DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA
Alexis de Tocqueville
“Citizens who are individually powerless
do not very clearly anticipate the strength
that they may acquire by uniting
together; it must be shown to them in
order to be understood. Hence it is often
easier to collect a multitude for a public
purpose than a few persons; a thousand
citizens do not see what interest they
have in combining together; ten
thousand will be perfectly aware of it.”
Advocacy v. Lobbying
•“[T}he act of arguing in favor of something [or supporting
something], such as a cause, idea, or policy [and] the practice of
supporting someone to make their voice heard.” (American Heritage
Dictionary, 4th ed.)
•Advocacy is the process of people participating in decision-making
that affects their lives and the lives of others at the local, state and
national level. Advocacy can also mean helping policymakers find
specific administrative or legislative solutions to persistent and
seemingly intractable problems.
Advocacy v. Lobbying
•“[L]obbying is any attempt to influence specific legislation by
stating a position on specific legislation to legislators or other
government employees who participate in the formulation of
legislation; or urging your members or the general public to contact
their legislators with a position on specific legislation.”
•In Ohio, a professional lobbyist is someone who is paid to advocate
on behalf of, or represent the interests of, another person or entity
before the Ohio General Assembly, the Executive Branch and state
agencies, or any one of Ohio’s five public retirement systems.
Rules for 501(c)(3) Lobbying
•Federal laws actually exist to encourage
charities to lobby within certain specified limits.
•Knowing what constitutes lobbying under the
law, and what the limits are, is the key to being
able to lobby legally and safely.
•The laws have some detail, so consult your
attorney or accountant for professional advice.
Substantial Part Test
•The IRS evaluates the "substantial part" test on the basis
of the facts and circumstances, such as the time (by
both paid and volunteer workers) and the expenditures
devoted to lobbying by the organization.
•Because this test can be applied rather arbitrarily, it is
often advisable for a charity to file a short form with the
IRS in order to be governed by the "expenditure test,"
which is based solely on the amount of money spent for
Expenditure Test – 501(h) Election
•The expenditure test lays out specific limits on how
much money a charity can spend for lobbying, based on
the charity's own "exempt purpose" expenditures:
Expenditure Test – 501(h) Election
•Organizations electing to use the expenditure test must
file Form 5768 at any time during the tax year for which
it is to be effective.
•The election remains in effect for succeeding years
unless it is revoked by the organization.
•Revocation of the election is effective beginning with
the year following the year in which the revocation is
•Form 990 requires all nonprofits to report their “total
expenses paid or incurred in connection with …
•But nonprofits that made an election get to complete
Schedule C’s less detailed Part II-A, which allows them
to simply report their lobbying expenditures in two
broad categories: direct lobbying and grass roots
•Non-electing nonprofits, on the other hand, must
complete the more detailed Schedule C, Part II-B.
What is Direct v. Grassroots Lobbying?
• Direct lobbying -- In general, any attempt to influence any legislation through communication
with a legislator, an employee of a legislative body or other government official, which:
• (1) refers to specific legislation; and
• (2) reflects a view on such legislation.
• A grassroots lobbying communication is one which:
• (1) refers to specific legislation;
• (2) reflects a view on that legislation; and
• (3) encourages the recipient to take action with respect to the legislation, either by
• (a) directly urging the recipient to contact legislators or other government officials in
order to influence legislation;
• (b) including the address, phone number or similar information about a legislator or
• (c) providing a petition, postcard or other prepared message to send to a legislator or
government official in order to influence legislation; or
• (d) identifying one or more legislators who will vote on the legislation as opposing the
organization's view; being undecided; being the recipient's representative in the
legislature; or being a member of the legislative committee that will consider the
legislation. Encouraging the recipient to take action does not include naming the main
sponsor(s) for the purposes of identifying the legislation.
How do I know if I “Lobby”?
•Key elements of lobbying activity that triggers
registration with the Ohio Legislative Inspector
•Compensation – you must receive something of value
in exchange for your efforts;
•Direct Communication – may be either written or oral
and can occur in any medium;
•Amount of time for which you are paid that is spent
How do I know the difference?
•“Lobbying” does not include the following activities:
• providing technical assistance or advice to legislative body or
committee in response to a written request;
• making available nonpartisan analysis, study or research;
providing examinations and discussions of broad, social,
economic and similar problems;
• communicating with a legislative body regarding matters which
might affect the existence of the organization, its powers and
duties, its tax-exempt status, or the deduction of contributions to
the organization (the "self-defense" exception);
• and, updating the members of your own organization on the
status of legislation, without a call to action.
•Charities are expressly prohibited from
•intervening in a political campaign of any
candidate for public office, and
•from engaging in partisan activity of any kind.
•Charities may not use government funds, such
as government grants or contracts, to lobby,
including the use of federal funds to lobby for
federal grants or contracts.
• IRS lobbying regulations also allow private foundations, without
penalty, to make general support grants to publicly supported
charities that do some lobbying, provided the grant is not
earmarked for lobbying purposes.
• A private foundation may also make special purpose grants for
projects that involve lobbying as long as the grant is not earmarked
for lobbying purposes, and the grant does not exceed the non-
lobbying amount of the project budget.
• IRS regulations also provide protection for foundations that make
grants in accordance with IRS guidelines to charities that later lose
their tax exemption because of excess lobbying.
• Working in Coalitions
• Often, one of the most powerful ways for nonprofits to engage in
the public policy process is by working in coalition. Effective
coalitions can amplify voices to legislators and the public, as well
as allow coalition members to share the cost of their advocacy
• Know the Legislative Process & Players
• 1) A bill is introduced in at least one chamber of the legislature.
• 2) It is then assigned to the committee(s) that oversees the issue
addressed by the bill.
• 3) Sometimes, a committee refers a bill to a subcommittee for
Calls to Action
Other useful links