Monthly Archives: September 2016

Lobbying with A 501(c)(3) status

 

In my short time so far as a YWCA advocacy intern my primary concern was being non-partisan while running a Get Out the Vote social media campaign. To me being non-partisan meant avoiding talking about political issues. Additionally, I believed that having 501(c)(3) status meant that because we were tax exempt we could not be overly political, we could not lobby, and we could not voice concerns directly about the government even though politics directly influences our work.

However, on Friday September 16th I attended the Worry Free Advocacy Work-Shop put on by the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona in partnership with the YWCA of Southern Arizona. They invited national expert Sarah Matlin, Bi-lingual Counsel for the Alliance for Justice to lead the workshop. Previous illusions about non-profits were quickly shattered. What I learned is that 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations can sometimes be partisan and engage in lobbying efforts.

First and foremost, 501(c)(3)’s are limited in their lobbying efforts, however, Sarah Matlin, informed me and the rest of the audience that very rarely will a 501(c)(3) do too much lobbying. The way that the IRS looks at the lobbying efforts of a 501(c)(3) is to measure efforts. How do you measure effort? The answer is simple. You do not measure effort; rather you submit a one-time form called the 501(h) Expenditure test. This form allows your non-profit 501(c)(3) agency to measure your lobbying efforts in money rather than vague terms like efforts. Additionally, once this form is submitted 501(c)(3)’s can spend 20% of their overall budget on lobbying efforts. Additionally, because you do not pay volunteers, volunteer time does not count as part of the 20%. Thus, 501(c)(3)’s can and should be lobbying.

Sarah Matlin also destroyed my ill-conceived notions of what lobbying is versus what it actually is. Lobbying is trying to influence new laws, including supporting or opposing ballot measures. However, an non-profit organization can criticize and praise incumbent officials. Additionally, if the non-profit has a social media page, the page needs to have a disclaimer of some sort, saying that the organization is non-partisan. However, non-profits can let partisan comments from others slide as long as they have the disclaimer on their page.

I learned that non-profits can do a lot more in terms of politics and lobbying than I had previously thought. I will be using the social media tips that Sarah shared such as making sure that the GOTV Facebook page has a disclaimer on it immediately. Additionally, any non-profit that I work for in future will likely file the 50(h) Expenditure test form in order to use 20% of our overall budget towards lobbying. Hopefully, Sarah will spread her knowledge far and wide so that nonprofits can help make big legislative changes in the upcoming years.

 

 

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Valerie Denogean is MSW PAC student at ASU. She was born and raised in Tucson. She is interested in prison-reform, immigration, education-reform, politics, inequalities because of race and gender. However, currently she is interested in Eco-Feminism and how the treatment of women connects with the state of the environment, the treatment of animals, and our food. Valerie likes to run, hike and swim. She swam competitively for the Guilford College Quaker Swim team. She likes to travel and hopes to use her Social Work Degree in Northern Virginia after graduation.

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Filed under Empowering Women, Justice

Monday Changemaker Book Club

Monday morning the Changemaker Bookclub met at the Frances McClelland Community Center to discuss our personal reactions to The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.  As an individual, I have been aware of the racial disparity in the age of Mass Incarceration. I grew up knowing people who looked like me were more likely to be incarcerated. This knowledge inspired a greater value on fairness and justice. In an age of mass incarceration for communities of color how can we inspire greater compassion and care and move into a place of action for criminal justice reform? The important aspect is to consider who is deserving of compassion and care which is related to what we have as a society value in Justice. To us, justice is a person paying a personal debt for their mistakes with their money, their time, and their freedom. To us, Justice is a sentence. Something with a beginning and an end, to repay back to the victims of a loss. Justice is the quality of being fair and reasonable. However, the Life Sentences that the societal vision justice imposes extend farther past the completion of a probation, prison, and parole sentence. This is beyond the scope of what is fair and reasonable.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander compares current practices of justice and its relation to colorblindness in mass incarceration. The problem with being colorblind is that when we avoid the topic of race in mass incarceration, we are not seeing who really is represented in our prison populations. It allows us to be blind  to what is really happening in our justice system. When one third of our nation’s African American males and a quarter of Latinos are incarcerated– yet we scrutinize men of color for lack of engagement in their communities.  We are seeing colorblindness fail our communities of color. This is beyond the scope of fair and reasonable.

Now understanding the failure of fair and reasonable justice for our communities of color, how do we inspire and model care and compassion for individuals who are formerly incarcerated to advocate for actual justice?

 The Changemaker Bookclub meets at the Frances McClelland community center to discuss the issues and our responsibility for racial justice. This conversation will continue on October 12 with our next book of the Changemaker Bookclub series, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.-we hope that you will join us for this on-going conversation.

-Sara Cota Galaz

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Sara Cota Galaz is a Master’s of Social Work Candidate at Arizona State University’s School of Social Work-Tucson Component working with the YWCA of Southern Arizona’s advocacy programs. She is a proud Wildcat Alum with earning her BA in Political Science from the School of Government and Public Policy. She is an advocate for issues relating to economic justice and its intersectionality between workforce development for women in poverty, mass incarceration, and reentry. She is a member of the Oracle Board-Greek Advisory Board at the University of Arizona, Pima County Re-Entry Coalition, and the Coalition for Fair and Just Policing.

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Filed under Eliminating Racism, Justice