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Policy & Advocacy Resources

Unless otherwise noted, the following resources are provided by Alliance for Justice. Alliance for Justice is a national association of over 100 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society. It is the leading expert on the legal framework for nonprofit advocacy efforts, providing definitive information, resources, and technical assistance that encourages organizations and their funding partners to fully exercise their right to be active participants in the democratic process.

Legal Disclaimer:  These resources seek to provide helpful legal information and guidance, but should not be construed as providing specific legal advice.  Click here for information from the IRS regarding nonprofit lobbying. You should consult with your foundation’s legal counsel about specific activities or questions.

General Resources for Foundations:

  • Investing In Change: A Funders Guide to Supporting Advocacy (2012) This book is an indispensable guide for foundations in explaining the various roles they can play in the advocacy process. Investing in Change can serve as an in-depth guide to navigating the tax code surrounding support of public charities, or a quick reference guide to answer a specific question.
  • Understanding the Lobbying Disclosure Act: Charities, foundations, unions, and 501(c)(4)s that influence federal legislation, regulations, nominations, contracts and permits need to be aware of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), a federal law that imposes registration and reporting obligations on individuals and entities that lobby various federal officials once certain thresholds have been exceeded. This fact sheet provides an overview of the LDA and what it means for your nonprofit organization.
  • State Lobbying Registration Thresholds: Nonprofits that lobby must comply with two distinct sets of laws: Federal tax law setting the amount an organization can lobby, and state, federal and in some cases local laws that impose certain reporting and disclosure obligations. This fact sheet explains when a nonprofit (or its employees) must register as a lobbyist under state lobbying disclosure laws.
  • Advocacy Funding: The Philanthropy of Changing Minds: This resource was published by GrantCraft. In this guide, contributors explain that advocacy includes a lot of opportunities to improve public policy through work that is well within the limits of the law. Whether your purpose is to advance an idea, argue a position, or enrich the policy debate, the guide offers resources and strategies for planning your work, reaching your audience, assessing impact, and more.
  • The Nonprofit Lobbying Guide, Second Edition: Written in 1999 by Bob Smucker and published by Independent Sector, The Nonprofit Lobbying Guide demonstrates the many ways charitable organizations can use lobbying to advance their causes in federal, state, and local legislatures. This guide to advocacy is essential for organizations already engaged in policy work and an invaluable resource for those that want to get started.


Private Foundations

  • Private Foundations May Advocate: While private foundations incur a prohibitive tax when they engage in or fund lobbying, they may still engage in a variety of advocacy activities.
  • Foundations for Civic Impact: Advocacy and Civic Engagement Toolkit for Private Foundations: This toolkit was published by the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest, Council on Foundations, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. This toolkit is designed for private foundations that want to educate and encourage their grantees about getting involved in civic and policy activities to increase organizational capacity and impact. While its primary focus is on the grantmaking activity of foundations, the toolkit also addresses rules and guidance for policy involvement by foundation officials acting on behalf of their foundations. 

Community Foundations

Family Foundations


Public Foundations

  • Public Foundations Can Lobby: 501(c)(3) public charities, including grantmaking public charities like community foundations and women’s foundations, can lobby within the generous limits allowed by federal law. This fact sheet explains the lobbying rules for public foundations.
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