Monday, March 29, 2010

Want a New Nonprofit Job in an International Setting?

Every so often I get a few minutes to go exploring nonprofit websites.  I love seeing what kinds of things people are doing in the nonprofit sector.  This weekend, I had the opportunity to stumble across some interesting international websites.  One, called, lists nonprofit or nongovernmental organizational jobs across the globe.  I was fascinated.  Want to live in Japan?  Here's an interesting job: 


UN Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD), Disaster Management Planning Hyogo Office
Location: Kobe, Japan
Last Date: April 6, 2010

Want to make a difference in the developing world?  Look at this job:

Project Manager - The Trans-boundary Water Dialogue (TWD) Project

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Location: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Last Date: April 16. 2010

Perhaps you're an academic, here's a position:

Research Fellow

University of Birmingham
Location: Birmingham, UK
Last Date: April 7, 2010

As I went through the different jobs, I imagined what great opportunities they were for people in the nonprofit sector.  It's free to look at the postings on their site and you can sign up for jobs to be emailed to you for only $48 for a three-month subscription.  I wrote to DevNetJobs.Org and asked them to contribute a piece to Nonprofit Conversation.  This is a good link to send to your friends in the nonprofit sector, who knows maybe you will find your next job here.  Bunnie

DevNetJobs.Org is a global network which brings together international development jobseekers and recruiters at one place.

Over 11,000 international development recruiters from Non-Profits, NGOs, Governments, UN and Aid agencies, Multilaterals, Bilaterals and Consulting firms advertise jobs, consulting opportunities and internships arising within their organisation on this platform. These include organisations such as Save the Children, Oxfam, ActionAid, UNDP, Christian Aid, Handicap International, UNICEF, World Resources Institutie, IDEA International, Care International, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Amnesty International, World Bank, DAI, ARD Inc, Management Systems International, IUCN, Clinton Foundation, WWF and more. Consequently, several thousand new jobs get posted on the website each month.

Furthermore, over 227,000 jobseekers working in the international development sector are registered with the platform to receive the free weekly job updates. These jobseekers come from all countries around the globe. The website receives over 45,000 page views each day, making it the largest and the most popular specialised website on international development jobs.

To make it easier for organisations to search for qualified candidates, it is free for non-profits to post their jobs on and there is no charge for jobseekers to search and apply for jobs posted on it. This is one reason that thousands of jobs have been getting filled each year via the network. started in 1999 from India and now has several specialised networks including and , and many more are in the pipeline. The platform is managed by remote teams located in several countries including Ghana, India, UK, Switzerland, Canada and Bangladesh.

For more information, please visit the website

If you are a Jobseeker, you may subscribe to free job updates by going to:

If you are a non-profit Recruiter, you may submit your job for free posting to:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Work After Work: Our new Age of Life and the Moral Necessity for Returnment

With so much difficulty in fundraising for nonprofits given the economy right now, there's a lot to be gained by cultivating "retirees" as volunteers.  First, as Jay Bloom, of Bloom Anew, points out, people are living longer and living healthier and have many more years of productivity available even after they have ceased "formal" work.  Second, these volunteers can help your nonprofit sustain itself even after you've had to cut staff and layoff critical talent.  I know for myself when I look ahead at what "retirement" will mean to me one day, I can't imagine not having anything to do.  The old image of the rocking chair is completely unappealing.  There is a wealth of talent and resources out there in the post-retirement community, the "returnment" community as Jay puts it.  What are y9ou doing to tap into these resources? Something to think about.  Bunnie

Work after Work:  Our new age of life and the moral necessity for “Returnment”

By Jay C. Bloom, President of Bloom Anew

“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Many times a day I realize how much my own inter and outer life is built on the labors of other men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give and return as much as I have received."  -Albert Einstein

Returnment – n.

1) The act of giving back or returning in some small way what the world has given you.

2) Especially as an alternative to retirement.

At the turn of the last century, the average life expectancy was only 47. Today it is rapidly approaching 80, and our fastest growing age groups demographically are those individuals over the age of 85 with someone in this country turning 50 every eight seconds. More significantly, the average health of individuals over the age of 50 has dramatically increased. This can be attributed to better nutrition, exercise, improvement in our health care technology and generally less physical labor in our formal work.

