Webinar Rundown: Working with Candidates in 2016

State Island town hall meeting

Our recent webinar on the various ways in which a 501(c)(3) nonprofit can interact with candidates for public office produced some interesting questions.

Before I get to those, Nonprofit VOTE would like to thank Cheryl Clyburn Crawford of Mass VOTE for her invaluable insights into how to host a successful candidate forum.

If you weren’t able to attend the webinar, please feel free to download the webinar PowerPoint and audio file, or watch the webinar on Nonprofit VOTE’s YouTube channel.

Back to those questions. Consider the following scenario. Your nonprofit is planning to hold a candidate forum for candidates in a state senate race. Your district is solidly Democratic and the winner of the Democratic primary typically goes on to win the general election. You’ve decided, given that the outcome to the general election is a forgone conclusion, to hold your forum during the run up to primary election. How do you avoid the appearance of partisanship in this situation? If both parties are running candidates, then holding a forum for just the Democratic primary candidates would be partisan. One answer is to hold a combined forum for both parties’ primary candidates. This is a strategy that Mass VOTE has used successfully on a number of occasions. All viable primary candidates must be invited. However, not all candidates need attend. Primary candidates from the opposing party may welcome the opportunity to increase their name recognition.

Here’s another interesting scenario involving live-tweeting a forum. Your nonprofit is holding a forum for two state representative candidates. During the forum each candidate’s campaign is live-tweeting the event. Can you live-tweet as well? The answer is yes, but it’s important to be cautious. Posting factual information is fine. You can also comment on things like the attendance, or how well the moderator is doing. Do not comment on a candidate’s statements. Do not retweet anything from the campaigns themselves or anything of a partisan nature. If you want to ensure that the audience has contact information for both campaigns, compose your own tweet sharing that information.

If you’d like to learn even more about interacting with candidates on a nonpartisan basis, here are a few of the other resources we mentioned during the webinar:

  • Nonprofit VOTE’s Voter Engagement Resource Library – Find all of our factsheets and other resources here. Click on “Candidate Engagement” to see only resources about working with candidates.
  • Nonprofit VOTE’s Guide to Hosting a Candidate Forum in English and Spanish
  • Nonprofit VOTE’s Candidate Forum Checklist in English and Spanish – A checklist arranged around a 4 months timeline with steps to take at each point in planning.
  • Working with Candidates Factsheet in English and Spanish
  • Candidate Appearances Factsheet in English in Spanish
  • Canddite Questionnaires and Voter Guides in English and Spanish
  • Nonprofits, Voting and Elections Online – Our online guide to remaining nonpartisan while conducting voter outreach activities as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
  • Bolder Advocacy – Bolder Advocacy is a program of the Alliance for Justice. They are a wonderful source of information on nonprofit voter engagement and lobbying. They’re team of attorneys have prepared dozens of factsheets on everything form responding to a canddidate’s factually incorrect statement to preparing a candidate questionnaire.
  • 1-800-NPLOBBY – Bolder Advocacy’s hotline

RSVP for Our Next Webinar:

Take a Stand in 2016: Ballot Measure Advocacy for Nonprofits
Tuesday, May 31st, 2:00PM ET, 11:00AM PT

Did you know that as a 501(c)(3), your organization is free to advocate for or against any measure appearing on the ballot? It’s true! Ballot measure advocacy is a lobbying activity, not “electioneering”. In this webinar Bolder Advocacy’s Abby Levine will explain the difference and walk you through the in’s and out’s of ballot measure advocacy.

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