Many nonprofits still believe they cannot lobby. This is one of the most pervasive myths within the sector. However, Social Impact Architects is setting the record straight on this question – “Can Nonprofits Lobby?” The answer is YES, albeit with a string or two attached. While the Johnson Amendment does restrict nonprofits’ ability to engage in direct partisan activity, e.g., endorsing or contributing to political candidates, it does not restrict their ability to participate in public policy. Charitable organizations can and should advocate around mission-driven issues that impact our communities and our nation. First, tax-exempt public charities (not private foundations) can engage in lobbying if it is not a “substantial part” of the organization’s activities, according to federal rules. Second, these organizations can engage in unlimited advocacy efforts to educate legislators and their staff on their cause. The bottom line is, nonprofits can lobby and advocate their positions, but they must monitor their efforts and properly track time and expenditures of lobbying efforts to ensure they stay within the law.
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