Prohibition on Electoral Politics

Chapters or councils may not endorse or oppose any candidate for public office.

TU cannot endorse or oppose any candidates for elective office; nor can TU use its funds or any other of its resources (e.g., phones, computers, offices) to support or oppose candidates for elected political office. The prohibition is found in the federal tax code under provisions that regulate tax-exempt charitable organizations. It applies to the national organization, councils, chapters, and to staff and volunteers acting on behalf of or in the name of TU. While there is a variety of ways 501(c)(3) organizations can play neutral, non-partisan roles in the electoral process, failure to comply with these narrowly defined restraints could endanger TU’s tax-exempt status, and therefore the very financial foundation of our organization. Trout Unlimited’s exempt status is a hugely important asset that the Board of Trustees, staff, and volunteers are duty-bound to safeguard at all cost. Because the penalties are so serious, we want to act with an abundance of caution when dealing with candidates for office by detailing prohibited activity and strongly encouraging you to consult with TU staff before considering even electoral activity authorized for tax-exempt organizations.

In addition to complying with the prohibition against use of TU funds and resources for political campaign contributions, all TU volunteer leaders and staff must refrain from making any statement that has the effect of endorsing or opposing a candidate for elected political office in TU’s name. In addition to the obvious examples (“TU endorses Candidate A” or “TU opposes Candidate B”), please bear in mind that anything you say publicly in your capacity as a TU leader or staff regarding how you or someone else should or even might vote for or against a candidate for elected political office (“I, the President of a chapter of TU, voted Egalitarian in the last elections, but I’m voting for the Contrarian Party this time” or “You may have voted Contrarian last time, but as President of a TU chapter I think you should vote Green this time”) could be construed as a TU endorsement or statement in opposition. Even if you are careful to say that you are voicing a personal opinion and not speaking on behalf of TU, in the heat of a political campaign season, any such public statement of support or opposition may be construed as a statement by or on behalf of TU.

The above obviously places some limits on the free speech of TU volunteer leaders and staff, but it does not affect such private activity as making campaign contributions of personal funds or non-public statements of support or opposition to candidates for elected political office, or (obviously) casting your vote. Nor does it prohibit you in your private, non-TU capacity, from participating in election-related canvassing or other activities or hosting or attending fundraising events for candidates for elected office, but you must be careful not to use any TU mailing lists or other resources in connection with any such activity or event and must (obviously) observe the other precautions and prohibitions described in at tu.org/riskmanagement.

TU will continue to engage in advocacy efforts in pursuit of its mission, and doing so will at times will include communication regarding legislators’ positions on issues on which TU has long been working.  At all times, but particularly during campaign season, such communication must be handled in a way that is consistent with IRS rules for 501(c)(3) nonprofits. There are numerous ways to engage legislators and candidates that, if done correctly, are well within the IRS rules, such as candidate forums, questionnaires, and issue-oriented presentations to candidates and their staffs as long as TU representatives treat each candidate with equal consideration, do not pass judgment on their positions and are in accord with TU’s mission. Please consider engaging in these activities in order to advance TU’s mission, but err on the side of caution, and contact volunteer operations staff before engaging in any kind of activity that could be construed as attempting to influence an election.


EVENTS & TRAININGS

TU Volunteer Leaders trainings are a powerful way to connect with resources, learn from fellow volunteers and grow your impact locally. Join us for the following events:

In-Person Trainings:

2021 Annual Meeting
Due to increasing COVID-19 concerns and projections, the 2021 Annual Meeting is cancelled.

2021 Regional Rendezvous
Due to increasing COVID-19 concerns and projections, the 2021 Regional Rendezvous are postponed.

Online Trainings:

View past training recordings or join an upcoming live, online webinar, held at 8 p.m. EST unless otherwise noted.

February 23 — Virtual Advocacy: Using Online Petitions to Grow Impact (8PM)

March 4 — Filing the NEW Annual Activity Report & IRS Reporting Requirements (8PM)

March 15 — Embrace A Stream Grant Training (8PM)

March 29 — Effective Digital Communications During COVID (8PM)

April 8 — TU Event Registration Tools to Better Manage and Promote Your Activities (8PM)

CONTACT VOLUNTEER OPERATIONS

Your Volunteer Operations Staff is here to help! 

Nick Halle
Volunteer Operations Coordinator
(703) 284-9425
Contact Nick for:

  • Volunteer Leader Login Issues
  • Insurance Requests / Questions
  • Fundraising Program & Support
  • Membership Recruitment Tools
  • L.L. Bean Rod Donations


Lisa Beranek

Leadership Development Manager
(907) 205-0974
Contact Lisa for:

  • Leadership Recruitment & Development
  • Embrace A Stream Grants Program
  • Strategic Planning Support
  • Diversity Event Planning