All nonprofits CAN and SHOULD be involved in advocacy, lobbying, and elections. Advocacy is the number one way nonprofits are able to advance the issues they care about and help bring systemic, lasting change. Effective advocacy enables organizations to shape public debate on important issues and ensure that underserved communities have a voice in policies that impact their lives. ActionLink has compiled the following information on how to safely and effectively lobby as a nonprofit. We are happy to answer additional questions you have.
- Advocacy allows nonprofits to advance the issues they care about and helps bring about lasting change for the people and communities they serve.
- Do I file as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or 501(c)(4)?
- Organizations may elect the expenditure test under section 501(h) as an alternative method for measuring lobbying activity. Under the expenditure test, the extent of an organization’s lobbying activity will not jeopardize its tax-exempt status, provided its expenditures, related to such activity, do not normally exceed an amount specified in section 4911.
- The importance of holding voter registration events and how to do it in a nonpartisan way.
- Created by ActionLink, this toolkit includes a guide on how to set up a lobby visit, what to do during the visit, and how to continue to build a relationship with your representative after the visit. It also includes a story-crafting worksheet.
- What to do when your nonprofit has an employee running for office.
- Individuals who work for 501(c)(3) organizations are not prohibited from running for office in their personal capacity.
- Through advocacy efforts you can help others while assuring your nonprofit survives and thrives.
- Much advocacy work, including efforts to influence executive branch actions, does not constitute lobbying. Yet contrary to popular misconception, 501(c)(3) public charities—including houses of worship and public foundations—can lobby. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service has stated that public charities “may lobby freely” so long as lobbying is within generous specified limits
Federal tax law explicitly prohibits activity by 501(c)(3) organizations that supports or opposes candidates for public office, but it also recognizes the importance of their participation in the democratic process. The law allows charities to engage in a wide variety of nonpartisan election-related activities, including voter registration and education as well as ballot measure campaigns.
- Federal tax laws already allow every charitable nonprofit to engage in some legislative lobbying activities. There are spending limits and technicalities that curb nonprofits from spending all of their time and money engaged in legislative lobbying, but knowing your rights ensures your organization’s participation in the public policy process.