Voters Support Clear Rules for Political Activities

Voters overwhelmingly want clear rules defining allowable political activities for nonprofits, according to a survey of likely November 2014 voters. Respondents supported better-defined rules by a 2-1 margin, even when faced with the opposing argument that the rules would allow the IRS to limit free speech.

The results were based on a phone survey of 800 voters nationwide on behalf of Public Citizen, a consumer rights group, and Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank.

The desire to have clear rules about what nonprofits can and can’t do regarding political activities crossed party lines: 88% of Republicans, 87% of Democrats and 84% of Independents surveyed said they feel strongly that clear rules are important. Moreover, 80% of respondents said that political operatives, organizations and wealthy donors taking advantage of unclear rules is a problem.

The IRS is redrafting proposed rules on political activities for 501(c)(4) groups — social welfare organizations that can expend a portion of their resources on political activities. The agency plans to release the new draft this year.

Gates Foundation helps GuideStar expand its database

An ambitious plan by GuideStar to update its database for broader use by not-for-profits recently got a boost from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which pledged $3 million over three years to the project.

As described in its new strategic plan, GuideStar 2020, GuideStar plans to develop and deploy a suite of new data-collection and data-presentation tools:

  • The common profile would let nonprofits create and use a single profile across multiple online-giving platforms without building a unique user account for each.


  • Another feature would allow users to search nonprofits and data by causes.


  • Additional capabilities would allow organizations to report a variety of program outcomes via simplified input.

GuideStar still needs to raise additional funds to meet its $10 million goal for the project.

One city’s pursuit of nonprofit contributions

It could happen anywhere, but in this case it happened in Pittsburgh. That city is pursuing a 10-year agreement with tax-exempt nongovernmental organizations that would add $16 million to $24 million annually to city coffers. Mayor Bill Peduto’s initiative aims to secure donations from the city’s biggest nonprofits, including the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Carnegie Mellon University.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the city has negotiated every few years with the Pittsburgh Foundation to set amounts the city’s not-for-profits should voluntarily donate.

It behooves all nonprofits to keep an eye on any revenue-boosting initiatives affecting nonprofits that their area municipalities and state governments might devise.