This increased health has created a new, unprecedented age in our human life cycle. A average 60 year old person today is closer to a 40 or 50 year old health-wise compared to a 60 year old twenty or thirty years ago.

Carl Van Horn, director of the Rutgers Center, was quoted as saying, “Retiring Boomers will have the same sweeping impact as the entrance of women into the workforce in the 70s.”

Our old model of retirement suggested that people essentially worked until the ages of 60-65, and then a person felt fortunate if there were a few years of leisure before their physical health deteriorated and/or death ensued. Now people can retire at age 60 and expect to live twenty or more vibrant years, especially if they have taken care of themselves physically.

The boomers have been described as a much more independent, “live for today” group. They are already showing signs that they will not approach retirement in a traditional fashion. Boomers are going to have great difficulty relating to the terms senior, elderly, old, and mature. In fact, most of them will resist, I believe, the term “retirement” in general.

In the August 25, 2000 edition of the Portland, OR Business Journal, Serge D. Rovencourt, retired general manager of Portland Hilton Hotel said, “I have retired from the Hilton, but I am not retired. I tell you I am going to find another word that is different from the word retirement. Retirement lends itself for people to say, ‘Well, he is tired, that’s the end of it.’ There has to be another word other than retirement.”

As every eight seconds someone turns 50 in this country, I believe there is a great spiritual need and moral necessity for redefining “retirement” with “returnment.” I define “returnment” as “the act of giving back or returning in some small way what the world has given to you.” Other words could be used such as stewardship, trusteeship or husbandry. I like this new word because it captures not only our new age of life but the psychological and spiritual needs of this time of life as well.

The pursuit of the traditional retirement life of primarily leisure and consumption will lead to not only a tremendous loss of talent, experience and resources, but intensified inter-generational economic and resource conflicts and ultimately for most individuals, regret and despair. Hillel challenges us with these words: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I?”

Many people will need a meaning and reason to continue to live. Medical research is also learning that those who have a reason to live generally live longer. My belief is that a large number of boomers with their new age of life and longer life spans will want to be involved in some type of “work.” More importantly, I believe they will want work that allows for more meaning and purpose than their earlier work provided. As Goethe said, “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” To live the rest of our lives uninvolved and unengaged I believe will be unrewarding and unacceptable. In fact unless you are engaged in your later years you are just dying longer not living longer.

Where is the time, talent, and financial resources most needed? There has been a great shrinkage of nurturance and care available in our society and a growing isolation between the generations and between each other. This is due to a number of factors, including the increased number of working women with children, the total amount of hours worked by both men and women, cutbacks in public funding and the overall frenetic pace of life.

All around us we are seeing the evidence of a shortage of available teachers, nurses and other community caregivers. . The average loan balance of college graduates continues to increase significantly juxtaposed against wages for those in non profit organizations likely remaining flat. Therefore, it is likely that fewer and fewer young people are and will be entering the care giving professions such as teaching, nursing and human services.

We can also expect the increased cutbacks by government in supporting traditional human services to continue. President Obama has called for a new commitment to volunteerism by all age groups. We need to challenge the 80 million strong boomers to step up, get involved and set the example. This growing age group will have more time than any other age group.

This emerging social change is a new and excellent opportunity for nonprofit organizations (NPOs) to fulfill two critical needs at the same time. By offering meaningful employment and volunteer opportunities, nonprofits can meet their own current and growing labor shortage while at the same time tapping into a significant social need of experienced individuals looking for purposeful involvement, engagement, and work. This new human capital can be transformed into new social capital that fosters greater intergenerational interdependence and equity.

As a former NPO executive with over 35 years in the field, I know it will not be easy for NPOs to use this new resource. Too often we see costs and liabilities with this new workforce rather than as an abundant growing resource. We must also transcend the vulnerability of limiting this new energy into mundane or traditional employment or volunteer vehicles. Fortunately, many NPOs have a culture of innovation and thinking outside the box and our funding environment and labor challenges will demand even more creative adaptation. Most of this change will involve new organization development and human resource management approaches in such into areas as job and project design, orientation and training programs for the new workforce, existing employees and managers, and different compensation, recognition and benefit plans. Clearly there will be both the need for technical change as well as adaptive change within the sector.

The good news is that surveys indicate that up to 80% of all boomers expect to work or volunteer part time in their later years and 70% said that they would work even if they had enough money to live comfortably, according to a survey by the Rutgers Community Center for Workforce Development. The care giving professions of teaching, child care, nursing and human services are in great need of replenishment and expansion.

