Many 501(c)(3) organizations shy away from lobbying and other politically-related activities out of concern for their tax status. But by failing to engage in such activities, nonprofit organizations may be neglecting tools at their disposal that can be enormously helpful in carrying out their mission.
Myths abound about the permissible—or, more often, impermissible—lobbying and political activities of nonprofit organizations exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. But the fear factor often is unwarranted. 501(c)(3) organizations certainly are limited in the amount of lobbying in which they may engage and are prohibited from engaging in political campaign activity. However, knowing which actions are lobbying or political campaign activity and how to account for those activities are critical questions that need to be answered before leaders of 501(c)(3) organizations unnecessarily inhibit their organizations from most fully and effectively furthering their missions. This article explores and debunks some of the most common misconceptions in this area.