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Posted: 2018-11-08 14:30:22

This article was first published online on November 17, 2017.

In a popular online nonprofit forum, a nonprofit leader recently asked about whether or not it was appropriate or possible for their organization to directly speak out about important issues of the day. Stating apprehension that the organization would be considered “too political,” this leader struggled with balancing a call to action with concern for possible negative consequences to their organization. They were a 501c3 organization, after all!

You may be feeling the same way—that it’s important to respond to local, state, and federal events and policy debates, but concerned about what might be appropriate for your organization. Fear of running afoul of your organization’s tax-exempt status, or losing the support of important donors by being seen as “too partisan or political,” may be preventing nonprofit organizations from speaking out or encouraging their members or clients to do so. While, yes, decisions to take action should be given careful consideration, fear alone is not a good enough reason to fail to act.

Many nonprofit organizations have, at their core, a mission to enact social change—whether that’s ending homelessness, supporting access to healthcare or other services, or serving vulnerable populations. Yet, it’s obvious to many of us in the nonprofit sector that the communities we serve are feeling the direct impact of the current political climate.

The debates on hot-button topics like race, religion, immigration, healthcare, and the environment, to name a few, are leaving nonprofit clients and other stakeholder groups feeling scared, persecuted, further marginalized or afraid to seek out the very services nonprofits are offering.

In addition, funding for important programs hang in the balance, grant programs are being eliminated or redefined, and much needed legislation and appropriations are being held hostage by both state legislatures and the US Congress. The President and Congress

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