With the emerging need for meaning and purpose being one of the potential primary drivers of the people over age 50, community service through NPOs offers a real opportunity for a win/win engagement and/or employment. We cannot afford for boomers in their aging lives to be perceived as socially useless and only living a life of consumerism. There is a great need, opportunity and moral necessity for tapping into their wisdom, experience, and wealth, finances and time.

Just imagine if only a portion of the 3 million people retiring or changing their work each year now were to pursue a life of “returnment.” What problems could be addressed? How many children’s lives would be different? What new kind of energy would be created? What level of hope?

“Every man’s obligation is to put into the world at least what he takes out of it.”  -Albert Einstein

Since 1983 Jay C. Bloom through Bloom Anew has been providing executive and personal coaching to leaders, managers, and individuals in the private, philanthropic, and government sectors who are experiencing a transition in their lives or desiring to strengthen their professional skills and capabilities. Jay's organizational consulting is also highly sought-after. He provides leadership and management consultation to nonprofit and private organizations, with a special expertise in helping organizations develop effective partnerships. His web site is

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Major Gift Prospecting and Prioritizing

Why is it so hard for us to ask for money for our good cause?  I am reminded of growing up in church where we "passed the plate" at every service and congregants put their money in it.  We did this because we valued the institution and knew we had to contribute to it for it to survive.  The same holds true with nonprofits.  If they are to survive they must be supported by money.  Norman Olshansky of NFP Consulting Resources lays out a roadmap for cultivating major donors.  I like the focus group idea, everybody knows somebody who is capable of making a major donation.  Take this one to your next fundraising meeting!  Bunnie

Major Gift Prospecting and Prioritizing
by Norman Olshanky, President of NFP Consulting Resources, Inc.

One of the most important activities a nonprofit needs to undertake prior to initiating a major gifts campaign is the identification and prioritization of prospects. Some organizations spend a lot of money, time and human resources on prospect mining and research. Others try to identify pockets of wealth in their community and then determine what is the best way to contact and solicit those individuals.

For many organizations, I recommend the following simple and inexpensive technique to identify and prioritize major gift prospects.

The Task Group

The first step is to put together a group of individuals who are already committed to the organization and who have good relationships in the community. When recruited they are told that they are being asked to attend a single meeting to identify names of individuals in the community who could be helpful to the nonprofit. The group can be composed of the organization’s board, donors, volunteers, members, or a combination of individuals from all of these groups. In addition, if a fundraising committee or major gifts committee has already been established, they should also be encouraged to participate. I prefer to have no less than 8 people or more than 30 participate in the focus group meeting, which typically takes about one to one in a half hours. It is helpful to have a diverse group from the various geographic areas served by the nonprofit. You should also try to include individuals who have good connections to high net worth individuals through their volunteer, business and/or social relationships.


At the meeting, participants are asked to identify any individual they know who is charitable and is capable of making a major gift of $25,000 (or whatever level is established by the organization as a major gift) The goal of brainstorming is to identify major donors so the larger the threshold the better. If too low, you will end up with so many names that it will be hard to prioritize. The emphasis of this exercise is to identify individuals (not corporations) who have major gift potential and will be cultivated and solicited face to face. This includes individuals who utilize private foundations or donor advised funds for their charitable giving. This exercise should not be used for identification of prospects to be solicited by direct mail or for targeting donors who can be solicited by phone or contribute by attending events

The facilitator then encourages people to call out names which are written on flip charts or on a large white board that can easily be read by all.

Once everyone has shared names that came to mind during the brainstorming (hopefully, at least 50 names), the facilitator hands out paper and pencils to all participants.

The Nominal Group Technique

Next the facilitator gives the following instructions. “Take a few minutes to look at all of the names on the brainstorming list and write down on your paper the three to five names which best meet the following criteria.

A. They have a history of being philanthropic

B. They have a history of making gifts at our major gifts level

C. They are likely to have an interest in our mission

D. They are accessible. You or others you know in our organization can get a meeting with them or invite them to visit with us.

