Save the Johnson Amendment
Recently, our current President and certain Legislators have indicated they want to weaken or eliminate the Johnson Amendment. Signed into law in 1954, the Johnson Amendment prevents 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations from endorsing (or opposing) candidates from office, and prevents nonprofit organizations from making significant contributions to elect or defeat a candidate for office. For over 60 years, the Johnson Amendment has enjoyed bipartisan support. And no matter how you feel about our current Administration, you should know how much a change to the Johnson Amendment would impact our fundraising efforts.
Nonprofit organizations are trusted problem solvers in our society. They are expected to be nonpartisan and they often bring people from both sides of the political chasm together to address social concerns. All of this could change if the Johnson Amendment is eliminated. Contributions could dry up if donors fear your organization will spend their donations to support a politician with whom they disagree. Donors could also pressure organizations to support a specific candidate in order to earn their financial support. These difficulties are not far fetched – they are merely the beginning of how nonprofits will be impacted.
Last year, Giving USA reported the highest annual charitable contributions in our history, despite the very contentious presidential election. While millions of dollars were donated to campaigns, millions were also donated to nonprofits willing to address the needs of our communities. I feel very uncertain that nonpartisan nonprofits would continue to enjoy the same level of support if political donors could basically get a tax deduction for their campaign contribution when it was funneled through a nonprofit.
Any weakening or repeal of the Johnson Amendment is bad news for nonprofits everywhere, but good news for politicians. Here’s what you can do:
1. Sign the Community Letter, which has already been signed by over 4,500 organizations.
2. Add your comments to the letter, which Givevoice.org will share on the Hill and in each State.
3. Set up local meetings when your Legislators are home in August and share with them personally how this will impact your organization.
4. Call the offices of your Senators and Representatives in DC and let them know this matters to you. Tell them the Johnson Amendment gives you the ability to focus on your mission without political interference and it needs to stay in place.
Stopping this change won’t be easy, but we’ll be more successful if we stay focused and work together. If you have additional questions or want to coordinate your efforts with those of the Colorado Nonprofit Association and the Association of Fundraising Professionals Colorado Chapter, please contact me.
Photo by Maxwell Young on Unsplash