The Nonprofit Lobbying Guide: Advocating Your Cause - And Getting Results

GENERAL

Research Abstract
The Nonprofit Lobbying Guide: Advocating Your Cause - And Getting Results

This is a handbook for volunteers and staff of nonprofit organizations, especially new volunteers and staff, to help take advantage of the new and exceedingly liberal rule for lobbying by nonprofits. These rules now make it possible for nonprofit groups to lobby more freely for their causes and clients. (p. xiii)

A publication of Independent Sector, The Nonprofit Lobbying Guide is divided into two parts. Part One provides how-to information on lobbying by charities. Almost every national organization has written a manual on how to influence legislation. Each nonprofit's organizational structure is different, and so it is not possible to provide detailed how-to information that will fit every group's needs. There are, however, some approaches to lobbying that seem to accomplish the job for almost all nonprofits, and those approaches are included here. Part Two gives information, in laypersons' language, concerning a number of technical questions:

  • How much lobbying by nonprofits is legal under federal law?
  • How do the new IRS regulations on lobbying by nonprofits affect the amount of lobbying you can do?
  • Can a private foundation grant funds to a nonprofit that lobbies?
  • What information on the views of a candidate for public office can a nonprofit provide for its members?
  • Should an individual who lobbies for a nonprofit register with federal or state government?

Most of the technical information applies equally to lobbying at the federal, state and local levels. Part One, the how-to section, however, deals principally with federal legislation, although much of the information is readily adapted to state or local lobbying. In all candor, parts of this book may be less than compelling and will not tempt you to burn the midnight oil. Therefore, I have included a summary in Resource A for readers interested in skimming the book quickly for the main points. The other resources contain material helpful to lobbyists. Resource B offers answers to some often-asked questions about lobbying; Resource C reprints the article, How to Win the Advocacy Game, by Doug Siglin; Resource D consists of examples of lobbying materials to help you get started; Resource E reprints IRS form 5768, which a nonprofit must file to elect to come under the provisions of the 1976 lobby law; and Resource F lists addresses of organizations that are mentioned in the book so that you can contact them for additional information. This book, especially Part Two, is intended to provide enough information so that new volunteers and staff will have an elementary understanding of lobbying and will know where to find more information. It is not intended to replace legal counsel. If you have questions regarding the technical information, you should seek legal advice. (p. xiv-xv)

CONTENTS
Part 1. How to lobby.

1. Anyone can lobby: 

Lobbying law.
The legislative process and your lobbyist.
The government relations committee and the legislative network.

2. The nonprofit lobbyist and the legislative process: 

The legislative process.
The nonprofit's legislative proposal.
Selecting your leader in the legislature.
Introducing the legislation:
     Role of the committee.
     Action on the House and Senate floors.
     The House/Senate conference.
     Action by the President.
Facts about legislators and legislative process.
Staff in legislatures.
Lobbying the administration:
     Enlisting the help of the legislature.
     Getting the press's support.

3. Effective communications - the key to mobilizing your lobbying strength: 

Feedback and records.
Tallies of support.
Frequency of alerts.
Staying with the process.

4. Developing grass-roots [grassroots] action through a legislative network: 

Keeping your network alive.
Keeping up-to-date information.

5. How to communicate effectively with legislators: 

Letters.
Personal visits.
Testimony.
Phone calls.
Telegrams, mailgrams, and form letters.
Other communications.

6. Maximizing your impact with coalitions: 

Organizing a coalition.
Working with a coalition.

7. Guidelines on using a government relations committee: 

Leading the government relations committee.
Running the committee meeting.

8. Lobbying through the media: 

Press releases.
Press conferences.
Letters to the editor.
Other media opportunities.
Special opportunities with radio and television.

Part 2. A guide to technical issues related to lobbying by 501(c)(3) organizations.

9. The 1976 lobby law and 1990 IRS regulations - An overview: 

Public charity lobbying ... an overview:
     What groups are affected?
     How does the tax law regulate public charities' lobbying?
     What are the main elements of the 1976 law?
     What spending counts against the limits?
     When does later use of materials in lobbying cause their costs
     to be counted as lobbying?
     Does electing to be governed by the new regulations
     complicate receiving grants from foundations?
     When will a public charity's transfers to a lobbying organization
     be counted as lobbying expenditures? 
     What accounting is required for lobbying expenditures?
     How are expenditures that have both lobbying and
     non-lobbying purposes treated?
     When are several nonprofits treated on an aggregate basis?
     For further information.
Election procedure for nonprofits.

10. Special issues and regulations:

Lobbying by nonprofits on initiatives and referenda.
Voter education by nonprofits during a political campaign:
     Electioneering.
     Candidates' statements.
     Questionnaires.
     Voting records.
     Public forums.
     Testimony on party platforms.
     Issue briefings and candidates' statements.
     Membership lists.
Indirect lobbying through a 501(c)(4) organization.
Individual and political action committee (PAC).
Contributions to political campaigns.
OMB Circular A-122 - Restrictions on nonprofits that lobby and receive federal funds:
     General provisions.
     Who is covered?
     What is lobbying?
     Political activity.
     What is not lobbying? 
     Amount of lobbying permitted.
     Record keeping and reporting.
     Penalties for violation.
Lobbying with private foundation grants and corporate contributions.
Reporting lobbying expenditures to the IRS.
Registering as a lobbyist for a nonprofit.

Resources:
     A. Lobbying by nonprofits - a checklist.
     B. Questions and answers regarding the law and lobbying by nonprofits.
     C. How to win the advocacy game: rarified air by Doug Siglin.
     D. Examples of press releases, legislative alerts, and other lobbying materials.
     E. IRS Form 5768.
     F. Organizations and information.
References [bibliography].
Index.

This is a handbook for volunteers and staff of nonprofit organizations, especially new volunteers and staff, to help take advantage of the new and exceedingly liberal rule for lobbying by nonprofits. These rules now make it possible for nonprofit groups to lobby more freely for their causes and clients.
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Book
Smucker, Bob
1-55542-374-4
148 p.
Monday, December 31, 1990
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