Nonprofits + Lobbying

Can nonprofits lobby?

Public charities, or 501(c)(3) organizations, are allowed to lobby provided the activity is insubstantial in relation to the overall organization. The lobbying activities of social welfare groups, or 501(c)(4) organizations, and trade associations, or 501(c)(6) organizations, are not similarly restricted. No nonprofit organization can use funds from government grants or contracts for lobbying activities.

Charitable organizations are not allowed to participate in or attempt to influence political campaigns; if they do, they risk losing their tax-exempt status. However, public charities may educate voters during political campaigns, including getting statements from candidates, conducting public forums, giving testimony on party platforms, and providing issue briefings for candidates.

Excerpted from “What You Should Know About Nonprofits” a joint project of Board Source and Independent Sector.

Additional Resources

  • MANP’s Raise Your Voice Toolkit was created as a handbook for nonprofit staff and volunteers engaged in advocacy and lobbying.
  • MANP’s Answer Center has a range of articles and tools to help nonprofits lobby legally.