Common Good Forecaster
United Way is proud to partner with Measure of America in launching the Common Good Foreacaster, a human development tool that illustrates how educational outcomes are linked to social and economic indicators.
Some of the features of the Common Good Forecaster include:
- enabled location services to help you find health, education and financial stability data in your local community quickly and easily;
- an interactive geographic interface;
- user friendly tools to see how small changes in educational attainment can change social and economic indicators and;
- mobile design to view the Common Good Forecaster on any device from desktops to smartphones and other mobile devices
The Common Good Forecaster is also an excellent complement to A Portrait of California 2014-2015, California’s latest human development report which measures health, education, and income well-being throughout California and Struggling to Get By: The Real Cost Measure in California 2015, our financial stability report for California.
Feel free to explore the Common Good Forecaster below by seeing how improvements in educational attainment can improve indicators such as life expectancy at birth, crime rates, unemployment in your local community. If helpful, we are glad to share a few tips:
- To start, use either the interactive map or the scroll bar underneath to find your local state and county;
- Once you find your county, you will find human development data such as life expectancy at birth, data on low birthweights, obesity rates and more. Click on "Change Scenario" in the upper right-hand corner and select "All educational levels up 1 category" or "Everyone graduates HS." Notice how selecting either of those options can change social and economic indicators in your community.
- To reset the Common Good Forecaster, press "Change Geography."
- If you would like to see the data sources, the methodology and an FAQ section associated with the Common Good Forecaster, press the "info" button on the upper-right hand corner.
For a more robust tutorial, feel free to explore a helpful video by Measure of America.
The Common Good Forecaster can also be used on mobile devices by texting FORECASTER to 50503.
Click here to read our blog post on the Common Good Forecaster.
California Human Development Index
A Portrait of California, 2014-2015 is a new report by Measure of America that measures how Californians are doing in health, education and income — the building blocks of a decent life and the core focus areas of United Way's community impact work.
A Portrait of California applies the American Human Development Index which tells the story of how ordinary Americans are doing over time, using indicators from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey and other reputable sources. These indicators include life expectancy at birth, educational attainment, school enrollment, median personal earnings and more. In addition to viewing this data at the state, regional, county and neighborhood level, we're also able to see them through the lens of gender, race and ethnicity.
Some highlights from A Portrait of California, 2014-2015 include:
- Over the past three decades, California’s gross domestic product (GDP) has increased by 123%. However, the income of the typical California household has only increased by 7% in the same time period.
- A person born in California today is expected to live 81.2 years, more than two years longer than the national average. However, California experiences a Latino paradox where Latinos outlive whites by 3.6 years despite having lower educational levels and lower rates of health coverage.
- While nearly 31% of Californians have at least a bachelor’s degree, 18.5% of Californians have less than a high school diploma (or equivalent). Only the state of Texas has a worse high school completion rate.
Click here to read the Key Findings.
Click here to read the Full Report. (Or purchase a hard copy) (NEW: En Español).
Click here to download state and county profiles, featuring neighborhood data.
Click here to view interactive county maps.
Click here to download the full data set from the report.
Click here to view human development data by CA Senate and Assembly districts (NEW).
Common Good Forecaster
United Ways of California is proud to partner with United Way Worldwide and Measure of America in launching the Common Good Forecaster, a human development tool that illustrates how educational outcomes are linked with social and economic indicators.
Click here to see how improvements in educational attainment can improve life expectancy at birth, crime rates, unemployment and more in your local community.
To view the Common Good Forecaster on mobile devices, you can also text FORECASTER to 50503.
About Human Development
The American Human Development Index measures three areas that most of us would agree are the basic building blocks of a decent life: health, education and income. The index is modeled on the approach taken by the annual United Nations’ Human Development Report, which has now been instituted in nearly 200 countries.
