October 21, 2020

Elections matter. This is particularly true for the 2020 election, billed as the election of our lifetime. Few could have predicted that the election would occur during a public health and economic crisis created by COVID-19 and a nationwide racial reckoning sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.

Elections matter. Anti-hunger advocates know all too well that the challenge of addressing food insecurity is not only influenced by who sits in the White House, but also by elected officials who make decisions at all levels of government — federal, state, and local. However, too many nonprofits shy away from election-related activities because of fear — often misplaced — of jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. This should not be the case.

Elections are an opportune time to solicit candidate views and educate voters on issues, programs, policies, and legislation related to ending hunger. With elections in all 435 seats in the  House of Representatives, 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate, for president of the United States; 13 state and territorial governorships, and hundreds of local elections, including all state houses, we need food insecurity to be on every elected official’s agenda.

There are myriad 501(c)(3) permissible election-related activities for anti-hunger organizations to engage in, including ones that solicit candidates’ opinions on hunger and poverty, and to educate voters.

Here are some suggestions for anti-hunger nonprofits to draw from with Election Day fast approaching:

  • Send a nonpartisan letter to all viable candidates up and down the ballot. Such a letter has several goals: educating candidates on the urgent need to address food insecurity, making them aware of policies that can address food insecurity, and sharing how your organization can serve as an invaluable partner. Here is the letter template link with instructions to help you out. 
  • Refer candidates to educational materials. Having pre-existing materials to share with candidates who contact your organization is permissible as long as you do not provide preferential services to one candidate. FRAC has created an elections-related page, What Every Candidate Should Know About Hunger, with resources on hunger and available solutions. Among other resources, this page has a graphic with 10 facts every candidate should know about hunger that you can modify to reflect data for your own locality.

Elections matter. It’s not too late for your nonprofit to engage in permissible election-related activities to ensure that candidates understand the issues and voters have the resources to understand how to vote and where candidates stand on the issues.

NOTE: Make sure to check out Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy for guidance on permissible election-related activities for 501(c)(3)s.