Advocacy

PANO advocates on public policy issues that impact Pennsylvania’s nonprofit sector. We serve as a unified voice for the nonprofit community to influence policies and mobilize nonprofits as advocates around the state.

Why We Advocate

As social and economic drivers, nonprofits makeup 15% of Pennsylvania’s workforce and serve millions of Pennsylvania residents. We advance public policies that support a healthy nonprofit community and build the infrastructure needed for effective mission delivery. PANO’s public policy efforts include educating and engaging elected officials on issues of importance to the sector. We elevate nonprofit work by activating and encouraging Pennsylvania’s nonprofits to take action around the Commonwealth.

Our Goals

Elevate

Engage the collective voice of the Pennsylvania nonprofit sector to advance policy solutions that support strong, healthy nonprofits.

Educate

Increase the respect and support for the nonprofit community among elected officials and all Pennsylvanians.

Support

Give nonprofit employees the tools and resources they need to advocate on behalf of their organizations and communities.

State Advocacy View All »

Nonprofit Charitable Tax Exemption

PANO opposes policy that limits or prevents eligible nonprofits from obtaining or maintaining their tax-exempt status. PANO believes that Payments in Lieu of Taxes should be fully voluntary and not […]

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Budget Impasse Mitigation

PANO supports amendments to state law which protect Pennsylvania’s service recipients and providers by assuring that federal and state dollars allocated for essential services continue to be paid during a […]

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Increased Revenues for Mandated Public Services in Pennsylvania

PANO supports policies that increase revenues for all mandated services that nonprofits provide on behalf of government in Pennsylvania so that these services can be sustained. With increasing levels of […]

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Federal Advocacy View All »

Tax Reform: Parking and Transportation Tax

PANO seeks to repeal the provision in the H.R. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in late 2017 that levies a tax on many tax-exempt employers, including churches, charities, and […]

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Protecting Nonprofit Nonpartisanship

PANO supports policies that protect the integrity and independence of charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations which empower individuals of all beliefs to come together to solve community problems […]

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2020 Census Participation

PANO supports adequate funding for the 2020 census to ensure that the process is fair and complete and will liaise with the PA nonprofit sector that it represents to support […]

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Protecting Nonprofit Nonpartisanship

As a provision in the federal tax code, the Johnson Amendment prohibits charitable nonprofits, religious congregations, and foundations from endorsing political candidates. Since early 2017, various bills and extraneous riders have attempted to completely repeal or weaken this provision. Successful repeal would allow nonprofits to endorse candidates, and campaign dollars could flow through 501(c)(3) organizations – making political contributions tax-deductible and allowing political donors to remain anonymous.

Because 91% of PANO’s membership supports the Johnson Amendment, PANO joined the National Council of Nonprofits and over 5,800 nonprofits and churches to successfully maintain the existing law.

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FAQ

Can Pennsylvania 501(c)(3) nonprofits lobby?

Yes. Every charitable nonprofit can and should make its voice heard on issues that are important to its mission and to the people it serves. As advocates, nonprofits are required to speak up about policies, laws, and regulations. Lobbying by nonprofits is permitted by law. Unless a charitable nonprofit has elected to have a 501(h) designation, organizations may not spend a “substantial” portion of revenue on lobbying. The IRS does not define substantial.

What activities are considered to be lobbying?

On the federal level, lobbying is contact with a legislator to influence legislation. On a state level for PA, it is contact with a legislator or any member of state government to influence legislation or administrative action. This also includes time spent planning or researching in preparation for a lobbying contact. For reporting requirements, organizations should track the amount of time spent on activities that fit the federal definition of lobbying whether that be on a federal, state, or local level.

Educational contacts that do not include a call to action are not considered in the definition of lobbying.

Can Pennsylvania 501(c)(3) nonprofits participate in voter engagement activities?

Absolutely. Nonprofits have a constitutional right and responsibility to engage in policy-making processes. Though federal regulations require that nonprofits remain strictly nonpartisan (neither supporting nor opposing candidates for elected office), much can and should be done, including voter education guides, voter registration, get-out-the-vote drives, and candidate forums. Each of these activities is legally permissible if conducted in a strictly nonpartisan manner.

Can nonprofits electioneer (e.g. endorse candidates or parties)?

No. While lobbying by nonprofits is permitted by law, charities are strictly prohibited from electioneering. Electioneering is engaging in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office. Charities cannot endorse any candidates, make donations to their campaigns, engage in fundraising, distribute statements, or become involved in any other activities that may be beneficial to or detrimental to any candidate for public office.

Charities must operate in nonpartisan mode. Charities must be aware that engaging in prohibited campaign activity could result in excise taxes imposed on the money spent electioneering, loss of tax-exempt status, and more severe penalties for flagrant violations.