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Non-Profit Legal Issues: Lobbying

Non-Profit Lobbying from The Startup Garage

Lobbying is the act of working to influence legislative or administrative decisions.  Any activity by a charity relating to proposed or pending legislation or molding public opinion on legislative matters could qualify as lobbying.  Lobbying can be done either professionally or on a certain issue by passionate members of the community.  There are many organizations that are formed for the purpose of lobbying on behalf of a community or a cause. While this sort of advocacy is often motivated by the same desires to see change that motivate non-profits, the two activities have very little legal overlap.  This is because the actions of a non-profit are meant to benefit the public, not just a segment of the public with a particular political view.  A non-profit that has qualified for a 501(c)(3) exemption is prohibited from all lobbying efforts except for those that are “insubstantial”.  And to be permitted to do so, the 501(c)(3) organization must submit a 501(h) election, available as Form 5768.


However, a 501(c)(3) organization is expressly prohibited from  participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, candidates for public office. If a non-profit wishes to engage in a moderate to extensive amount of lobbying, they can still qualify for tax exemption as a 501(c)(4) action organization.  The downside to being a 501(c)(4) is that donations to a 501(c)(4) organization are not tax deductible to the donor.  For more information about applying for and your lobbying rights as a 501(c)(4) organization, please see the IRS’s web page about Social Welfare Organizations.

*The information contained in this post is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.  You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this site without seeking legal or other professional advice. The contents of this post contain general information and may not reflect current legal developments or address your situation. We disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on any content on this site.

Whether you have a question about Non-Profit Lobbying Issues, or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

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