California Campaign Finance and Ballot Measure Guide Prepares Nonprofits for Civic Engagement in 2020



2020 will be a banner year for nonprofits working on ballot measures in California. As of today, “Schools and Communities First” (which would reform commercial property tax rules in California), education funding, and criminal justice reform are all approved to appear on this year’s ballots.

Bold and creative nonprofits in California are turning to ballot measures as a way to move policies and community services funding forward. Likewise, progressive activists have had to fight against ballot measures that would to turn back the clock on policy gains in reproductive justice, marriage equality, environmental sustainability, the death penalty, and more.

As many Bolder Advocacy partners know, supporting or opposing a ballot measure typically counts as lobbying under IRS rules. But nonprofits pushing for or against ballot measures (and the foundations that fund them) need to know that California laws also regulate ballot measure activity. In California, “campaign finance” rules include not only candidate campaigns, but also all ballot measures in the state (at both the state and local level).

Bolder Advocacy is here to help nonprofits make sense of these additional rules, so that organizations and funders can better plan and carry out their ballot measure advocacy campaigns while staying legally compliant. We’re proud to share with you an updated guide summarizing the laws and regulations governing campaign finance in California. Please contact Bolder Advocacy for any questions about this revised guide! You can reach the Bolder Advocacy attorney of the day by contacting our technical assistance hotline at or 866-NP-LOBBY (866-675-6229).