The Faith in Place Action Fund is excited to begin work promoting political action for environmental justice in Illinois. You may be familiar with us through our affiliate 501c3 organization, Faith in Place. You also might be wondering what the differences are between the two organizations, and why the Action Fund was started in the first place. Here are some helpful things to know:
A bit of history
Faith in Place was founded 17 years ago and continues working to empower Illinois people of all faiths to be leaders in caring for the Earth, providing resources to educate, connect, and advocate for healthier communities.
Actions taken by faithful individuals and houses of worship to live more lightly on the Earth are incredibly meaningful and impactful within each community. However, many of the challenges that our planet faces are at a larger scale that requires changes in our policy making to effectively address the scale of these injustices.
We can do so much more to create change when we collaborate to make our voices heard to our elected officials. We need people whose religious beliefs compel them to think about the consequences of our actions on our neighbors, on society’s most marginalized groups, and on future generations to hold powerful polluters and politicians accountable.
In 2007, Faith in Place organized the first Advocacy Day trip to the Illinois state capitol in Springfield to show elected officials that people of faith care about the impacts our actions are having on the land, water, and air that we share. Faith in Place’s efforts to give people voices through advocacy have grown ever since, through coordinating clergy visits with legislators, holding workshops to educate people about the legislative process, and mobilizing participation in rallies for our common home.
These advocacy efforts are growing so rapidly that Faith in Place felt limited by its designation as a 501c3 non-profit. Thus, the Faith in Place Action Fund was started as a 501c4 affiliated organization in order to continue growing our impact.
We need to dive (briefly!) into the U.S. tax code to explain this distinction.
Both 501c3 and 501c4 organizations are non-profits, meaning that they invest their profits into furthering their programs, rather than dividing them among shareholders. They are also exempt from paying federal income taxes in order to dedicate more funds to their missions.
A 501c3 organization is organized as a “public charity,” with the purpose of serving the wider interests of the community. Donations made to 501c3 organizations are tax-deductible. 501c3 organizations are permitted to educate supporters about general advocacy issues and already-enacted laws. In order to ensure that the purpose of a 501c3 is to serve broad public interest, it is limited in the amount of education about pending legislation and direct lobbying to elected officials in which it may engage. A 501c3 organization also must disclose all donors.
In contrast, the purpose of a 501c4 is to promote “social welfare.” Other common examples of 501c4 organizations include civic leagues, unions, and trade associations. A 501c4 can engage in unlimited direct lobbying as long as it pertains to the mission of the organization. A 501c4 is not required to disclose its donors (although because we are people of faith, we are committed to do so).
What’s in a name?
It’s a common practice in the non-profit world to name a 501(c)(4) an “Action Fund” of its affiliated organization. It is our hope that this name reminds people of the organization’s purpose – to actively work for ACTION on the environmental issues that are most pressing to our communities.
What’s next for the Faith in Place Action Fund?
The Faith in Place Action Fund will be raising memberships, lobbying for our principles in the Illinois State Legislature, and endorse one candidate in an Illinois legislative race. Check out next week’s blog post to learn more about what we look for in endorsing legislative champions.
For members, there will be an invite-only gala for legislators, clergy, and grasstops leaders.
As we grow as an organization, we hope to make a difference across many different levels of policy-making on behalf of environmental justice. You can help the Faith in Place Action Fund in this journey by becoming a member or making a donation today!