Nonprofit Advocacy & Lobbying: How to Work Within Federal Law and Achieve Greater Impact

Host Organization: Stanford Social Innovation Review


Advocacy and lobbying shape public debate around a wide range of issues important to nonprofits. Federal law allows 501(c)(3) public charities (including houses of worship and public foundations) to lobby. This comprehensive workshop will help explain what lobbying is and why it is so important. With the right tools and information, you’ll see how you can make advocacy work for your nonprofit and your community. Join us as we dispel some all-too-common MYTHS, including the ideas that “advocacy and lobbying are the same,” “nonprofits can’t lobby due to legal restrictions,” or “lobbying is hard and inappropriate for nonprofits.” To provide both strategic frameworks and practical tips and tools, this training will address:

  • How the tax law permits and restricts nonprofit lobbying
  • One easy step your nonprofit can take to maximize the amount you’re allowed to spend on lobbying
  • Annual lobbying limits and ceilings
  • Tips for taking advantage of the narrow definitions of lobbying to make the most of your lobbying efforts

The application of these rules to ballot measure initiatives
This SSIRLive! program will demonstrate how advocacy encompasses a much broader range of strategies than just lobbying, including research and public education, approaching elected officials, and voter engagement. This session will increase your comfort level with advocacy by enhancing your understanding of:

  • The two ways 501(c)(3) public charities can measure lobbying
  • What does and doesn’t count as lobbying under federal tax law
  • How to track and report lobbying
  • Strategies for getting the most from advocacy

Abby Levine, director of the Bolder Advocacy Initiative at Alliance for Justice provides legal guidance to help grantmakers with advocacy and other nonprofit organizations with participating in policymaking. Former executive director of Craigslist Foundation, social entrepreneur, and best-selling author, Darian Rodriguez Heyman will join her.

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