Can a political candidate purchase a booth at a nonprofit's fundraiser?

Our 501©(3) nonprofit humane society is having a fundraiser in October, at which various vendors and organizations will pay a sponsorship fee in order to set up a booth. A local political candidate has expressed interest in purchasing a booth at the event, something that’s never happened with us before. I’m guessing that the IRS wouldn’t have any problems with this, as long as we treat the political candidate like anyone else (i.e., we don’t give them any special breaks); can anyone tell me for certain?

(And I understand that nothing on this board is to be constituted as legal advice etc.; I’m looking for a general idea, not a binding judgment).


Certainly! I’ve organized this at 3 local neighborhood festivals in the last couple of weeks.

In fact, the non-profit could be in trouble if they refuse to rent space to the political candidate/group on the same terms as they do to anyone else. We’ve occasionally run into groups that won’t rent to us, and we suggest to them that they ask their lawyer if they can legally do that. Their lawyer’s response generally panics them. (But we don’t push it much; it just antagonizes people and that isn’t what we want to do. We mostly do voter registration anyway, people are usually not interested in more than that at this kind of event.)

Sometimes the non-profit groups claim they can’t, because they are non-partisian, and renting us a booth would be “endorsing” our campaign. So we ask them if they are endorsing the specific insurance agent, or the multi-level-marketing scam that they have rented booths to. (Oddly enough, it is often non-profit groups that get their funding from government bodies that do this.)

Generally, if you do as you said (offer anybody the same booth space, and charge them the same rent), you should have no problems.

Makes sense–thanks! Do you by any chance have a cite for this that I can offer my boss?


Not really. Does he really need a cite for something so basic?

How about this:

Direct him toward the end of that first paragraph, where it talks about “the equal protection of the laws”.