For many advocates, building and running a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization might seem like a daunting prospect. But with a new suite of tools available online, Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy team (BA) and Alliance for Justice Action Campaign (AFJAC) aim to show advocates how this type of nonprofit could be just right for them – and how to avoid common pitfalls in the startup process.
The materials were created by BA’s and AFJAC’s experts in conjunction with the Atlas Learning Project, and include three main pieces. The Primer on Social Welfare Organizations: Using 501(c)(4) Organizations for Good offers an introduction to the key capabilities of (c)(4)s and why they are a vital part of a strategy to promote positive social change. The 501(c)(4) Strategy and Discussion Guide walks advocates through important differences between 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofits, and introduces criteria for deciding if a 501(c)(4) would best meet your needs. And Considering Starting a 501((4)? Case Studies tells the stories of three organizations with a health-policy focus that decided to organize themselves as 501(c)(4)s in order to maximize their effectiveness.
As the resource materials explain, (c)(4)s enjoy much greater latitude to take part in overtly political activities than their more common cousins, (c)(3)s. While fundraising may be more challenging since donations to (c)(4)s – unlike those to (c)(3)s – are not tax-deductible, in many instances the advantages of (c)(4)s far outweigh their limitations. These nonprofits, defined by the IRS as “social welfare organizations,” are allowed to undertake a mixture of advocacy activities up to and including work to influence the outcome of elections. They also have almost unlimited ability to use a variety of issue-based advocacy strategies to weigh in on important issues of the day. These two components in combination—issue-based advocacy and ability to engage in the political process—make (c)(4) organizations particularly potent in shaping policy outcomes, and key to effective campaigns and movements.
And to help donors understand why the time is especially ripe to consider supporting (c)(4)s, Bolder Advocacy Director Abby Levine contributed a piece, “Now Is the Time for Donors to Support Maximum Advocacy: Here’s How” to Philanthropy Journal. Abby writes that the post-election period is the ideal time for nonprofits with important social missions to have their voices heard by incoming officials. Having the additional capabilities of a (c)(4) only amplifies those voices.
In addition to providing extensive resource materials online, Bolder Advocacy is constantly engaged in assisting advocates one-on-one as they work to become more effective. BA experts provide hundreds of phone consultations, webinars, training meetings and other forms of person-to-person guidance every year. Check out our Workshops and Events page to find out more about trainings available online and near you!