September 22, 2011

How Nonprofits Can Avoid Politicking Online

As the presidential election season heats up, a Washington advocacy group has outlined how charities can ensure their Web sites don't violate IRS rules banning organizations from politicking.

Charities should be careful to not endorse political candidates on any part of their Web sites, separate their sites from those of affiliated advocacy organizations, and almost never link to a page with political content, according to a new paper from the Alliance for Justice, a Washington nonprofit.

The 34-page paper, “Influencing Public Policy in the Digital Age: The Law of Online Lobbying and Election-Related Activities,” includes a question-and-answer section with rules governing social-media interactions.

“No one had ever heard of—or even imagined—things like Facebook or Twitter when the rules were written that govern advocacy and political activity for nonprofit organizations,” writes Nan Aron, the alliance's president. “But that doesn’t mean that the rules don’t apply.”