501(c)(4) Strategy and Discussion Guide

Published: October 2016

Type: Publication

A 501(c)(4) organization is a social welfare organization that may pursue educational, lobbying, and some limited political activities, including electoral advocacy.


501(c)(4) social welfare organizations are a vital tool for nonprofits and funders seeking to shape policy outcomes that benefit their members, constituencies, grantees, and society at large. This Strategy and Discussion Guide is for individuals, organizations, and funders interested in starting 501(c)(4) organizations. It discusses the strategic questions that must be considered in determining whether, when, and for what purpose(s) to create a 501(c)(4).

Establishing, managing, and maximizing the advocacy capacity of a 501(c)(4) entails a number of considerations. In this resource, Alliance for Justice lays out those considerations in detail and outline examples of successful management strategies.


This resource was part of the Atlas Learning Project, an initiative to draw on the considerable experiences and insights of The Atlantic Philanthropies as its grantmaking came to a close. The Atlas Learning Project was a three-year effort coordinated by the Center for Evaluation Innovation to synthesize and share lessons from advocacy and policy change efforts that Atlantic and other funders have supported in the U.S., with the goal of helping push philanthropy and advocacy in bolder and more effective directions.

Other Resources on 501(c)(4)s