Note on Lobbying

It is always important to understand whether any activities you are planning could fall under the IRS definition of lobbying. This is especially true if you receive a Voices for Healthy Kids grant to support your efforts, because no Voices for Healthy Kids funds can be used to support lobbying. So if you plan to conduct lobbying, you will need to secure additional funding from other sources. 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.

Lobbying Non-Lobbying
“Contact your legislator and ask him/her to support bill number XXXX.”

“Click here to sign the petition to support bill number XXXX.”

A communication that supports bills not yet introduced.

“Ask your legislator to support physical education programs in schools.”

“Sign up to attend the walk that encourages schools to include PE programs in schools.”

“As a concerned member of the community, I ask all my neighbors to join me in supporting PE programs in schools.”

Changing factors such as the audience of a communication, or the target of its call to action, will allow an organization to use non-lobbying funds for a communication that advocates passage of a bill. Leverage the rules strategically to get the most impact from your non-lobbying and lobbying dollars.

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. Lobbying communications must be supported with non-Voices funds, and these costs must be tracked separately from non-lobbying activities. 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.