What Staff Can Do - On and Off the Job

clock2redNonprofit staff members often have questions about their personal involvement in political campaigns or work with candidates. Outside of work, nonprofit employees are free to exercise their first amendment privilege to volunteer for candidate campaigns or engage in other partisan political activities. However, it is important to make clear distinctions between personal and professional efforts, as voter engagement activities on behalf of your nonprofit must remain nonpartisan.

Q and A

Q: When is it personal time?

Outside of normal work hours, nonprofit staff may engage in partisan campaign activities, like supporting a candidate for office. Staff may also take vacation or personal time for the purpose of engaging in political activity.

Q: Can staff be identified with their nonprofit organization when working for a candidate?
Nonprofit staff may identify their place of employment at a meeting or political event. However, staff members who are spokespeople for their organization or are otherwise visibly associated with it should emphasize that they are participating as a private citizen and not on behalf of the organization they work for.

Q. Can nonprofit staff be listed as a supporter of a candidate with the name of the organization?
As a rule, it is safer to leave the name of the organization off of any partisan political materials. However, you may list your organization if it is noted that the organization is listed “for identification purposes only.”

Q: What about board members and volunteers?
While representing the nonprofit organization, board members and volunteers should follow the same protocol outlined for staff.

Q: What if a candidate lists the name of the Executive Director/CEO or another employee without their permission?
If a candidate lists any staff member along with the organization’s name on campaign material without the appropriate disclaimer (e.g. “for identification purposes only”) the organization is not at fault. Send an email to the campaign asking to remove your organization’s name where it will be on file for future reference.

Q: What about the use of personal social media accounts by nonprofit staff?
If your personal media accounts are used primarily for work, you must remain nonpartisan. If it is primarily a personal account, you are free to post your political views or tag partisan organizations. For more, see this guide’s section on Social Media Guidelines for Election Activity.

Q: How do I separate my personal political participation from my nonprofit work?
Our two recommendations are to:

  • Provide political campaigns or candidates a personal email address. For calls, ask them to contact you on your personal phone outside of work hours.
  • Don’t use any of your organization’s resources such as copy machines or supplies for partisan activities related to candidates.

More Resources

  • Nonprofit Votes Count – Resources for nonprofit staff to register and vote, by Nonprofit VOTE, Independent Sector, National Council of Nonprofits and United Way.
  • Visit the Engaging Your Staff section of the Nonprofit VOTE Voter Engagement Resource Library