Non-profits have long operated under the assumption that they must remain non-political. A recent article by Bill Shore in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, July 17, 2019, argues that nonprofits need not be constrained by their presumed non-political status. In fact, Shore contends, “Nonprofits need to do much more of exactly what most of them don’t think they can or should do: influence public policy and its execution.”

Shore says that nonprofits can and should be more political than many in the nonprofit community believe they are legally permitted to be. Achieving the goals that many nonprofits pursue depends upon nonprofits becoming more, not less, political. While some activities are prohibited, including working on campaigns, donating to candidates, and engaging in lobbying beyond certain generously defined limits, shore notes that “… a broad range of political work is permitted, appropriate, even essential. (There is also the option of establishing a 501(c)(4) that permits campaign engagement and support, which we haven’t done.)”

Shore asserts getting political is often about educating, not necessarily lobbying or campaigning. He further argues that, “Nonprofits need to build their internal political capacity. Nonprofit political activity is good for nonprofits, good for politics, and good for the people that both aim to serve.” Ultimately, by expanding their political activities within stipulated legal limits, “nonprofits benefit by seeing their programs and services achieve greater scale and reach more people in need, in ways that only politics and public policy can guarantee.”


“Getting Political Is Good for Everyone,” Bill Shore, Stanford Social Innovation Review, July 17, 2019

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