Lobbying vs. Advocacy vs. Education

Lobbying vs. Advocacy vs. Education

For the purposes of reporting to the IRS, all 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporations (that have taken the section (h) election on IRS Form 5768) must limit direct lobbying to 20% and grassroots lobbying to 5% of total expenses (averaged over a four-year period if yearly expenses are less than $500,000). However, these corporations are unlimited in the amount they can spend on general advocacy and education. The distinction between “direct lobbying”, “grassroots lobbying” and “advocacy” is important. The distinction between “advocacy” and “education” is not important for IRS purposes, and they may be considered interchangeable.

Link to the document in PDF format.

League ActivityDirect LobbyingGrassroots LobbyingAdvocacyEducation
Nonpartisan, unbiased candidate forumX
Nonpartisan, unbiased ballot measure forum or speaker’s bureauX
Nonpartisan, unbiased forum on any issueX
Candidate debateX
Single-chair candidate debate (Not allowed for federal candidates)XX
Advocacy forum on any issue except ballot measuresX
Advocacy forum on a ballot measureX
Petitioning for an initiative or referendumX
Urging voters to sign an initiative or referendumX
Petitioning for a recall(Not allowed for 501(c)(3))
Endorsing a Yes or No vote on a ballot measureX
Testifying on a bill in a legislative committeeX
Action alert on a legislative billX
Urging voters to sign an initiative or referendumX
League studiesX
League consensus meetingsX
League position writing from consensus resultsX
League newsletters to members (except alerts on legislation)XX
League general meetings, membership recruiting, fundraisingXX
Voter registrationX
Citizenship ceremoniesX
Citizenship classesX
Mock electionsX
Law suitsX