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Engaging in Politics While Being Non-partisan


By Aileen Burke

Can you be political but non-partisan? This is a question that is especially prevalent within the non-profit sector. There seems to be a general wariness about getting involved in any activity that could be perceived as political. And understandably so. There are some very legitimate concerns about the legality of becoming involved in politics, often further complicated by the fear of potentially jeopardizing the already limited funding that may be available. However, while these fears are real, intuitive, and understandable, it’s also precisely because your operations are intrinsically tied to both government funding and government priorities that it is essential to be political. What’s key here is to remain non-partisan.

So, how do you differentiate between these? The simplest way to break this down look like this:

Non-partisan: free from party or candidate affiliation.
Partisan: supporting a specific party or candidate.
Political: being involved in government-related activities.

Essentially, as long as your activities are aimed at educating and informing government and/or the public, are directed at laws/policies/program decisions, and not specifically targeting a political party/candidate, than you’re staying true to being political.

It’s important to remember that the government doesn’t know what it doesn’t know – they are only aware of what is brought to their attention. The private sector is very much aware of this fact and intentionally allocate time and resources to influence the government decisions that are being made. You are the subject-matter expert for your organization and the people you serve. Who better to speak to the decision makers who are directly responsible for making decisions that impact you and the people you serve?

To learn more about how to get started in government relations, take ECVO’s on-demand Advocacy and Government Relations for Non-Profits course taught by Aileen Burke.

Cost: $99. ECVO members: $70.