501c4 vs. 501c3

Together, nowplayingutah.com, Utah Cultural Alliance, and Utahns for Culture are three affiliated organizations serving the humanities and arts of Utah. It is common for member associations like ourselves to have both 501c4 and 501c3 programming to better serve it's constituency. Below is a summary of the differences between a 501c4 and 501c3.

"A 501(c)(3) public charity that organizes a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization and a 501(c)(4) that creates a political organization can greatly expand their permissible advocacy opportunities.1Similarly, a 501(c)(4) that organizes a 501(c)(3) may expand its educational and charitable activities by creating addition- al funding opportunities. This guide talks about organizing and managing these or- ganizations, their legal relationships and the need to maintain separation between and among them." B. Holly Schadler, "The Connection", a publication of BolderAdvocacy. 

Comparison of permissible activities

Activity 501(c)3 Public Charity 501(c)4

Lobby for/against legislation

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Limited 

Unlimited

Support/oppose ballot measures

Limited

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Unlimited

Conduct public education and training sessions about participation in the political process

Yes

Yes

Educate candidates on issues within purview of the organization

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Yes

(must offer information to all candidates)

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Yes

Sponsor a debate between candidates, where all viable candidates are invited and given equal opportunity to speak on a broad range of issues

Yes

Yes

Distribute voter guides to the public that set out the candidatesviews on a broad range of issues

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Yes

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Yes

Distribute voter guides to the public that compare candidates on issues of importance to the organization

No

Yes

Rent mailing lists and facilities at fair market value to other organizations, legislators, and candidates

Yes

(if rent, must allow any candidate to rent at same price)

Yes

(may rent to select candidates only)

Conduct nonpartisan get-out- the-vote activities, voter registration, and education drives

Yes

Yes 

Conduct voter registration and GOTV activities based on party affiliation or how people will vote

No

Yes

Conduct nonpartisan voter protection activities

Yes

Yes

Establish a 501(c)(4)

Yes

Yes

Endorse candidates and publicize its endorsements

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Yes

Fund independent expenditures in support of or opposition to a candidate

No

Yes

Make campaign contributions (monetary or in-kind)

No

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Depends on election law (prohibited for federal candidates; permissible in some states)

Establish and pay for the administrative and fundraising costs of a connected political organization (separate segregated fund)

No

Yes

Criticize sitting elected officials

No

(may not attack their personal characteristics or attack them in their status as a candidate)

Yes

Compare organization’s issue position with that of a candidate

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No

Yes

Connect organization’s criticism of public official to voting in an election

No

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Yes

Highlight the differences between candidates for public office on a high-profile issue on which the candidates have diverging views

No

Yes

Ask candidates to sign pledges on any issue

No

Yes

Post partisan political messages on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr

No

Yes

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