After adequate time is given for participants to write down their three names, the facilitator goes around the room and asks each person to say aloud the three names. The facilitator puts a hash mark next to those names on the master brainstorming list. When a name is mentioned by more than one participant, additional hash marks are made each time that name is mentioned. Once everyone has announced their three names, the facilitator counts the cumulative hash marks for each name on the master list and circles the top 10 names that were mentioned the most. If it is difficult to narrow it down to 10 names, circle more than ten and initiate another round where participants now write down two of the circled names which they feel best meet the priority characteristics. Then continue the process of narrowing down the names based upon number of times mentioned. Ultimately, the facilitator’s goal is to narrow it down to no more than ten names.

(The nominal group technique can also be used to help with prioritization of any other type of brainstorming activity. The beauty of the process is that it involves all of the participants and provides a way to quickly measure and prioritize responses.)

Fact Finding

The last stage of the process is to ask for input from participants on each of the top ten prospects identified. The facilitator or someone else should take copious notes from the comments shared by the group on each of the ten prospects in response to the following questions.

A. Who in our organization knows this person and could be our key contact to invite them to learn more about what we do?

B. What other organizations are they involved with and what are their major philanthropic interests?

C. Do you know how much they have given to other charities?

D. Do they make their philanthropic gifts directly, through a foundation, donor advised fund, etc.

E. Is there anything you know about them that could help our staff or fundraising committee to engage them with us?

F. Do you personally know, have a relationship with, and have access to anyone who knows the individual and has a close relationship to him/her?

G. Is there anything you know that might lower the priority level of this prospect?

Follow up

In addition to thanking participants, the information learned should be conveyed in detail to staff and volunteers involved in major gift fundraising. Hopefully, your fundraising leadership and staff participate as well and use the session to identify additional volunteers, who attended the session, who can assist the committee going forward with prospect research, cultivation, and solicitation. The top ten names should be among the first prospects targeted as part of the major gifts initiative. After the initial priority names have been assigned and solicited, other names on the brainstorming list should also be approached in the order of the priority established, taking into consideration your ability to access and engage each prospect.

A similar process can be used to identify and prioritize corporate prospects. However, the type of individuals you will want in the Task Group may be different from those you select to focus on individual donor prospects.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Supreme Court Decision Opens New Doors for Associations

As long as I can remember it has been forbidden for nonprofit associations to support any candidates for public office.  However with the historic Citizens United decision, nonprofit associations (other than 501 (c) 3's) can now endorse, promote and even put their favored candidates on the websites, literature, etc.  This is a HUGE sea change.  When Citizens United was first announced there was much discussion about corporate America taking over political campaigns.  My personal opinion, with which you may not agree, is that the chest pounding was a bit silly.  If you have lived for more than five minutes on this planet, you would know that "corporate America" has influenced our political landscape and there is no politician or legislator that is independent of its reach. 

So what makes Citizens United important for nonprofit associations?  I believe it finally levels the playing field for nonprofits when it comes to the electoral soap box.  No longer will nonprofits (again, other than 501 (c) 3's) have to sit idly by or form separate PAC's in order to put their support behind a candidate that cares about their agenda.  And while corporations will give money to associations to conduct candidate endorsements, less endowed associations will finally be able to say to their members "Support Mr. or Ms. X because they support us" in their newsletters, on their websites, in their blogs, etc.  And frankly, for a lot of associations, I think that's a good thing (again, my humble opinion).  Bunnie

Supreme Court Decision Opens New Doors for Associations

by Ronald M. Jacobs, Esq. and Alexandra Megaris, Esq., Venable LLP, Washington, DC

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued its long-awaited decision in Citizens United v. FEC. The Court struck down a federal ban on “independent expenditures” and “electioneering communications” made by nonprofit and for-profit corporations. A number of states have similar bans, and those too will likely fall under the reasoning of Citizens United. A related question is whether a similar ban on expenditures by labor unions will fall.

The decision did not impact direct giving to candidates, political action committees (“PACs”), or parties. Thus, corporations, including associations, may not use their general funds to make contributions to candidates. Accordingly, individuals and PACs will have to continue to make direct contributions.

Although for-profits and nonprofits alike are now free to engage political speech, given the perception that for-profit entities may not be willing to engage in public candidate-advocacy directly, it is likely that much of the work will be done by associations on behalf of their members. This article explains the Citizens United decision and how it may benefit associations.

