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Nonprofit Help Desk FAQ: Can Charitable Nonprofits Lobby?

by Molly O'Connell

There is a common misconception that nonprofits cannot lobby, but they can and they should!

With the 1976 Lobby Law and the IRS Regulations set forth in 1990, Congress made it clear that influencing legislation is an appropriate and legitimate activity for charitable organizations.

The confusion often results because charitable nonprofits (designated as 501(c)(3) organizations) are prohibited from participating in partisan politics–working for a political party or candidate. However, it is imperative that nonprofits get involved in the political process which affects policies that impact their ability to carry out their charitable missions. 501(c)(3) organizations do have some limits on how much of their time can be spent on direct lobbying.

MANP’s Raise Your Voice Toolkit has the details on lobbying standards and limits, record keeping, Maine’s lobbying laws and more.

Three Easy Ways to Get Started with Advocacy

  1. Introduce yourself to your legislators–make sure they understand the work your organization does in their district and how you can be a resource in issues relevant to your mission.
  2. Learn how to testify. Register for our Jan 24th webinar on how to make testimony compelling and effective.
  3. Mark your calendar for Nonprofit Week, Feb 6-10! We’ll be speaking up for why nonprofits are essential partners in making Maine a great place to live, work, and visit, and there will be opportunities for you to join in spreading the word about how nonprofits like yours matter.

Find many more resources and tools to support your advocacy in our Answer Center!

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