KellyShippSimoneThe Legalities of Lobbying: Parameters for Community Foundations

By: Kelly Shipp Simone In: 2010 Fall Conference| Community Foundations| Legal

13 Sep 2010

Approximately 70 foundation leaders got off to an early start at the Council on Foundations fall conference during a Sunday Advanced Legal Seminar. While talking about federal tax law is not everybody’s idea of a good time on a weekend afternoon, attendees were provided with important details on the parameters of lobbying. Community foundations can lobby as part of their community leadership efforts and there is a lot of persuasive advocacy that is not considered lobbying.

As a member of the Council’s legal team, I’ve also seen an increase in questions from community foundations about whether they can get involved in advocacy, particularly in ballot measures at the state or local level. Whether the motivation is board, staff, or donor driven, the answer is still the same: The community foundation may take positions on issues and advocate for those issues. The key is understanding the limits and reporting obligations.

As community foundations jump into the role of community leaders, it is important to carefully consider how that role can be enhanced by engaging elected officials at the state and federal levels, as well as the public.

When our Council government relations colleagues issue “calls to action” on issues such as the extension of the IRA charitable rollover, remember that a community foundation is allowed to engage in conversations with legislators. If you have questions about the rules, you should give the Council’s legal team a call or just send us an email at

A few additional resources that can help you navigate this terrain include:

Has your community foundation jumped into the advocacy waters? Any tips to share with others?

Kelly Shipp Simone is deputy general counsel at the Council on Foundations

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