A Guide to Advocacy, Lobbying & Election Related Activity: Navigating the Rules

A Chapter in Mastering Foundation Law:
The Council on Foundations Compendium of Legal Resources

The purpose of this chapter is to help you understand the federal tax laws and regulations that govern how, when, and to what extent different types of foundations can engage with policymakers, their staff, or candidates running for public office. It also covers the distinction between what advocacy activity that you as a foundation can do, that your staff can do, and that your grantees can do with your support.

This chapter is divided into six parts:

Lobbying Versus Advocacy

Part One help you understand the federal tax law distinction between lobbying and advocacy that confronts foundations.

Private Foundations and Policy Engagement

Part Two covers which activities by private foundations (or grantees) in the public policy arena are or are not permissible.

Public Charities: What Rules Apply to Community Foundations

Part Three defines the rules that govern how much lobbying a community foundation may engage in on an annual basis.

Campaign Intervention: A Blanket Prohibition

Part Four discusses what kinds of activities violate the blanket prohibition on foundation participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

Individuals Associated with Foundations

Part Five outlines the election-related activity rules that apply to individuals associated with public charities or private foundations (e.g., staff, board members, volunteers) in their personal and professional capacities.

Other Rules that May Apply: Election & Campaign Finance Laws

Part Six explains federal and state election and campaign finance laws throughout the United States.