Brief Legal Background

The laws at issue in Citizens United prohibited two types of corporate expenditures:

(1) Independent Expenditures: any expenditure—at any time, through any medium—that expressly advocated the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for federal office. Examples include television advertisements, newspaper advertisements, and postings on corporate blogs, which contain phrases such as “Reelect Congressman Jones” or “Vote Against Smith.”

(2) Electioneering Communications: expenditures by corporations made within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary election if the expenditure is used to fund a communication that is made by broadcast, cable, or satellite, and refers to a clearly identified candidate for federal office. Prior to Citizens United, the Supreme Court had already narrowed this definition to include communications that are the “functional equivalent” of express advocacy and the FEC has adopted a complicated 11-factor test to make such a determination.

Before Citizens United, associations could make these two types of communications only through their PACs. In reality, this was a major limit on funding such expenditures, given the rules restricting how associations solicit for their PACs and the relatively low limits on contributions to a PAC ($5,000 per year). Now, however, associations will be able to fund these expenditures from their general treasury funds.

Conduct Permitted by the Decision

One direct impact of this decision is that for-profits may engage directly in independent expenditures. More important for associations, however, is that for-profit companies may now donate to associations for the specific purpose of having those nonprofits make independent expenditures. In addition, nonprofit corporations—other than 501(c)(3) organizations—may use their general funds, even if those include payments from corporations, to make independent expenditures.

As a result of the Citizens United decision, there are a number of specific activities now permitted, some obvious, some not so obvious:

1.) Paying for print, internet, radio, television, satellite, and cable advertising;

2.) Placing endorsements on association web sites;

3.) Placing advertisements on association web sites;

4.) Using association email lists to support candidates; and

5.) Using association blogs to post messages of support for candidates.

Coordination Not Permitted

Any such activity, however, may not be coordinated with a candidate; coordinating such activity would change the independent expenditure into an in-kind contribution, which is still prohibited. The FEC is currently working on regulations defining what it means to coordinate with a candidate. The definitions are broader and much more complex than what many might consider to be “coordinating” with another entity. The regulatory framework is complicated by the fact that the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has struck down the FEC’s two previous attempts to create such regulations in Shays v. FEC, 414 F.3d 76 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (“Shays I”) and Shays v. FEC, 528 F.3d 914 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (“Shays III”).

Under the original and revised rules, promulgated in 2002 and 2006, respectively, a public communication is coordinated (and thus is a contribution) if:

(1) someone other than the candidate, party, or official campaign pays for it;

(2) the communication itself meets specified “content standards”; and

(3) the payer’s interaction with the candidate/party satisfies specified “conduct standards.”

The FEC has proposed a number of ways to satisfy the content and conduct prongs, several of which have been the subject of court challenges over the years. In October 2009, the FEC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to revise the content and conduct standards in accordance with Shays III.

Content Standards: The content prong is satisfied if the communication either:

(1) is an electioneering communication;

(2) distributes or republishes campaign materials prepared by a candidate or his authorized committee;

(3) expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for federal office; or

(4) if it refers to a political party or clearly identified federal candidate, is publicly distributed 120 or 90 days or fewer before an election (depending on whether the coordination is with a Presidential candidate, congressional candidate, or political party), and is directed to certain voters.

The fourth standard was successfully challenged in Shays I and Shays III. In Shays III, the Court of Appeals expressed concern that more than 90/120 days before an election, candidates may ask wealthy supporters to fund ads on their behalf, so long as those ads contain no “magic words” (such as “vote for” or “vote against” which would qualify them as express advocacy communications).

To address the court’s concerns, the FEC proposes to retain the existing four content standards and adopt one or more of the following: (1) a standard to cover communications that promote, attack, support, or oppose a political party or a clearly identified federal candidate (the “PASO standard”); (2) a standard to cover communications that are the “functional equivalent of express advocacy”; (3) clarification that the existing express advocacy standard includes communications containing more than just “magic words”, such as certain campaign slogans; and (4) a standard that expressly prohibits explicit agreements to establish coordination.

Prior to Citizens United, a corporation’s ability to fund the types of communications covered by the content prong was significantly limited. Because corporations can now make such expenditures from their general treasury funds, it is likely that the use of such communications will increase. As such, corporations and associations will have to be especially mindful that their communications do not meet any of the conduct standards, described below.

