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Abide by these federal laws governing the activities of lobbying as they relate to nonprofit organizations. (Alliance for Justice)

This summary explains the distinction between lobbying and the broader range of activities that constitute advocacy.  (Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest)

The Alliance for Justice helps nonprofits and foundations navigate the rules and regulations, and better understand what’s possible through advocacy. Their goal is to help nonprofits embrace advocacy and begin to use it as a tool to further support the communities they serve. Have an advocacy-related question? 

AHEC/Community Partners has been working to support community coalitions in defining, developing and carrying out their own agendas for over 10 years. This study looks at lessons learned throughout their history. (AHEC Partners)

Identifies benefits that local governments receive from working with small community nonprofits, challenges that these nonprofits often face in developing internal strength, reasons that governments help address these challenges, and strategies that governments use to provide such assistance. (UNC School of Government)

If your nonprofit's budget is over $25,000, you generally have to register with the Charitable Solicitation Licensing Division of the N.C. Secretary of State. All nonprofits should contact the Secretary of State to determine if you need to register for a Charitable Solicitation License or to apply for exemption from the license.

This guide is a three part series that takes a look at the following: When is a collaborative approach appropriate and useful, and when is it inappropriate and harmful?  How should individuals and organizations respond to invitations to collaborate? When should they initiate such efforts?  How should collaborative processes be conducted? (University of Virginia's Institute for Environmental Negotiation)

This final part in this series provides the appendix and resource materials to help you in a collaborative process. (University of Virginia's Institute for Environmental Negotiation)

This chart compares the meanings of these types of tax status, lobby activities, political activities, applications required, and disclosure of fundraising solicition information. (The Alliance for Justice)

A summary of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations regarding coordinated communications with federal candidates and political party committees.  (Alliance for Justice)

How does the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on corporations and elections affect you? On the surface, it doesn’t. If your organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, you still cannot support or oppose political parties or candidates for office.

Some assumptions about nonprofits are like urban legends. Like the legendary alligators in New York City sewers, these stories have gained credibility through their longevity. This article includes several popular myths about nonprofits.

The following IRS rules are a general guideline only.  In applying the rules, context is critical.  Consult an attorney for guidance on your nonprofit's specific activities.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is releasing this fact sheet to provide information to help section 501(c)(3) organizations stay in compliance with the federal tax law. The contents reflect the IRS interpretation of tax laws enacted by Congress, Treasury regulations, and court decisions. The information is not comprehensive, however, and  it is not intended to replace the law or be the sole source of information. (IRS)

It is illegal for North Carolina lobbyists and their principals to give gifts to legislators or other “designated individuals,” but these exceptions are allowed.

After a summer Supreme Court ruling, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) adopted a new rule allowing nonprofits to run issue advertisements that mention candidates before an election or primary. However, nonprofits that do this must disclose any donors who give more than $1,000 to the issue advocacy effort. (FEC)

This one-page fact sheet provides an at-a-glance look at the key points of federal lobbying law. (Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest)

With investment earnings down because of the stock market, foundations have fewer grant dollars to give away even though they are bombarded with more requests.  This resource looks at how funders can achieve maximum impact with limited philanthropic dollars through the support of pulic policy.

Nonprofits can get involved with elections, as long as they remain nonpartisan.

Why do foundations use grant agreement letters that prohibit their grantees from applying grant funds toward public policy advocacy such as lobbying? Federal tax law does not require foundations to include lobbying prohibitions in grants made to public charities.

Explains the differences between direct lobbying of legislatures and grassroot lobbying, where your nonprofit gets the public to take action. (The Nonprofit Lobbying Guide, 2nd Edition, Independent Sector)

This is a sample policy for public policy decision making.  This document is editable in Microsoft Word.

Most 501(c)(3) public charities will benefit from “electing” the 501(h) lobbying expenditure test. The rules that govern lobbying under 501(h) are clearer than those that apply under the “insubstantial” standard. Find out how your organization can make this elect 501(h). (Alliance for Justice)

The Internal Revenue Service has sent a clear message to 501(c)(3) nonprofits that their lobbying is perfectly permissible under federal tax law.  In the this letter to Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest (CLPI), the IRS answered nine key questions regarding nonprofit lobbying.

