Citizen’s United gave corporations new power to influence elections and the new rules have fundamentally changed how elections are conducted. Just as this decision opened doors for corporations representing big oil, pharmaceuticals and agri-business to get involved in elections, it also opened doors for 501(c)(4) organizations.
Nonprofits are uniquely positioned to speak out about social issues and solutions because they represent their constituents rather than commercial or economic interests. More than ever, nonprofit corporations can and should take advantage of this new legal landscape to actively participate in elections. Influencing the electoral process is often the most effective strategy for a nonprofit to achieve its policy goals. In addition, 501(c)(4)s can engage in unlimited lobbying which can also be a huge advantage.
In fact, many 501(c)(3) organizations across the country are now interested in establishing their own 501(c)(4) organization in order to expand their lobbying efforts and make sure that candidates who are elected will represent their issues and values. In other instances, individuals have identified a need for an independent 501(c)(4) not affiliated with other exempt organizations.
If you are interested in setting up a 501(c)(4) the best roadmap for success is to start the journey with a well thought-out plan and an understanding of the rules of the road. This toolkit addresses how new 501(c)(4) organizations should approach fundraising and discusses the rules and best practices of established organizations.
If you would like more in-depth information about setting up an organization or if you have other questions about the rules and regulations for 501(c)(4)’s please see the Alliance of Justice publication, The Connection: Strategies for Creating and Operating 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s and Political Organizations.