Conduct Standards: The conduct prong of the FEC’s test for determining whether a communication is coordinated is comprised of five standards. The first three conduct standards are be satisfied if a communication was created or distributed (1) at the request or suggestion of, (2) after material involvement by, or (3) after substantial discussion with, a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, or a political party committee. The remaining two standards are satisfied if a candidate’s former vendor or employee created or distributed a communication using material information about campaign plans, activities, or needs, or shared such information with the person funding the communication, for 120 days.

The FEC proposals presently under consideration retain the five conduct standards, but offer three alternatives for the time periods in the former vendor and employee standards. The FEC aims to tailor the time periods to “the realistic ‘shelf life’ of the types of information that a campaign vendor or former employee is likely to possess.”

Even after Citizens United, associations, in particular those whose members are, or even formerly were, active in federal political campaigns, must ensure that any advertisements that they fund do not fall within one of the five conduct standards. Under both the current or proposed rules, the range of interaction between the candidate/party and the association that may establish impermissible coordination is wide. For example, under the former vendor or employee standards, an association may be “coordinating” with a candidate without ever communicating with that candidate or his campaign.

Disclosures and Disclaimers

While it overturned a number of restrictions, the Supreme Court did, however, uphold certain disclosure obligations that apply to electioneering communications. “Disclaimer and disclosure requirements may burden the ability to speak,” the Court reasoned, “but they ‘impose no ceiling on campaign-related activities,’ . . . and ‘do not prevent anyone from speaking.’”

Therefore, to the extent a corporation spends over $10,000 during any calendar year to fund communications through broadcast, radio, satellite, or cable that refer to clearly identified candidates within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election, it will have to file disclosures with the FEC revealing the corporation making the communication, the amount spent, and certain contributors.

In addition, each electioneering communication must include certain specified disclaimers. Communications not authorized by the candidate, as would almost certainly be the case for an independent expenditure or electioneering communication not coordinated with the candidate, must provide a name and address (or web address) for the entity making the communication, state that the communication is not authorized by any candidate, and include the following audio statement: “___ is responsible for the content of this advertising.” If transmitted through television, this statement must also appear on screen in accordance with specifications set forth in FEC regulations.

Expenditures for express advocacy must be reported to the FEC when they aggregate more than $250 for an election. This includes information about the amount of the expenditures and information about contributors who gave more then $200 if the contribution “was made for the purpose of furthering the reported independent expenditure.” If the independent expenditures exceed $10,000, then reports must be filed with the FEC within two days of the expenditure (one day for expenditures that exceed $1,000 made within 20 say of the election).

Independent expenditures must include disclaimers that are similar to those required for electioneering communications.

The Broad Impact of the Decision

Although the specific legal impact of the decision is clear, it is not clear exactly how corporations will make use of their new right to make independent expenditures. Consider:

• Will a for-profit corporation be willing to spend money on a television advertisement for or against a candidate and risk alienating customers or employees?

• Will highly-regulated industries (e.g., banks, car manufacturers, government contractors, etc.) be willing to alienate an incumbent office holder?

• Will those highly-regulated companies feel compelled to support an incumbent office-holder, given the influence the government has over their business?

• Will for-profit corporations—in tough economic times—be willing to give larger sums to nonprofits that will then make independent expenditures?

• Will shareholders allow companies to make independent expenditures or give to groups that will do so? Several shareholder’s rights groups have force companies to disclose their political activities in an effort to limit such activities. Indeed, some companies specifically prohibit their trade associations from using their dues payments for political expenditures.

• Will PACs become a less-favored approach to participation in the political process?

The Court’s Reasoning

In 1990, the Court upheld a state ban on independent expenditures by corporations in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652 (1990). The Court has never directly considered the federal ban on corporate expenditures before Citizens United. Following the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002, the Court upheld the ban on electioneering communications in McConnell v. FEC, 540 U.S. 93 (2003). That decision relied on Austin.

The majority opinion—authored by Justice Kennedy, and joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito—takes the First Amendment at face value: Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” The Court succinctly explains that “[t]he Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress speech altogether.”

One of the key themes in the decision is that the campaign finance laws have become overly convoluted and complicated. “The First Amendment does not permit laws that force speakers to retain a campaign finance attorney, conduct demographic marketing research, or seek declaratory rulings before discussing most salient political issues of our day.” As a result, such laws silence permissible speech because they are so complicated. Unlike prior decisions in this area upholding additional rules and limits to avoid circumventing the rules already in place, the Court decided “informative voices should not have to circumvent onerous restrictions to exercise their First Amendment rights.”

