13 November, 2017

Keeping it Legal: Lobbying & Your GVNG Nonprofit

Lobbying is a form of advocacy that specifically attempts to target or influence a piece of legislation. Here we aim to tell you how and what to report on your lobbying efforts, but there are many restrictions on what types of lobbying nonprofits can participate in. For example, 501(c)(3) nonprofits may not engage in political activity of any kind. If you’re unsure whether an activity is appropriate for your nonprofit, check out Nonprofit Lobbying on GVNG.org.

What do we need to report to GVNG?

The IRS requires that nonprofits who engage in lobbying activities must report these efforts and expenditures. In order for GVNG to take care of this required reporting for you, we need your help!

The two reporting criteria that GVNG needs to collect from your nonprofit are lobbying efforts and lobbying expenditures. Lobbying expenditures are classified as any expenses that were incurred as a result of lobbying activities. Lobbying efforts are classified as the amount of time spent preparing and executing your lobbying activities.

Examples of lobbying expenditures
  • Cost of airfare spent in order to meet with an elected official
  • Cost of gas spent while driving to meet with an elected official
  • Cost of taking a group of people out to dinner related to your lobbying efforts
  • Cost of printing materials that will be distributed for lobbying purposes
Examples of lobbying efforts
  • Time spent researching an issue related to your lobbying
  • Time spent preparing resources or presentations related to your lobbying activities
  • Time spent in internal meetings discussing issues related to your lobbying activities
  • Time actually engaging in lobbying activities, such as meeting with an elected official

How do I keep track of lobbying activities with GVNG?

Lobbying Expenditures — Keep track using the GVNG platform
When you make a disbursement through the GVNG platform, you will be prompted to categorize what the expense was for. For expenses related to lobbying activities, it is very important that you categorize them as “Lobbying” in the expense category dropdown menu.

What happens if the expense fits into multiple categories? Great question. In fact, it is very likely that your lobbying expenses will also fit into another category in the expense dropdown field. In these instances, please select "Lobbying," as it trumps all other expense categories.

Here’s an example: A nonprofit purchases airfare in order to get to an elected official’s office in a different state. While this expense fits in both the "Transportation" category and the "Lobbying" category, it should be classified as "Lobbying" so we know to report it as such to the IRS.

Lobbying Efforts — Keep track on your own, and report to GVNG at year’s end
Throughout the year, independently keep track of the amount time that you, your employees, and your volunteers spend preparing for and participating in lobbying activities. We recommend that you keep a running log of lobbying efforts for convenience come reporting time.

At the end of the year, you’ll get an email from GVNG asking for some additional information on what your nonprofit has been up to — here, we will collect all of this supplemental information on lobbying efforts.

Want More?

GVNG users with premium features may receive customized advisory services and strategic planning guidance. To get more information, please contact us.

Author: Mary Roach

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