IRS addresses activities that could jeopardize a private foundation’s tax-exempt status. It identifies general compliance requirements on recordkeeping, reporting, and disclosure for private foundations, including private operating foundations and non-operating private foundations. Content includes references to the statute, Treasury regulations, IRS publications and IRS forms with instructions. Publication 4221-PF is neither comprehensive nor intended to address every situation. (IRS)

The Internal Revenue Service has released formal guidance related to nonprofit political activities. Revenue Ruling 2007-41 describes 21 real-life scenarios. This guidance is particularly useful as nonprofits consider election-related programs and activities between now and November 2008. (IRS)

Federal law prohibits 501(c)(3) nonprofits from intervening in political campaigns. But this doesn’t mean you can’t persuade candidates to talk about issues related to your mission. In fact, “bird-dogging” candidates can be one of the most effective advocacy tools for nonprofits during election years.

Legislative scorecards are a particularly useful way for nonprofits to update members on policy issues. Both public and private foundations can create – and can fund 501(c)(3) nonprofits to create legislative scorecards to educate their own members about elected legislators’ positions on policy issues.

Check out these websites for more information about the laws governing advocacy by 501(c)(3) nonprofits and tips on effective advocacy campaigns.

In the summer of 2010, the N.C. General Assembly changed the state reporting requirements for nonprofits that lobby. The Center proposed these changes because the old law confused the IRS, funders, the media, and the public about how much time and money some nonprofits spend on actual lobbying. Review the alterations in this article.

This chart will help to understand what needs to be tracked in terms of time and expenses as related to federal direct lobbying, federal grassroots lobbying, and state lobbying.

Nonprofit lobbying is easier than you think.  Here's a first-hand account.

Improving the public policies that affect your group’s clients and cause may help you take a giant leap toward achieving your mission. Test your knowledge of what you may and may not do.

Your organization can raise public awareness of your cause, build relationships with government and help shape laws and policies that affect its mission by dedciating at least one staff person or volunteer to spend 3 hours per week doing public policy work. (Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest)

Advocacy is essential to nonprofit work — but it’s not always seen as a crucial part of serving on a nonprofit board. However, that view is beginning to change. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

A comprehensive advocacy strategy includes communications with government officials, the public, and the media.  Develop your nonprofit's media advocacy plan by using this checklist.

It is fundamental for nonprofits which work to educate communities, engage citizens in public life, provide critical services, and advocate for policy change-to get beyond their democratic concerns about initiatives and understand the opportunities the ballot box provides. (National Council of Nonprofits)

With new leadership and a historic budget shortfall, it won’t be business as usual in the N.C. General Assembly this year (2011). Here’s a preview of what nonprofits can expect in the 2011 state legislature.

For information about Charitable Solicitation Licensing (CSL) and nonprofit compliance requirements.

Join your nonprofit colleagues from across the state at NC Nonprofits Day, March 10, at the state legislature in Raleigh. Hear a briefing on the public policy issues facing the sector and tell your organization's story directly to your Senator and Representative.

Learn more

At press time, regulators in the Secretary of State’s office were moving fast to get temporary rules in place prior to the Jan. 1, 2007 effective date for the new lobbying law enacted last summer. On Nov. 13, a number of groups and individuals, including the N.C. Center for Nonprofits, offered comments at a public hearing on a set of proposed rules.

This article covers the basic understanding of a 501(h) classificiation, who is eligible, why one would elect 501(h) status, how to file, and how to lobby and the associated rules and regulations.

Nonprofits planning advocacy campaigns often confuse "strategy" and "tactics." Answer the questions included in this article to develop the strategy for your next advocacy campaign.

Advocacy, public policy, and civic engagement are essential tools for all nonprofits in achieving their missions. 

Tips from nonprofit leaders about how to advocate successfully for your cause.

Essential: Our State’s Nonprofit Sector is a Vital Economic Engine is the N.C. Center’s first comprehensive report about the economic impact of 501(c)(3) nonprofits in our state.  

Download Now!

We admit that we tried to wrap it up and tie a bow on it, but we couldn't figure out how to share what nonprofits need to know about the Affordable Care Act ("ACA") in a way that creates excitement.

When North Carolina’s nonprofits and foundations work together on advocacy and civic engagement, we are tremendously successful at tackling the problems facing our state. Recently, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), with the help of the N.C. Center forNonprofits, studied a sample of N.C. nonprofits working with underrepresented constituencies.

With elections in the news and changes in the election laws, you may be wondering if and how your nonprofit can be involved.