Founded by the Pakistani economist, Mahbub ul Haq, the international human development report has been released by the United Nations Human Development Programme regularly since 1990. The Human Development Index was developed by economist Mahbub ul Haq and incorporates the “capabilities approach,” best articulated by Amartya Sen, the Nobel Laureate economist. Under this approach, human development is defined as the process of enlarging people’s freedoms and opportunities and improving their well being. It shifts attention from material measures of economic growth (such as gross domestic product) to focus instead on how people are doing, what capabilities they have and what they can become.
In 2006, Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council, developed the American Human Development Report to measure how the United States is doing in health, education and income. Since that time, Measure of America has released numerous national, state, county and thematic reports on American Human Development.
Click here to download California’s previous human development report, A Portrait of California, 2011.
Lobbying & Advocacy for Nonprofits
Lobbying and Advocacy for Nonprofits
- What is lobbying?
- Are there restrictions on the amount of lobbying a nonprofit organization can do?
- Can nonprofits endorse or oppose candidates to office or ballot initiatives?
- What are the IRS rules and issues for lobbying and advocacy by nonprofits? (PDF)
- Where can we find more information about lobbying and advocacy?
Nonprofit organizations often unnecessarily limit their ability to get involved in public policy out of fear of losing their tax exempt status. The good news, though, is that:
- Nonprofits actually can do a good deal of lobbying under current IRS limits without endangering their tax exemption; and
- Most policy advocacy is not lobbying, so it does not pose a threat to the organization's tax exemption
Under IRS regulations, "lobbying" is defined as:
- a communication
- to legislators (or urging the public to contact legislators)
- intended to influence specific legislation
Roughly speaking, "legislation" is defined under the IRS regulations as action by a legislative body, such as a city council or county board of supervisors, state or federal legislatures, as well as by the public when voting on a legislative initiative or referendum. Since courts and administrative or executive agencies (e.g., your local school board or Department of Public and Social Services) are not considered legislative bodies, their actions are not considered legislation, so urging them to take certain actions would not be considered lobbying. Note also that to constitute lobbying, a communication must address “specific legislation”, which means a specific policy to be enacted by a law, as distinct from addressing a broad policy issue. With regard to ballot initiatives, a proposal is specific legislation once it is presented in a petition for signatures to qualify the proposal for the ballot.
A great deal of advocacy, then, would not be considered lobbying under the IRS regulations. If your communications is not about a specific proposed decision for legislators to make (passing a bill or ordinance), or your communication does not encourage citizens to urge their legislators to enact a law, then it is not lobbying. The key issues are who the audiences are, and you are asking the audience to do. If advocates are speaking with administrative officials, who do not pass laws but rather enforce them (and changes in their policies can make a huge difference), their advocacy is not lobbying because there is no legislative decision. (This difference between executive decisions and legislative decisions can be confusing.) Public education or issue advocacy, or generally promoting a point of view on an issue, typically is not lobbying for one of two reasons: (1) When directed toward legislators, an advocacy campaign is not lobbying unless it urges legislators to adopt specific provisions of law; or (2) When directed to members of the public, even though the advocacy campaign endorses a specific response in law to a problem, such as increasing funding for education, it is not lobbying unless it encourages citizens to urge their legislators to pass an increase in education funding.
Under IRS rules (if you choose the 501(h) election described below), lobbying does not include:
- Making available the results of nonpartisan analysis, study, or research;
- Providing technical advice or assistance to a government body, or to its committee or other subdivision, in response to a written request from the chair of that body (this is sort of a free pass to directly express a view about legislation to the relevant legislators);
- Self-defense communications with a governmental body regarding legislation which would affect your existence, your powers or duties, your tax-exempt status, or the deductibility of contributions to your group (note that fighting cuts in government funding for your cause is not self-defense);
- Discussing broad social issues, without mentioning specific legislation;
- Communicating with a government official or employee, other than for the purpose of influencing legislation (note that many important decisions, such as how to enforce or implement a law, are made by government agencies, and since their decisions are not legislation, even direct communications to agency officials about these decisions would not be lobbying);
- Communicating with members of your organization with respect to legislation and expressing a view about the legislation so long as the communication does not encourage members to take action regarding the legislation.
