Advocacy vs. Lobbying

Some diaper bank leaders believe that they cannot participate in advocacy and lobbying activities because they are a 501(c)(3). Fear not! Non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations can both advocate and lobby.

Advocacy is education—telling law makers about diaper need, about what you do as a diaper bank, and sharing the stories of the people served by the diaper bank, are all examples of advocacy. There is no limit on advocacy.

Lobbying refers to expressing an opinion in communication with law makers about specific legislation. For example, asking a member of Congress to vote for or against a particular bill, and asking a member of your state legislature to introduce a bill to exempt diapers from sales tax are instances of lobbying.

NDBN Annual Lobby Day – Every year NDBN goes to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness for Diaper Need.  Join us, and diaper bankers from across the country, next year.  Click here to take a look at what you can expect!

501(c)(3)s can lobby as long as lobbying is not a “substantial portion of their activity.” Because “substantial” is not defined, the IRS has created an option for organizations to measure their lobbying activity according to their expenditures, which are easy to track. In order to take advantage of this, an organization must file what is known as a 501(h) election. To do so you file a Form 5768. It is recommended that all diaper banks file a 501(h) election.

To learn more about 501(h) elections, see what the National Council of Nonprofits says here.