Foundations have an important role to play in advocacy. Both private and public foundations may participate in the advocacy arena – through funding of nonprofits or their own advocacy efforts.

Private foundations may support public charities that lobby, but they must follow specific rules. Private foundations are subject to a tax on any lobbying expenditures they make, but can fund public charities through general support or specific project grants.  Private foundations are more limited in funding 501(c)(4)s, labor unions, and other non-public charities.

Public foundations, such as community foundations, may lobby themselves and may even earmark funds for lobbying activities; however earmarked grants will count against the public foundation’s lobbying limit.

As public charities, public foundations can participate in and support a broad array of advocacy activities, including a limited amount of lobbying. Public foundations, like all public charities, are limited in how much lobbying they can fund and participate in.

NOTE: These activities may be covered and disclosure required under federal or state lobby disclosure provisions

Essential Resources

  • Foundation to Advocacy Dictionary
  • Investing in Change: A Funder’s Guide to Supporting Advocacy
    (In-depth publication)This book is an indispensable guide for foundations in explaining the various roles they can play in the advocacy process. Investing in Change can serve as an in-depth guide to navigating the tax code surrounding support of public charities, or a quick reference guide to answer a specific question.
  • Investing in Change: The Importance of Supporting Advocacy
    (Factsheet) Supporting advocacy is, quite simply, one of the most powerful tools available to foundations for creating change.
  • Speaking Out for Advocacy
    Foundations have been supporting advocacy for years.  There’s a wealth of knowledge, experience, and stories to be shared about the challenges and successes of foundation efforts to help organizations and communities achieve enormous and lasting successes.
  • Words to Give By
    A compilation of interviews with foundation leaders on the importance of supporting advocacy.

How Can Private Foundations Support Advocacy, Through Grants?

How Can Private Foundations Engage in Advocacy Themselves, In-House?

How Can Community Foundations and Public Charities Support Advocacy, Through Grants?

How Can Community Foundations and Public Charities Engage in Advocacy Themselves, In-House?

Spotlight: What Should Foundations Know before the 2016 Election?

Spotlight: What Should Foundations Know about Supporting 501(c)(4) Organizations?

Spotlight: What Should Foundations Know about Grant Agreement Templates?