Charities are prohibited from using any federal funds for legislative lobbying and electioneering. However, they are not restricted from using private resources to lobby. Use this resource to learn the best practices when it comes to OMB Circular A-122. (Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest)

This article provides several scenarios of activity and then examines each to determine if it would be permissible or not. (Independent Sector)

The Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest shares some helpful tips to prepare you to meet with your legislator. (Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest)

Principles & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence is based on the fundamental values of quality, responsibility, and accountability. This document has three purposes: to provide individual organizations striving for excellence -- and the board and staff members who lead them -- with a tool for strengthening their governance, management, and operations; to support the growth and quality of the nonprofit sector; and to promote stewardship by individual nonprofits and the sector as a whole.

Principles & Practices: Civic Engagement & Public Policy

Nonprofits play a central role in the democratic process by providing means for individuals to deliberate on public policies and decisions that affect them. To the extent possible, nonprofits should engage in public policy and advocacy activities to promote constituent, organizational, and sector interests. Nonprofits should work to promote broad public participation in public policy and advocacy efforts and should provide assistance to the public in these efforts.

This resource maintains a database of the voting record of every goverment official, sorted by state.

This resource reviews the status and next steps for priorities for N.C's nonprofit sector priorites. These action items include short-term, ongoing, and long-term state priorities for the sector in 2008. It also details priorities at the federal level.

Nearly 200 nonprofit leaders from across the state participated in the Center’s recent 2005 Public Policy Forum for North Carolina’s Nonprofit Sector. The annual event helps nonprofit board and staff members strengthen their advocacy skills for shaping state policies, programs, and budgets.

Learn what contributions can or can't be made.

Use this template to aid in tracking your lobbying expenses.

Convened by BoardSource, the Stand Your Mission campaign's mission is to have advocacy become as fundamental a part of every board member's responsibility as fundraising and fiscal responsibility are. (The NonProfit Times)

Nonprofits can and should lobby — a powerful way to change public policy for the common good — but know the law before you start. Recent reforms have helped level the playing field with better-financed interests.

Explains the 501(h), which allows 501(c)(3) nonprofits to use an expenditure test to determine how much lobbying is permissible. (Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest)

Learn of the requirements and mandates of the North Carolina Lobbying Law.

Sweeping new regulations for overtime have been proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor. They are designed to expand overtime protections for millions of workers employed by nonprofits, for-profits, and governments. They would not go into effect until after a period of public comment and analysis.

For many of us, lobbying is something other people do - people who wear fancy clothes and buy politicians lunch at expensive restaurants.  But lobbying, or more simply, trying to influence those who make policies that affect our lives, is something anyone can do.  And it is something all of us should do if we believe in a good cause and a democratic form of goverment. (Independent Sector)

Board members as influential community leaders can help increase the likelihood of your nonprofit's success by engaging in advocacy. This article shares some insightful information about board members and their roles as ambassadors advocating for the mission of their organizations.  (Stand For Your Mission)

The signs of election season are everywhere. Political pundits are returning from their campaign hiatus and candidates are criss-crossing Iowa and New Hampshire. Meanwhile, public charities have been wide awake since the last presidential election, providing services, molding policy, and leading their communities on a broad array of issues.

A handbook for volunteers and staff of charitable organizations, especially new volunteers and staff, to help them take advantage of the liberal rules for lobbying by charities. (CLPI)

Provides information on current and past legislation in the N.C. General Assembly and on legislative calendars and committees.  It also allows you to search for your federal and state elected officials by zip code, county, or your congressional, state, or house districts. (The N.C. General Assembly)

This guide is tool for facilitating ongoing board dialogue on your organization’s legal right to advocate and for helping you cultivate a culture of standing for your mission in all possible ways. (Stand For Your Mission)

Includes information of members of Congress and U.S. House committees.

This site includes information on U.S. Senators and committees.

The U.S. Supreme Court released a decision protecting the right of nonprofits to engage in issue advocacy around the time of an election, primary, or convention. In a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court found that a federal law limiting electioneering communications was unconstitutional when applied to grassroots lobbying by nonprofits — a victory for nonprofit lobbying rights. The Federal Election Commission is revising its rules to incorporate this decision.

Your organization might be wondering how to get involved in elections. It’s important to understand what types of election-related activities you can and can’t do. Here are some of the most common issues.

With the release of a new edition of Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards, BoardSource has formalized the expectation that advocacy is an essential board responsibility.