Under IRS regulations, nonprofit organizations are barred from advocating for a specific candidate or political party. However, nonprofits are not barred from participating in non-partisan political activities, such as hosting voter drives or candidate debates, or from lobbying for, or against, specific policies that might impact their work and/or the people or causes they serve.
There is no absolute rule about how much time or money can be allocated by an organization for advocacy. The statute governing this merely says that a 501(c)3 cannot spend “substantial” time on lobbying activities aimed at particular causes that intersect with the organization’s charitable or educational mission. The general rule used by many accounting and IRS professionals is based on a court case that held that more than 20% of a nonprofit’s time and money is “substantial with regard to lobbying for causes that intersect with its mission, therefore anything up to 20% is acceptable.
This advocacy is sometimes called “upstream advocacy”. It calls on elected representatives and other government entities to address things getting in the way of an organization’s core activities. There are many guides to effective advocacy if you want to learn more such as this one from the Urban Institute.
Here are some basic hacks from harm reduction leaders:
During our development Harm Reduction Hacks have collected together a large number of resources from around the web you can find these in our resource folder in Google Docs. We are also always looking for more so help us by suggesting any resources we may have missed.
We do not claim that this is an exhaustive set of strategies, shortcuts, or tips for running an SSP. What we do suggest is that Harm Reduction Hacks offers down-to-earth, practical information for being a better leader, starting and running an SSP, and providing syringe access services. We feel we can say this with confidence because the Hacks are based on interviews with, and the experiences of, literally generations of people who have been doing harm reduction work.
Please note that nothing in this guide should be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney local to your area to ensure your program is in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations that apply to your situation.