First of all: are nonprofits allowed to lobby? The answer is very clearly “yes,” although there are some restrictions.
The LDA (as amended by HLOGA) states that in addition to reporting all lobbying expenditures on their Form 990, nonprofits may also be required to register with Congress and report their activities, but only if they meet these two thresholds:
- You have an employee who is a “lobbyist,”* defined as someone who spends 20% or more of his/her time engaged in lobbying activities and the same employee makes one or more lobbying contact in the same quarter
- Your total federal lobbying expenses are expected to exceed $11,500 during a quarter
Q: How should our 501 (c)(3) organization report board members’ contributions when we file?
A: While 501(c)(3) organizations cannot make political contributions, they can be involved in certain lobbying activities. A board member of a 501 (c)(3) can participate in these activities. This would not make them lobbyists, unless there is something else that would trigger a need to register as a lobbyist. If a federally registered lobbyist is a member of the board of a 501 (c)(3) organization and participates in that organization’s event, in the capacity of board member, at which a congressman or senator is honored, that does not need to be disclosed.
Q: Can a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization sponsor travel for members of congress or congressional staffers?
A: Yes, although there are specific guidelines on the amount of time that is appropriate, and the rules differ for Senate and House members.
Q: Can a non-profit make a choice between the lobbying definition used by the LDA and the one used by the IRC?
A: Yes, Congress allows organizations that have to track their lobbying expenditures in accordance with the tax code to use that format with their LDA reporting. You may therefore choose whether you want to just maintain one system for tracking and reporting lobbying expenditures and whether you want to do both. There are pros and cons for both types of filing.
Q: When I decide to use one definition (LDA v. IRC) over the other one, is that decision binding in the future, or can it be changed on a year-to-year basis?
A: It is not binding and you can change it. It would be cumbersome to change it back and forth and back and forth, because you would be changing a lot of what you are tracking. But it is a choice that each organization has to make. If you decide to change, you simply notify the proper people on your LD-2.
Today’s post borrowed heavily from this one! (Thanks, Madiha!)