The Court explained that any restriction on speech—including corporate speech—must survive strict scrutiny, which requires a compelling governmental interest. The government advanced three such interests and the Court rejected them all.

Anti-Distortion: Under the Court’s 1990 Austin v. Michigan decision, the Court had found that because corporations have perpetual existence and can amass great wealth, there is a compelling governmental interest in restricting their influence on elections. This theory ran counter to earlier precedents that had held that campaign finance laws cannot be used to balance the scales between the wealthy and less wealthy. In Citizens United, the Court held that “[t]he rule that political speech cannot be limited based on a speaker’s wealth is a necessary consequence of the premise that the First Amendment generally prohibits the suppression of political speech based on the speaker’s identity.”

The Court went even further, recognizing that “[a]ll speakers, including individuals and the media, use money amassed from the economic marketplace to fund their speech. The first Amendment protects the resulting speech, even if it was enabled by economic transactions with persons or entities who disagree with the speaker’s ideas.”

Finally, the Court reasoned that the idea of leveling the playing field actually hurt smaller corporations. For example, when big business communicates with the government directly, “the result is that smaller or nonprofit corporations cannot raise a voice to object when other corporations, including those with vast wealth, are cooperating with Government.”

Anti-Corruption: The Court had previously held that campaign finance laws can legitimately be used to prevent both actual corruption (i.e., quid pro quo bribery) and the more nebulous “appearance of corruption.” The Court made clear, however, that because it was addressing only independent expenditures, there was no threat of actual or perceived corruption. “[I]ndependent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption. In fact, there is only scant evidence that independent expenditures even ingratiate. Ingratiation and access, in any event, are not corruption.”

Dissenting Shareholders: Finally, the Court considered whether the law was a valid way to protect a shareholder who does not want the corporation to spend money on an election. It found this argument failed for three reasons. First, it would allow a law to limit the speech of any corporation, including a media corporation, solely to protect the shareholders who disagree with the editorial position of the company. Second, because the electioneering communications ban applied only during certain time periods, it was not an effective way to protect shareholders. Third, it applied to all corporations, including nonprofits and for-profits with a single shareholder.

 * * * *
Mr. Jacobs is a Washington-based partner in Venable’s regulatory group. He heads the political law practice at Venable and counsels numerous associations on campaign finance, tax, lobbying disclosure, and ethics issues.

Ms. Megaris is an associate in Venable’s regulatory group, where she focuses on transactional, regulatory, and policy matters in a broad range of industries, including nonprofit organizations and trade and professional associations.

This article is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion and should not be relied on as such. Legal advice can only be provided in response to specific fact situations.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Successful Legislative Visits

Successful Legislative Visits
by Bunnie Riedel, Host, Nonprofit Conversation

Most nonprofits are faced with having to deal with legislation from time to time.  Whether it's local city council ordinances or state or federal pieces, nonprofits find themselves needing to educate their legislators about their issues. 

I recently created a guidesheet about how to have an successful legislative visit and want to share it here.  While the guidesheet addresses visiting legislators on Capitol Hill, it can also be applied to any visit with any legislative decision maker.

Don’t drop in, make an appointment: It is more impressive to your legislative office when you are able to come to Washington, D.C. for a visit. But even if you can’t come to D.C. meeting with the legislative office in your home district is still important. Call the district office and make an appointment.

You can find your Representative’s local office here by going to your Representative’s home page.

House of Representatives
You can find your Senator’s local office by going to your Senator’s home page.


Ask to speak with the appointment secretary and be prepared to tell him/her that you’d like to meet with your Representative to discuss your issues or a particular piece of legislation.

The challenge of meeting with legislative aides. It is highly likely you will be meeting with a legislative aide and that poses a challenge. Most legislative aides are working on a variety of issues and may not be working on your issue at all. So be careful not to use “industry” language or terms they may not be familiar with, never assume they understand acronyms.  Frequently newer staff will appreciate any materials you may want to give them as it helps them explain your issue to the legislator.

Be brief. Be prepared to get only fifteen or so minutes with the legislator, staff or aide. Prepare in advance what you are going to say, if necessary take notes with you.

