CalNonprofits is an important voice for California’s nonprofit community. Through our public policy work, we protect and enhance the ability of California’s 501c3 nonprofits to serve our communities, our state, the nation, and the world. This framework outlines six policy priorities that define and advance our work and describes the criteria we use to prioritize our advocacy efforts.

Our advocacy builds on the rich history of California nonprofits at the forefront of important social movements—including the women’s suffrage campaign, free speech and civil rights movements, wage equity work, and climate change efforts—to broaden and strengthen our sector’s impact. In advocating for nonprofits, we advocate for democracy, as independent nonprofits are themselves both expressions of democracy and protectors of democracy. Nonprofits represent a wide range of perspectives and communities, provide alternatives to government intervention, and strengthen the representation of diverse groups and interests—all critical for a healthy democracy.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits have stepped up, as we always do, to respond to the needs of our communities. Advocacy on behalf of our sector and our communities has become more important than ever. By working together, we can protect and promote the public interests of our communities.

The pandemic and other recent events have both highlighted and exacerbated inequities in society, including resource disparities across California. Despite the work of nonprofits to mitigate these inequities, they continue to exist in our communities and in our sector.

We integrate, throughout all of our policy efforts, a focus on addressing inequities, and we support efforts to bring a more equitable distribution of resources to our communities and to our sector. In particular, we recognize disparities between nonprofits in wealthy and poor communities, between those in metropolitan and rural communities, and between those in predominantly white communities and those in communities of color.

Our Policy Priorities

1. Advocate for sufficient public investment in our communities

We believe the purpose of government is to promote the general welfare of the people, and private philanthropic resources, while helpful, are insufficient toward that end.

We believe nonprofits, as key economic drivers and employers in the state, should be involved in all matters related to economic recovery and the state budget.

We support government budget and fiscal policies that provide sufficient resources to equitably and adequately meet the needs of Californians.

Because private philanthropy is also an important funding source for nonprofits, we work to protect the integrity of the donor-nonprofit relationship and to maintain donor confidence in nonprofits. And because 501c3 donations are tax-deductible, society has a stake in how donations are solicited and used. For these reasons, we support efforts to bring greater accountability to donation solicitation and utilization and greater transparency to philanthropy overall.

2. Improve and strengthen the nonprofit sector’s relationship with government

We support nonprofits’ access to and collaboration with government. We believe that appropriate regulation of nonprofits strengthens the nonprofit community as a whole. Nonprofit involvement in the development of regulations is crucial to ensure policies that are effective, reasonable, and equitable.

We believe nonprofits should not be disadvantaged in government bidding processes.

We believe that government contracts with nonprofits must pay for fair shares of indirect expenses. We believe nonprofits should be paid in a timely fashion on government contracts.

We believe government must support nonprofits—as early responders and as drivers of economic recovery—during emergencies, including providing relief comparable to relief for for-profit entities. Government agencies must provide contract flexibility so that nonprofit contractors can adapt services to comply with emergency regulations and can respond to the changing needs of our communities.

3. Support the nonprofit workforce

We are watchful of all policies that affect the nonprofit workforce, including the minimum wage, overtime rules, student debt, healthcare, and retirement benefits.

We support policies that encourage all employers to be good employers, including nonprofit organizations.

We oppose policies that place burdens disproportionately upon nonprofits as employers.

We support policies that facilitate easy, safe, and rewarding opportunities for Californians from all walks of life to volunteer with nonprofits, as well as policies that support the ability of nonprofits to effectively recruit and manage a volunteer workforce.

4. Promote civic engagement

We support the ability of nonprofits to engage fully in public policy advocacy within legal limits, and the ability of foundations to support this advocacy.

We support policies that incentivize charitable giving by individuals and businesses and provide equitable tax benefits for people of all income and wealth levels. We do not automatically support every proposal that would increase giving; we look at each proposal to determine how well it supports the overall public good.

