2018 Election Program

A Guide to Activities for Nonprofits

The stakes are high for community nonprofits this election season. Connecticut will have a new Governor, administration, state agency commissioners, constitutional officers and legislature. These state officials will have the ability to shape public policy for coming years.

Before new and re-elected candidates are sworn into office, it is essential to engage with them to highlight the important work that you do, the issues that impact you, and the people you serve.

Election related activities are part of larger continuum of civic engagement for many in the nonprofit community. Engaging voters and candidates this election season can further your mission, have a positive impact on your communities, build relationships with potential and current elected officials, and increase the general understanding of policy issues important to nonprofits.

See below for more information on how to plan for different events, engage candidates and voters, and comply with state and federal laws throughout the process. If you are interested in pursuing other types of activities, please share your plans with us so we can support your efforts!

Election Program: Regional “Vote or Lose” Briefing Series

Attendees will hear from former legislators, nonprofit leaders, and Alliance staff on how to effectively engage gubernatorial and legislative candidates through nonpartisan activities during the election.

Save the Dates!
   •   June 21 l Rocky Hill, 9:30am, Alliance Rocky Hill Office (date and time in lieu of regularly schedule PPC meeting)
   •   June 26 l Torrington, 1:30pm, McCall Center for Behavioral Health
   •   July 10 l Waterbury, 1:30pm, CT Counseling Centers
   •   July 11 l New London, 9:30am, Child and Family Agency of Southeastern CT
   •   July 17 l Norwalk, 10:00am, Keystone House
   •   July 23 l Middletown, 10:00am, MARC
   •   July 25 l New Haven, 9:30am, United Way of Greater New Haven

Registration coming soon

Schedule Candidate Tours

An easy way to engage candidates firsthand is to invite them to your facility for a tour. Whether they are running for the first time or have served for years, it is important for them to experience the work that you do, meet your clients and staff, and hear how you fit into the fabric of your community and our state. Keep facility tours simple and short; limit them to an hour or two and make arrangements beforehand for candidates to meet at different times with your staff and individuals that you serve who are comfortable sharing their stories.

Register New Voters

Voting is an essential activity all nonprofits should embrace by encouraging and educating staff, clients and other supporters. Voter registration efforts have a significant impact on voter participation, and as long as you remain nonpartisan, you can and should engage in this work. In a presidential election, nine out of ten newly registered voters will turn out to vote. Research by Nonprofit VOTE demonstrates that when nonprofits talk to and assist their clients with registering to vote, individuals are much more likely to vote and more likely to talk to their friends and family about voting.

Registering to vote in Connecticut is usually as easy as a few clicks. You can encourage your staff to register online here and host a voter registration drive with a few laptops or tablets. To access resources and learn more about how to organize a voter registration drive, click here.

Host a Candidate Forum

Hosting a candidate forum is an excellent way for candidates to hear about the issues directly from their constituents. A “Town Hall” format allows your staff, the individuals you serve, and other community members to ask candidates questions about issues that are important to them. Depending on your focus, the forum can serve to increase awareness about your organization and the community that you support, or address critical policy issues and funding needs. For more information on planning a candidate forum and keeping the event nonpartisan, click here.

Nonpartisan Rules to Follow

Regardless how you engage with candidates, make sure you follow the simple rules outlined below. The Alliance staff is ready and excited to help you plan, organize and execute these events.

The IRS allows 501(c)(3) organizations to engage in election work, but you must maintain strict nonpartisanship – do not explicitly or implicitly endorse a candidate, and provide each side with equal access and opportunity. By following a few easy steps, you can educate candidates and engage your constituents in the political process.

Candidate Appearances: Educating current and potential elected officials about what you do is essential to your advocacy efforts. If you are planning to host candidates at your organization, follow these simple rules and guidelines:

   o    You must invite each candidate for a particular office. They don’t all have to attend, but they all must be invited.
   o    For both a candidate forum or site visit, we recommend hosting opposing candidates on different dates. This will ensure a productive conversation and may result in better attendance from each candidate.
   o    You must give each candidate equal opportunity and provide a similar venue, time and presentation format for each event.
   o    You may also invite elected officials who are candidates to appear in their official capacity. If you do so, make sure that the candidate is chosen to speak solely for reasons other than their candidacy. While you can’t control what they say, take steps to ensure that the atmosphere of the event is kept free of campaign activity.
   o    Candidates are free to arrive uninvited to any public event you host. If that occurs, take care that there is no actual or implied endorsement.

Voter Registration: Tens of thousands of people work at nonprofits throughout Connecticut and hundreds of thousands are served. Our power can be realized if everyone is encouraged to participate and vote, and you can help! Just make sure you follow these simple rules and guidelines:
    o    Staff and volunteers can help people register to vote, but must do so in a nonpartisan way. If someone asks for information about candidates, staff and volunteers should refer them to information from unbiased sources.
    o    Staff and volunteers may not suggest which candidate to support or what party to join and may not withhold registration from anyone.
    o    The IRS cites voter registration as an appropriate nonpartisan activity for a 501(c)(3).

Additional Resources

Nonprofit VOTE Webinar Series:
        o    Engaging New Voters-How Nonprofits Can Close the Voter Participation Gap (03.30.18)
        o    Being Nonpartisan: 2018 Voter Engagement Dos and Don’ts for 501(c)(3) Nonprofits (03.12.18)
        o    Plan Ahead 2018 Part 1 (02.13.18)
        o    Plan Ahead 2018 Part 2 (02.27.18)

Nonprofit VOTE Resource Guide
Alliance for Justice: Bolder Advocacy
Nonprofit VOTE
Rock the Vote

For more information, please contact Jeff Shaw.