Note on Lobbying
It is always important to understand whether any activities you are planning could fall under the IRS definition of lobbying. If you are a Voices for Healthy Kids Grantee please see your Grantee Guidebook and/or talk with your Policy Engagement Manager for more details about what is and is not allowed under the grant guidelines.
In the broadest terms, any activity or communication that takes a position on specific pending or proposed legislation—for Congress, a state legislature, a city council, or a town meeting—could be considered lobbying in some circumstances. Below are some examples of opportunities that may be considered lobbying or non-lobbying.
- “Contact your legislator and ask him/her to support bill number XXXX.”
- “Click here to sign the petition to support water access in schools.”
- A communication that supports bills not yet introduced (e.g., asking a state Senator to introduce a bill).
- “Ask your legislator to support access to clean, safe water in [STATE or COMMUNITY]’s schools.”
- A public communication that says: “We need the [STATE] legislature to support water access in schools. Click here [LINK] to learn more.”
- “Ask [LEGISLATOR NAME] to allocate more money to provide clean, safe drinking water in [STATE or COMMUNITY]’s schools at no cost to students.”
When you engage in activities that may involve lobbying, consult your lawyer, as well as the checklist also found in the resources section of this toolkit, to help you determine whether you need to use lobbying funds for any of your efforts. All types of activities, both lobbying and non-lobbying, can be valuable in helping to promote healthy lifestyles in your community. However, if your ultimate goal becomes the passage of legislation, you will probably need access to unrestricted funds to conduct some of your work.
This toolkit is written for organizations that are legally able to lobby and have lobbying and non-lobbying funds available. (Public charities are able to conduct a limited amount of lobbying, but private foundations are not. Governmental entities are subject to different rules. Check with your lawyer for details.) Along the way in this toolkit, you will find important tips to understand the distinctions between lobbying and non-lobbying activities, as well as when to use lobbying funds versus non-lobbying funds. We have provided examples to help you understand the distinctions between lobbying and non-lobbying activities, so you can plan your activities strategically without violating restrictions on your non-lobbying funds. Please also be aware that some states have rules that may be relevant to your activities and may have registration and other requirements; this guide does not address those state rules, which often define “lobbying” differently from the IRS definitions.
This document is not legal advice. Consult legal counsel before undertaking advocacy activity or any communication described in this document.