Know your legislator. Even if you have met your legislator before, do you really know how they vote on issues or what issues they are interested in? Go to their website, see what committees they serve on, find out what their interests are. Are they interested in veteran’s issues? Is their interest early childhood education? Look up their voting record at Project Vote Smart see how they vote on your issues or issues that are similar.  Look up their campaign finance record, did they receive money from organizations or businesses that have interests contrary to yours.  Their receipt of donations may not always be an indicaton of how they will vote on a particular issue, but it is information you should know.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone who personally knows the legislator to come with you for the visit. Do you have a friend who knows the legislator? Is there someone at your Rotary or Kiwanis Club? How about your local League of Women Voters or Republican or Democratic Party? Having someone with you who personally knows the legislator can be very helpful.

Travel light. There are times when legislative offices on Capitol Hill will meet with a group of people (say 15-20). That is not advisable when meeting in the district office. If you are doing a group visit in the district office keep the number at no more than five. This prevents the legislator or staff from feeling overwhelmed or “ganged” up on. If you are working with a large group of people who all want to have a visit, break up the large group into smaller groups and conduct the visits separately.

Be punctual. As with most things in life, being late doesn’t make a good impression. If you can’t be on time, be early. If you can’t make the meeting, don’t cancel, do what you can to get someone you trust to go in your place.

Be polite, briefly introduce yourself. Always be polite (especially to the appointment secretary). Give a brief introduction of yourself and a brief one or two sentences as to why you are there.

Don’t do all the talking. Nobody likes being in a “one-way” conversation. Ask questions, listen, find out what is on their mind. Don’t interrupt even if what they are saying is something you completely disagree with, wait until they are done and then offer them “engaged feedback.” “I hear your concern that this bill might be a burden to the taxpayers, but can I give you some examples of how that won’t be the case?” (By the way, never respond with “that’s not true”).

Be positive. Thank him or her for their support in the past, if there is no record of support for this issue, find out what other issues they have been supportive of and thank them for that.

Make it personal. All politics is local as Tip O’Neill once said. Politics are local and they are personal. Explain why your issue is a personal issue. Use examples from your nonprofit work or the community.Tell stories that will be remembered. Stay away from broad sweeping examples, get specific.

Have your supporting materials ready. Be sure to have a copy or copies of the bill you are visiting about, don’t make them look it up. Have talking points. If you have petitions that have been signed or letters of support that have been written, have those with you.

Ask for a commitment or ask when you might be able to have a commitment. If you are meeting with an aide, you probably won’t get a commitment at the meeting. Ask the aide when you should follow up for a commitment. If they aren’t sure, ask if you can call them in one to two weeks as a follow up. Generally, unless your legislator sits on the committees that deal with your issues, they haven’t seen the bill yet and probably won’t give you a direct commitment. Ask your legislator when you can follow up for a commitment on the bill. Ask if there is any other information or materials you could provide to help them in their decision.

Thank them for their time.  Sounds simple, but it is very important.

Finally, the League of Women Voters offers the following excellent advice about what to do or not do.

What to do:

Address your Senator or Representative properly.

Identify yourself immediately at each contact. Public officials meet too many people to remember everyone.

Know the status of the legislation. Refer to a bill by number whenever possible.

Use your own words.

Be brief and explicit, courteous and reasonable.

Establish your own credentials or expertise on the subject of legislation under consideration.

Give legislators succinct, easy to read literature; highlight important facts and arguments. Their time is limited.

Call the chair or members of a committee holding hearings on legislation in which you are interested if you have facts that you think should influence his or her thinking.1

Get to know legislative staff and treat them courteously. Their cooperation can make or break your chances to reach the legislators themselves.

Always keep off-the-record comments confidential.

Call to say you approve, not just to criticize or oppose.

In a letter include your address and sign your name legibly.

Keep the door open for further discussion in spite of any apparently negative attitudes.

What not to do.

Don't begin, "As a citizen and tax payer" (your elected representative assumes you are not an alien, and s/he knows we all pay taxes).

Don't apologize for taking his or her time. If you are brief and to the point s/he will be glad to hear from you.

Don't be arrogant, condescending or threatening toward legislators or their staff.

Don't argue or back recalcitrant legislators into a corner where they take a definite position against you.

Don't make notes of a conversation while talking to a legislator.