We support policies that ensure that Californians have full access to voting, are informed of their voting rights, and receive objective and complete information about candidates and measures. In particular, we support policies that address demographic disparities in voter turnout through voter education and expanded access to voting. We believe nonprofits have an essential role to play in achieving these goals.

We support equitable access to broadband and other communication tools that are fundamental to participation in civic life, education, and employment opportunities. We also support expanded approaches, including telephone access, for participation in public government hearings so that members of the public who do not have broadband or in-person access to those meetings can participate.

5. Ensure nonprofit independence and public accountability

We support streamlining nonprofit reporting and filing obligations, while preserving transparency and accountability. We are watchful of legislative and regulatory actions that burden nonprofits without justification.

We support policies that mandate fair political practices and transparency in all sectors, including the nonprofit sector.

We support the ability of nonprofit organizations of all sizes and focus to be able to fundraise effectively and efficiently, within the parameters of the public good. We are watchful of policies and regulations which would limit fundraising activities, place undue fees on fundraising activities, or place nonprofit fundraisers at a disadvantage to for-profit entities.

We also recognize the importance of the right to privacy for donors and other constituencies.

6. Protect and defend the broad values of the nonprofit community

At times, it is important for CalNonprofits to protect and defend the broader values and standards associated with the nonprofit community, such as access to healthcare, social services, financial resources, and education; arts and culture; environmental protection and sustainability; human and civil rights; and racial, economic, and gender justice. Although we may not represent the specific values of every nonprofit in California (impossible, given the rich diversity of our nonprofit community), we do act in alignment with the broader, community-focused values the sector as a whole represents.

Using our Policy Framework

CalNonprofits decides about our involvement in public policy work on a flexible, case-by-case basis, using the following questions to help guide our decision-making:

  • Would our involvement advance our mission?
  • Would our involvement draw on our expertise, positioning, and knowledge?
  • Does the policy in question significantly affect the California nonprofit sector?
  • Would our involvement help reduce disparities and advance equity among Californians?
  • Would our involvement create opportunities to engage member organizations in advocacy and to expand our membership base?
  • Would our involvement add value to the effort, and do we receive value to our organization and members through our involvement?
  • Do we have the capacity to be effective advocates?
  • Do we have a unique contribution to add?


We do not advocate on issues related to the agendas of various nonprofit subsectors. However, we do facilitate forums in which nonprofit organizations can engage each other in collaboration and discussion on issues important mainly to subsectors.

When we refer to nonprofits, we mean organizations that are exempt from federal income taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.


Examples of CalNonprofits’ recent advocacy successes:

  • We led the effort to stop AB 2855, a bill in the California legislature that would have required nonprofits to place unnecessary and burdensome notices on every document that included a fundraising message -- not just California nonprofits but any nonprofit that attempted to raise funds in California. In just two months, we mobilized more than 700 nonprofit organizations to speak up to oppose this bill, an unprecedented show of solidarity. This was truly a team effort that showed the power of the nonprofit community.
  • We made it easier for nonprofits to do business. We championed AB 327 which extends for another seven years an exemption to state prevailing wage rules for work performed by volunteers and AB 556, which alters the definition and disclosure of commercial fundraisers in an effort to improve transparency for interested donors.
  • We helped craft a motion, unanimously passed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, directing its county executive to develop recommendations on how county government will implement the provisions of the OMB Uniform Guidance related to paying reasonable indirect costs of nonprofit services with federal funds. This has led to a series of meetings between the county executive, nonprofits and philanthropic leaders to design effective implementation policies.
  • We put nonprofits at the table by actively supporting Senator Leno’s bill to increase the minimum wage for all Californians, and by advocating and negotiating with local governments to win minimum wage increases in Los Angeles City and County.
  • We work to ensure that Californians have full access to voting, and that's why we threw our support behind AB 1461, the California New Motor Voter Program to automatically register voters when they obtain or renew a drivers license or receive a state identification card.

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