Practical Insights

Posted: July 7, 2022 / Written by: / Category Nonprofit

Election-Related Activities Do's and Don'ts Checklist for 501(c)(3) Public Charities

During election season, 501(c)(3) organizations should remember that their election-related activity must be nonpartisan. There is a strict prohibition against supporting or opposing candidates for public office. New York public charities that violate this prohibition risk losing their federal tax-exempt status as well as their exemption from New York income, sales and use taxes and may face enforcement or regulatory actions by the New York Attorney General. While the devil is in the details and legal advice should be sought based on your organization’s particular circumstances, here is a checklist of election year do’s and don’ts for non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations:

Don’t Do:

  • Make or solicit contributions for, on behalf of, or against any candidate for public office or to a political party. This prohibition applies to any election for national, state, or local public office
  • Endorse or oppose a particular candidate or political party
  • Make statements in support of or in opposition to a candidate or a political party. This includes all statements, whether made orally or in writing and whether conveyed in-person, recording, mail, email, text or posting on social media or the internet
  • Use the organization’s resources – including office space, telephones, internet account, printers, employee time – to engage in political campaign activity
  • Provide funds from a 501(c)(3) organization to a 501(c)(4) organization which engages in political activity without controls to assure that the funds are used solely for 501(c)(3) exempt activities, and not for political campaign activity

Can Do:

  • Distribute or post non-partisan voter guides that may include links to other nonpartisan educational sites or that provide information about the positions taken by elected officials or candidates in a wide range of issues, without taking a position on their positions
  • Voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives that encourage people to register and/or vote without reference to any political party or candidate
  • Host candidate forums or debates or invite a candidate to an organization’s event provided that:

  • Be Inclusive. All candidates for the office are invited, even if some do not attend
  • Be Even-Handed. All candidates are given an equal opportunity to speak
  • Be Non-Partisan. Multiple topics are covered, and the questions asked are formulated and presented in a non-partisan manner
  • No Campaigning or Fundraising. Candidates do not engage in campaigning or fundraising


Hillary S. Zilz is a partner at Schlam Stone & Dolan LLP who regularly advises non-profit organizations. She may be reached at or 212.612.0671.