Nonprofits and Political Activity
Take Back Santa Cruz ™ (TBSC) as a 501(c)(3) organization does not endorse nor recommend any political candidates or organizations. Any opinions conveyed or expressed within our Facebook Group (aka our forum/closed group page) are entirely those of the individual poster(s) and are not those of Take Back Santa Cruz.
TBSC, as an entity, has never, nor shall it ever, contribute funds to a political campaign or organization. Note: This does not prohibit a board and or committee member as an individual from contributing to a campaign from their own separate and personal funds.
For an organization to be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) it cannot “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements) any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
“501(c)(3) organizations may take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office.” – (IRS)
A section 501(c)(3) organization may not make a contribution to a political organization described in section 527 (such as a candidate committee, political party committee or political action committee (PAC)). Nor may such an organization establish and maintain a separate segregated fund under section 527.
Individual Activity including contributions by TBSC Organization Leaders
The political campaign intervention prohibition is not intended to restrict free expression on political matters by leaders of organizations speaking for themselves, as individuals. Nor are leaders prohibited from speaking about important issues of public policy. However, for their organizations to remain tax exempt under section 501(c)(3), leaders cannot make partisan comments in official organization publications or at official functions of the organization. To avoid potential attribution of their comments outside of organization functions and publications, organization leaders who speak or write in their individual capacity are encouraged to clearly indicate that their comments are personal and not intended to represent the views of the organization.
For example, a minister of a church can attend an event for a particular candidate and express his support of the candidate as long as he does not state or otherwise imply that he is speaking on behalf of his church. However, if a minister made the same statement at an official church function or in an official church publication that statement would be prohibited political activity. (¹ see below for TBSC official public presence)
“Members” of TBSC further defined as it relates to political activity
Another category unique to nonprofits is members. Members are a special class of individuals/ organizations that have rights to participate in the current and future affairs of the organization. Nonprofit organizations are not required to have members. As per our Bylaws filed with our ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION OF TAKE BACK SANTA CRUZ A CALIFORNIA NONPROFIT PUBLIC BENEFIT CORPORATION, the corporation shall not have any members within the meaning of Section 5056 of the California Corporations Code. The corporation may from time to time use the term “members” to refer to persons associated with it, but such persons shall not be members within the meaning of Section 5056 of the California Corporations Code. There are no paid employees nor do any Board /Executive Committee members receive a salary.
Social media has changed the way 501(c)(3) organizations think about their supporters, adding terms like ‘‘friends,’’ ‘‘fans,’’ and ‘‘followers’’ to a lexicon that previously included only ‘‘members’’ and ‘‘nonmembers.’’ Many organization managers think of their social media supporters as members, and many social media users see no distinction between liking an organization on Facebook and joining it as a member. The IRS may have grounds to disagree, however. The regulations define a member as a person who: 1) pays dues or contributes more than a nominal amount to the organization; 2) contributes more than a nominal amount of time; or 3) is one of a limited number of ‘‘honorary’’ or ‘‘life’’ members with a connection to the organization and who were chosen for a valid reason unrelated to the dissemination of information to members. The IRS has not said how much volunteer activity constitutes ‘‘more than a nominal amount of time’’ for an organization.
Based on the IRS membership definition, merely connecting and interacting with a 501(c)(3) organization on social media does not create a sufficient relationship for that person to be considered a member of the organization.
Facebook Group Page vs. Official Organization Facebook Page and WEB Pages
It is a common practice for a non-profit to utilize a Closed Facebook Group page.
Our closed and private group Facebook page is a place for TBSC supporters to connect with each other, to have discussions, is populated by member content/threads/posts, and is to provide the group a private forum to communicate with one another. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/takebacksantacruz/).
Please note: The TBSC closed group “forum” page and the comments and opinions expressed by Facebook group members, do not represent the values, opinions or mission of the TBSC organization or its officials. Comments on a social media site or someone who participates in TBSC events, (which are open to the entire community), does not imply in anyway of a leadership role with TBSC.
¹Our official Take Back Santa Cruz organizational pages are:
- Our WEB Page (http://takebacksantacruz.org/)
- Facebook “Page ” (https://www.facebook.com/takebacksantacruz/).
Together they are the official public presence of our organization, Take Back Santa Cruz (TBSC).