2. Are there restrictions on the amount of lobbying a nonprofit organization can do?
Tax exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations are prohibited from lobbying "except to an insubstantial degree." The IRS evaluates an organization’s lobbying activities under two rules.
- The general rule looks at the totality of an organization’s lobbying activities, whether by paid staff or volunteers, and considers whether those activities are "insubstantial." This test gives the IRS fairly broad discretion; courts have in the past considered expenditures of more than 5% of the organization’s budget, time and effort to be “substantial.”
- The other more defined test is the 501(h) expenditure test, named after the bright line rule set forth in Section 501(h) of the Internal Revenue Code. This test sets specific dollar limits on a nonprofit’s lobbying activities. The 501(h) test not only sets clear limits, it also only includes lobbying expenditures (money and staff time) toward those limits; the work of volunteers is not counted against the limits, as it would be under the "insubstantial" test. In order to be governed by the 501(h) test, an organization must file a form electing to be evaluated under the rule (IRS Form 5768). The disclosures required under the 501(h) test are essentially the same as that required for the annual informational return (IRS Form 990).
In most cases, an organization will be able to engage in more lobbying activity, with greater confidence that it will not endanger its tax exempt status, if it elects to be governed by the 501(h) test. The 501(h) rule places an overall limit of $1 million on lobbying expenditures, however, so organizations with very large budgets may be able to do more lobbying under the old "insubstantiality" rule.
3. Can nonprofits endorse or oppose candidates to office or ballot initiatives?
Supporting or opposing any candidate for elected office, even in nonpartisan races, is strictly prohibited and can result in loss of your tax exemption. Fear of violating this prohibition on political activity may be behind the reluctance of many nonprofits to get involved in policy issues.
Nonprofits can, however, get involved in election campaigns for or against ballot initiatives or referenda. These campaigns are very important policy tools in California and many other states. Trying to influence how people vote on initiatives is direct lobbying, since the voters act as legislators in approving or rejecting a ballot initiative.
4. What are the IRS rules and issues for lobbying and advocacy by nonprofits?
For a broader discussion of IRS rules regarding lobbying and advocacy by nonprofits, and the role of foundation grants, please Download this PDF.
Before engaging in public policy, be sure to assess whether your planned activities are lobbying or simply advocacy, and if it is lobbying, how much your organization can do without exceeding IRS limits.
5. Where can we find more information about lobbying and advocacy?
- Worry-Free Lobbying for Nonprofits (Washington, D.C.: Alliance for Justice, 2000)
- Harmon, Gail M., Ladd, Jessica A., and Evans, Eleanor A. Being a Player: A Guide to the IRS Lobbying Regulations for Advocacy Charities (Washington, D.C.: Alliance for Justice, 1991, 1995)
- Colvin, Gregory L., and Finley, Lowell. The Rules of the Game: An Election Year Legal Guide for Nonprofit Organizations (Washington, D.C.: Alliance for Justice, 1996)
- Colvin, Gregory L., and Finley, Lowell. Seize the Initiative (Washington, D.C.: Alliance for Justice, 1996)
- Schadler, B. Holly. The Connection: Strategies for Creating and Operating 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and PACs (Washington, D.C.: Alliance for Justice 1998)
- Smucker, Bob. The Nonprofit Lobbying Guide (Washington, D.C.: Independent Sector, 1999)
- Avner, Marcia. The Lobbying and Advocacy Handbook for Nonprofit Organizations, (Amherst H. Wilder Foundation)
- www.clpi.org- Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest
- www.afj.org/for-nonprofits-foundations - Alliance for Justice
- www.npaction.org - OMB Watch (or www.ombwatch.org)
- www.ncrp.org - National Center for Responsive Philanthropy