The laws governing nonprofit organizations draw a distinction between lobbying activities and electioneering activities. While GSUSA encourages councils to actively work with and lobby their public officials on policy issues, it is important to remember that any type of electioneering in your official Girl Scout capacity is prohibited. Electioneering is defined as participating in the electoral process by promoting particular candidates for office. Such activity is a direct violation of the tax law that governs non-profit organizations. You may, however, campaign on behalf of a political candidate as an individual without reference to your role as a Girl Scout leader.
The official GSUSA policy on electioneering is as follows:
Political and Legislative Activity
Girl Scouts of the United States of America and any Girl Scout council or other organization holding a Girl Scouts of the United States of America credential may not, nor may they authorize anyone on their behalf to, participate or intervene directly or indirectly in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office (Blue Book of Basic Documents 2006).
Below is a list of electioneering examples. This list is not exhaustive and if at any point you are uncertain as to what constitutes electioneering, contact your local Girl Scout legal counsel.
When acting as a Girl Scout representative, a Girl Scout council staff person, volunteer or young
Girl Scout may NOT engage in the following prohibited electoral activity:
• Endorse any candidate for public office.
• Influence in any way the nomination or election of someone to a federal, state or local public office or to an office in a political organization.
• Mobilize constituents to support or defeat a candidate.
• Use official Girl Scout letterhead or office email to write in support or opposition of a candidate.
• Distribute campaign materials, including flyers, postcards, newsletters and signage.
• Let a political candidate use any council office space or property for a campaign event.
• Coordinate or host council site visits, activities or other functions with an election campaign office.
• Participate in any election events or activities, including a campaign parade or rally.
• Host a flag ceremony to open a political campaign event.
• Provide public opinions about a candidate.
• Wear official Girl Scouts uniforms or other insignia to a political campaign event or fundraiser, even during non-work hours.
• Wear campaign buttons on the Girl Scout uniform at any time, as well as on non-Girl Scout apparel, while conducting official Girl Scout business.
• Make financial contributions to candidates or political parties on behalf of Girl Scouts, meaning any payment, loan, deposit, gift, or other transfer of anything of value.
It IS, however, acceptable for Girl Scout staff and volunteers to engage in the following activities:
• Write, visit, or call your Members of Congress, Governor, state legislator and all other local policy makers in support or opposition to legislation, especially when Girl Scout or girl issues arise.
• Keep your Members of Congress, Governor, state legislators and all other local policy makers informed about of your council’s work. For example, you may continue to mail to your elected officials newsletters, key press releases, fact sheets, annual reports, and other relevant council publications with your position on legislative proposals (including ballot measures) and other public issues.
• Invite your elected officials to major council events, such as Gold Award ceremonies or other community events, hosted by your council as long as the elected official is clear that they cannot use their speaking time as an election-related platform.
• Participate in and host “get out the vote” registration drives. Registration may not be limited to a particular political party or on behalf of a specific political party or candidate.
As the nation’s premier organization for girls, it is our mission to build girls of courage, confidence and character who will make the world a better place. What better way for us to help girls grow strong than to teach them the importance of using their voice by participating in the upcoming election cycle.
It IS acceptable for Girl Scout staff and volunteers to teach girls about the election process by encouraging them to participate in the following activities:
• Going to the polls with an adult on Election Day.
• Collecting signatures of members in their community who promise that they will vote on Election Day such as participating in the “I Promise a Girl Scout I Will Vote” campaign and publicizing the efforts.
• Stage a public candidate debate on a wide range of issues concerning girls that the candidates would address if elected to the office and that are of interest to the public.
• Equally attend Republican and Democratic candidate events in Girl Scout uniform and ask candidates questions about issues that are important to girls and publicize the responses.
• Participate and host “get out the vote” registration drives, urge the public to register to vote and publicize efforts. Again, registration may not be specific to a particular political party or on behalf of a specific political party or candidate.
Girl Scouts of the USA respects that Girl Scout staff and volunteers may hold strong political convictions concerning the upcoming elections; however, it is crucial that you adhere to the GSUSA policy.
Participation in electioneering as Girl Scouts could result in the loss of our 501 (C) (3) tax-exempt status. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this topic, please contact Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, 770-702-9188 or firstname.lastname@example.org .