As the now-famous comic writer Andy Borowitz has posted on Twitter: “Only a billion more lies until the election.” Not only is it easy to get swept up in the horse-trading, haranguing and name-calling during an election, it’s what you’re supposed to do. We live and thrive in a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” (with the Borowitz addendum: “…which are now called ‘corporations'”). We are supposed to be involved in politics because we are called to be engaged citizens. And some of the most engaged citizens work for charities and nonprofits.
But be careful: your nonprofit’s outreach should remain nonpartisan if you want to keep that nonprofit status.
It’s easy to get caught up in the rhetoric, and what engaged organization would not want to state its case or respond to a policy proposal that threatens its work? Nevertheless, overtly partisan tweets and blog posts could jeopardize that organization’s story on TechNewsWorld.com that serves as beneficial warning to watch your step, and the steps of your volunteers and employees, over the next few months − even when responding to the partisan comments of others.. Darya V. Pollak and Christian G. Canas have posted a
While the IRS permits nonprofit employees to advocate for or against candidates on their own time and dime, in social media the lines are easily blurred, e.g., if an employee is posting to their personal Twitter or Facebook account during business hours on a work computer, or if you encourage your employees to help spread the word about the organization’s activities and they also post personal political views.
If the personal, the political, and the nonprofit mix, your organization can be challenged in court − even if that individual were acting of his or her own interests and not intending to speak via or for the nonprofit they work for. To avoid such risks, Pollak and Canas suggest writing a universal disclaimer on the blog or comments site, something to the effect that any endorsement or criticism of a political candidate reflects the views of the individual poster, and not those of the organization.
While working up such a disclaimer, you might also want to include a statement that your site is for informational purposes only and anyone seeking professional advice or information about getting involved should directly contact your organization. Guidelines for any staff members participating in your nonprofit’s social networking outreach should also include policies on these sorts of issues. Indeed, the best way to avoid such entanglements is to develop a robust set of policy guidelines for your peers to study and have on hand.
So get engaged politically! But do so as a citizen/person, with no confusion about whether you are speaking for your charity or nonprofit. All of which serves asthe ‘Citizens United’ case.