The political conversation never stops, but during major campaign years it goes into overdrive. This is never more true than during presidential election years, when voters are most tuned in to the issues and what is being said about them. For 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, election years present opportunities to reach new audiences and influence candidates. But in election years competition for attention and funding can be fierce. Organizations can benefit from preparing for 2020’s election now.
Organizations with a long operating history probably have a good sense of how they will leverage the election season to raise money and promote their mission. For seasoned organizations, now may be a good time to conduct a compliance and risk audit. A compliance audit accomplishes a number of things:
- It verifies that the organization has submitted complete, accurate, and timely reports with state and federal authorities, such as the California Franchise Tax Board and the IRS.
- It identifies potential gaps in procedures that can be addressed before they become problems.
- It allows management to re-examine processes to find better, more efficient ways of doing things.
For organizations that are just getting started, preparing for a vigorous campaign by 2020 requires careful execution of some potentially complex steps in a relatively short time. Of course, all of the “back office” work needs to be done while also promoting the organization’s mission among potential donors and preparing strategies for the upcoming campaign. Given the importance of so many details, it’s best not to leave organizational matters until it is too late to correct errors or comply with important deadlines. Some of the essentials for a new 501(c)(4) include:
- Incorporate a legal entity.
- Recruit a good board of directors and managers.
- Choose a brand that will not interfere with other organizations’ trademark rights.
- Ensure that the organization has any required tax compliance steps in place before fundraising begins.
- Adopt key policies governing essential operations like fundraising, recordkeeping, and social media.
The Church Law Center of California provides legal counsel to religious and secular nonprofits. We have extensive experience helping social welfare organizations get organized for campaign seasons. To find out how we can help your organization succeed, call us today at (949) 689-0437 or through our contact page.