Nonprofits CAN Support Ballot Measures

Nonprofit organizations, such as resource & referral agencies and child care centers, can lawfully support local ballot measures like Measure A  and Proposition C.

Supporting Ballot Measures

These child care measures are historic and will directly impact the lives of thousands of families by approving major new funding for early care and education.  They are relevant to your work in supporting children and families.

As explained below, most nonprofit organizations CAN support a local ballot measure by engaging in activities such as:

  1. Putting a window sign up in your office.
  2. Spreading the word in your community.
  3. Using and distributing Ballot Measure materials (lawn and window signs, palm cards, buttons, etc.).

Nonprofit Organizations and Lobbying – Federal Tax Laws

Promoting ballot measures is lobbying; you are directly communicating support for a specific piece of legislation and engaging in a lobbying effort directed at the voters who will vote to enact or reject the measure. The IRS allows 501(c)(3) organizations to lobby within limits.

501(c)(3) organizations

  • CAN engage in nonpartisan electoral activities, such as supporting local ballot measures.
  • CANNOT engage in partisan electoral activities, such as supporting or opposing candidates for public office.

Other organizations, such as 501(c)(4)s and labor unions

  • CAN engage in nonpartisan electoral activities, such as supporting local ballot measures.
  • CAN engage in partisan electoral activities, as long as doing so is not their primary activity.

California Reporting Requirements

In addition to federal laws governing lobbying limits, you must comply with California reporting requirements and any applicable local laws. The California Fair Political Practices Commission requires organizations engaged in certain activities to report their expenditures. You can view the rules here.

Activities you can do without having to report to the Fair Political Practices Commission:

  1. Your employees may donate their services to the ballot measure campaign.
  2. Your employees can provide services to the ballot measure campaign or attend meetings during normal working hours, so long as the employee spends less than 10% of their time in a calendar month.
  3. Your organization may make statements to support Measure A in regularly-published communications.
  4. Your organization can independently spend up to $999 in a calendar year (not including the activities listed above).

A full explanation of these activities is available here.

You can find more information about nonprofit advocacy at these organizations:

About the June 5th Ballot Measures in Alameda and San Francisco Counties:

Measure A is an Alameda County ballot measure for a half-cent sales tax, which will:

  • Expand access to child care and preschool for low- and middle-income families.
  • Help homeless and at-risk children, and help prevent child abuse and neglect.
  • Attract and retain quality childcare workers.
  • Add thousands of spaces for child care at locations throughout the county.
  • Ensure that funds are properly spent through audits and independent citizens’ oversight.

Prop C is a San Francisco County ballot measure for a 3.5 percent tax on commercial rents over $1million a year, which will:

  • Make high quality early care and education (ECE) available and affordable for San Francisco families earning up to 200% of the area median income ($207,500 for a family of 3).
  • Help the San Francisco families who have been stagnating on the ECE waitlist. These families earn 60% of the state median income ($63,240 for a family of 3) or less.
  • Increase wages for ECE providers to better ensure a well-trained, stable and quality workforce.
  • Invest in comprehensive services to support the physical, emotional and cognitive development of children under age 6.

May 31, 2018