NPL 273  Introduction to Nonprofit Leadership

Readings from The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management, Robert Herman ed. (1994)

Ch. 10  Nonprofit Lobbying, Bob Smucker


I.                    Anyone Can Lobby

a.       Legislative Process: 

                                                               i.      Gain support of senior committee member whose party is in majority

                                                             ii.      Hold firmly to one top legislative priority

b.      Government Relations Committee

                                                               i.      Establishes legislative priorities and provides direction for lobbying efforts

                                                             ii.      Network should assign one volunteer as contact to each member of the Legislative committee

II.                 1976 Lobbying Law and 1990 IRS Regulations

a.       General rules

                                                               i.      Lobbying occurs only when there is an expenditure (volunteer time does not count)

                                                             ii.      Two types of lobbying: 

1.      direct—attempt to influence legislators or one’s own members

2.      grass roots—attempts to influence general public

b.      Exclusions

                                                               i.      Communications that do not urge action by members

                                                             ii.      Making available results of nonpartisan research

                                                            iii.      Responding to written requests from Legislative body (not just from a single member)

                                                           iv.      Self-defense activity

                                                             v.      Discussion of broad policy issues

c.       Permitted levels

                                                               i.      20% of first $500,000 of exempt-purpose expenditures

                                                             ii.      5% of expenditures over $1.5 milliion

                                                            iii.      Caps at $1million per year

                                                           iv.      Grass-roots lobbying limited to 25% of maximum allowable

d.      Flexible sanctions

                                                               i.      25% excise tax on excess lobbying expenses

                                                             ii.      loss of exemption if spending normally exceeds 150% over 4-year period

e.       Accounting for expenses

                                                               i.      Cost of communication for direct or grass-roots lobbying (including cost of preparation)

                                                             ii.      Elements required to be a lobbying communication:

1.      must refer to specific legislation and reflect a point of view on its merits

2.      to be grass-roots lobbying, must also encourage recipients to contact legislators.

3.      “Call to action” requirement eliminated for “famous” bills

4.      Call to action for referenda and initiatives are direct lobbying, not grass roots

                                                            iii.      Subsequent use:  costs charged as lobbying only if

1.      material refers to and reflects a view on specific legislation

2.      expenditure incurred within 6 months of lobbying use

3.      no substantial nonlobbying distribution of the materials prior to lobbying use

4.      primary purpose was for lobbying, not some other use

f.        Private foundation grants to lobbying organizations

                                                               i.      May not make grants for lobbying

                                                             ii.      May make general-purpose grants

                                                            iii.      May support a project which has lobbying component, but amount of private foundation grant must be less than what was required for the lobbying expenses.

                                                           iv.      May rely on statements from lobbying organization, unless has reason to believe such statements are false

g.       Public charity grants to lobbying organizations

                                                               i.      No lobbying expenditure when grant made and records demonstrate that it was for charitable purpose

                                                             ii.      No lobbying expenditure when transfer of funds is for market-value transaction

                                                            iii.      Otherwise, counts toward maximum allowable lobbying expense

h.       Miscellaneous

                                                               i.      Charities not electing to come under the 1976 law must state on their 990 whether they attempted to influence public opinion through the use of volunteers (electing organizations do not have to declare, and this is an exempt activity)

                                                             ii.      Mixed communications (lobbying and non-lobbying) have their own rules.  Review any extensive and expensive direct-mail activity to non-members (or a mix of members & non-members) for mixed use.  If you routinely do legislative alerts to nonmembers, do them through their own mailing.

                                                            iii.      Interlocking organizations:  may pool their limits, but must have interlocking Boards or an express policy requiring one to follow the legislative decisions of the other.




© 2004 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 5 July 2004