The Soapbox and Toolbox for New York State's Nonprofits

February 21, 2017

NYCON Opposes Latest Efforts to Politicize Charitable Nonprofits and Foundations

NYCON Opposes Latest Efforts to Politicize Charitable Nonprofits and Foundations

The New York Council of Nonprofits joins the National Council of Nonprofits and other representatives of the charitable community in expressing strong opposition to proposals that would dangerously politicize charities and foundations. These include statements by the President and legislation reintroduced by Rep. Walter Jones (H.R. 172), and proposed by Sen. James Lankford (S.264) and Reps. Steve Scalise and Jody Hice (H.R. 781), that would alter a longstanding federal law that protects charitable nonprofits and foundations – and the donating public – by preventing them from engaging in partisan, election-related activities.

Under current law, charities and the religious community are able to play a significant role as effective advocates for important policies and legislation at all levels of government - thanks in large measure to this protection of their neutrality in the partisan political arena.

We strongly endorse the following statement issued recently by Tim Delaney, President, and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits:

Nonpartisanship is vital to the work of charitable nonprofits. It enables organizations to address community challenges, and invites the problem-solving skills of all residents, without the distractions of party labels and the caustic partisanship that is bedeviling our country. Indeed, current law is the reason that charitable nonprofits are safe havens from politics, a place where people can come together to actually solve community problems rather than just posture and remain torn apart.

Although all of these latest proposals are couched in terms relating to churches, in truth the underlying law is Section 501(c)(3) in the Tax Code, which relates to all charitable nonprofits and foundations. For more than six decades, the law now being attacked has protected charitable nonprofits and foundations from being pressured by politicians and paid political operatives to divert their time and resources away from advancing their missions in local communities. That law has a proven track record of working well to protect against politicization.

Nonprofits are already free to exercise their First Amendment rights to advocate for their missions. Allowing political operatives to push for endorsements would put nonprofits in a position where they become known as Democratic charities or Republican charities and put missions at risk.

Furthermore, those who donate to nonprofits want those contributions to go toward advancing the mission, not toward advancing the careers of politicians or lining the pockets of political consultants. Getting involved in supporting or opposing candidates will have a chilling effect on contributions on which many nonprofits rely.

While we appreciate the concern for the nonprofit sector expressed by sponsors of the bills, more productive outlets for their concern would be:

  • Guaranteeing a seat at the table in upcoming policy discussions for a sector that employs more than 10 percent of the American workforce;
  • Preserving and expanding charitable giving incentives in any tax reform measure that is considered; and
  • Considering the ramifications of domestic spending cuts on organizations that serve as the backbone of our communities and are already heavily subsidizing governments at all levels.

Nonprofits across our country look forward to continuing their vital work caring for returning soldiers, educating children, rebuilding cities, training the workforce, nursing the sick, supporting our elders, elevating the arts, mentoring our youth, protecting natural resources, nurturing our souls, and much more, but on a nonpartisan basis.

For more information, contact:

  • Rick Cohen, Director of Communications and Operations, National Council of Nonprofits: 202.962.0322,
  • Doug Sauer, CEO, New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc., 1 (800) 515-5012 ext. 103


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NYCON develops and promotes an effective and vibrant charitable nonprofit community throughout New York State.  We strengthen organizational capacity, act as an advocate and unifying voice, help to inform philanthropic giving, and conduct research and planning to demonstrate relevance and impact.