Should nonprofits participate in political campaigns, lobbying? Last week, I discussed the advantages of a nonprofit, charitable organization qualifying for 501(c)(3) status. There are specific activities, however, such as political and lobbying, in which these qualifying organizations should be very careful if they choose to participate. The penalty for participation is the potential loss of the entity’s 501(c)(3) status. Participating in political campaigns is potentially big trouble for nonprofits. I attended a seminar recently and the instructor used a visual aid to illustrate how much leeway a nonprofit has when it comes to political activity. Imagine having your hands bound together quite tightly in front of you and then bound quite tightly to your body. There isn’t too much activity that you can partake in when you can’t separate your hands and you can’t move them away from your body. If you try to stretch, you might break a finger or sprain a wrist. If the nonprofit stretches into the political arena, it takes the chance of losing its status. Nonprofits just don’t have much leeway when it comes to political activity. They can promote a voter registration drive as long as it’s conducted in a non-partisan manner. If they promote registering to vote for a particular candidate or party, that is not allowable. They can participate in a get-out-to-vote drive. However, if they promote getting out to vote for a particular candidate or party, that is not allowable. They can publish voter guides, but it must include all candidates and all issues to be voted upon. The voter guide can contain a comparison chart as long as it is non-biased. If the voting guide appears to be biased in favor of one candidate or party, there could be trouble. These are small exceptions to the rule that says nonprofits should stay out of the world of politics. However, what about lobbying? Apparently, a nonprofit can stretch a little bit into the lobbying arena. They do have to report the lobbying activity as part of their annual tax return filing. They have to allocate their income and expenses between lobbying and non-lobbying activities, and may have to pay an excise tax on the lobbying income. This paragraph comes from the Internal Revenue Service’s Publication: “In general, no organization […]
September 1 2011
What is perhaps not as well known is that the Healing Field program had its beginnings with a Rotary International member. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had a horrifying impact on us as a nation and as individuals. Rotarian Paul Swenson saw the “sheer enormity” of the human loss evidenced by the rubble, carnage and confusion at ground zero. The horror and despair of that scene brought no comfort. Swenson wanted to acknowledge the enormity of the sacrifice with a positive image that would also offer hope and comfort: a display that would offer healing. As the president of Colonial Flag Company, Swenson recognized the simple yet emotional power of the United States flag. He had seen the comfort in the eyes of a Gold Star Mother upon the receipt of a flag presented “on behalf of a grateful nation.” The folded flag, which had so recently draped the casket, reminded family that the fallen warrior was part of a cause greater than self, that we all are indeed part of that same cause, something greater than self. Swenson knew from so many similar experiences the healing power that can be found in the simple display of the flag. Swenson envisioned a display of 3,000 flags, a “healing field,” to honor those who died on the altar of freedom on 9/11. Not a pile of rubble bleak against a gray smoke-streaked sky, but ordered lines of flags posted on a grassy field, fluttering in the breeze against a blue sky. The enormity of the event symbolized with a positive and beautiful image. This was certainly a big idea. Many people have big ideas that never come into fulfillment. However, that would not be the case with Swenson and his vision of a Healing Field. He set out to make his vision a reality. The vision took planning, coordination and determination. In the effort, Swenson discovered a host of problems that required solution. He encountered doubters and naysayers who did not share the vision that he saw so clearly. Swenson found an appropriate grassy field adjacent to the city hall in Sandy, Utah. The quadrangle seemed to have been planned for the very purpose, and city officials were excited in their support. On the […]
Thursday, September 1 Rockford Area Historical Society Meeting—7 p.m. at Community Cabin, 220 N. Monroe St., Rockford. “The Hunting Family History” will be presented by Virginia Hunting Cox and Sandy Hunting Peters. Hostesses will be Jan Trapp and Janette Konkle. Saturday, September 3 Rockford Farm Market—8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through October 29 in the South Squires Street parking lot, off Main St., downtown Rockford, featuring Michigan-grown produce, fresh baked goods, flowers, plants and much more. Tuesday, September 6 Rockford Rotary Club Meetings—7 a.m. at Rockford High School, and 12:10 p.m. at Rockford Community Cabin. For more information, call Mark Bivins at (616) 866-1470. Country Music—9:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Tuesday at Rockford Ambulance Community Center, corner of 10 Mile Road and Shaner Avenue in Rockford. Music by the Rogue River Band. Enjoy free coffee, tea and snacks. Mended Hearts Meeting—7 p.m. at Spectrum Health Fred & Lena Meijer Heart Center, 100 Michigan St., Grand Rapids, room 8815 on eighth floor. This nonprofit support group—affiliated with American Heart Association—offers hope, information and encouragement to heart patients, families and caregivers through those who have experienced heart disease. For more information, contact Jim Oldfield at (616) 891-9395. Wednesday, September 7 Business Counseling—Starting a new business or have questions about your existing business? The Rockford Chamber of Commerce and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) would like to help. SCORE is a nonprofit organization sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration and is dedicated to helping the small-business community through no-fee mentoring, business counseling and low-cost workshops. A SCORE counselor will be at the Chamber starting at 9 a.m. Please call the Chamber at (616) 866-2000, Mon.–Fri. from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., to schedule an appointment. Auditions—6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Community Center, 8450 Shaner Ave., Rockford, for Rogue River Community Theatre’s fall production “The Light of Heaven’s Dove,” a musical drama about the life of Christ. Needed are actors, singers and musicians of all ages to fill roles of major characters. For more information, please call (616) 874-5264. Thursday, September 8 Rockford Lions Club Meeting—6 p.m. social, 6:30 dinner and 7 p.m. meeting at the Community Cabin, 220 N. Monroe St., Rockford. Meetings held every second and fourth Thursday of each month. […]
The Rockford Lions continue their efforts to restore Pioneer Cemetery (in front of North Rockford Middle School by Ten Mile Road). According to accounts they have heard, the cemetery has been in poor repair for as long as the lifetimes of many of our long-term residents. It is hoped that someone may have an old photo or account of what the cemetery might have looked like when it was properly maintained. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 616 866-9615 if you have any information. Heeding the good advice of the Rockford Garden Club’s Master Gardener Nancy Hoovler, the logging now ends and the Lions turn to converting the Garden Club’s master plan into a reality. Trees will be labeled to add to the property’s use as a nature study are for the use of area schools. Additional plantings are planned to accent the inherent beauty of the the slopes and valley. Finally, a formal, informative entry way will be opened off the west parking lot. Information and photographs of the Pioneer Cemetery would be of great help in brining this urban beauty spot back to its original status. Answers to today’s questions lie in yesterday’s family album. Please open yours and contact the Lions by calling Stan or calling (616) 866-4103.