uphold women’s constitutional rights. They can also speak out on the decisions of sitting judges.
“National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) recognizes courts matter — as do the federal judges who define how justice is delivered in our nation. Every day, critical rulings are made in federal courts about our freedom to make personal decisions regarding our reproductive health, our safety, our religious liberty, our schools, and our workplace conditions, among many other issues which impact all aspects of our lives. NCJW is committed to ensuring judges confirmed to lifetime seats on the bench uphold constitutional rights, including reproductive rights and religious liberty. Thanks to Alliance for Justice for helping NCJW ensure that our efforts to educate communities about the federal courts and mobilize constituents around judicial nominations is aligned with our 501(c)(3) guidelines!”
– Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)
- Praising and Criticizing Incumbents: How 501(c)(3)s Can Hold the Senate Accountable for Confirming A Supreme Court Justice
- Commenting on Candidates and Campaigns: How 501(c)(3)s Can Respond During an Election Year on Judicial Nominations and Remain Nonpartisan
- Confirmation of Federal Judges and Executive Branch Nominees: What Your Nonprofit Needs to Know
Alliance for Justice is honored to have the following organizations as members:
- Abortion Care Network
- Advocates for Youth
- Center for Reproductive Rights
- National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro-Choice America
- National Abortion Federation
- National Council of Jewish Women
- National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
- National Partnership for Women and Families
- National Women’s Law Center
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America
- Secular Woman
- Women’s Law Project
- Women’s Way