Ask Us Anything - Alliance for Justice

Ask Us Anything


Victor Rivera Labiosa, Leslie Barnes, Quyen Tu



On this episode, we once again turn to your questions on nonprofit advocacy with another edition of Ask Us Anything. We’ll cover topics like employing newly elected officials, how small (c)(3)s can impact legislative policies, accepting donations, and tracking lobbying. 

Our Attorneys for This Episode:

Victor Rivera Labiosa Quyen Tu Leslie Barnes


(1) We received a call to our hotline asking whether a (c)(3) nonprofit needed to let their communications director go after the director won their election to city council in November.

  • Don’t fire your comms director just because they had a successful election campaign! 
  • There is no specific IRS rule requiring you to fire your comms director. 
  • Know which “hat” you’re wearing, keep resources separate, conflicts of interest, ethics. 

(2) We received an email from a 501(c)(3) public charity in Mississippi with a volunteer staff. They wrote, “We are a small, but growing nonprofit organization run entirely by volunteers and we partner with larger organizations around issues of education and children. There will be a bill introduced to ban corporal punishment, but our funding prohibits us from lobbying. What type of advocacy can we do around the campaign to eliminate corporal punishment?”

  • Discuss non-lobbying advocacy: NPARS, requests for technical assistance. 
  • Discuss what they can do if they take the “h” election 
  • Raise revenue for lobbying. 
  • Review state lobbying guides for state registration thresholds 

(3) Next, we were asked if a 501(c)(3) public charity could accept donations stemming from the sale of cannabis, akin to what we’ve done with the tobacco taxes?

  • Very, very unclear. 
  • While cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, some/many states have decriminalized this. 
  • Funding sources for cannabis differ. 
  • May use this opportunity to lobby Congress to change the law. 
  • Seek legal advice on this issue before proceeding. 

(4) We typically get questions that deal with how to track staff time spent lobbying. The good news is that the IRS does not require a particular time-keeping system for nonprofits.

  • Need a reasonable system in place and one that isn’t too burdensome on the organization.  
  • Your organization should keep track of staff time, direct costs, and overhead expenses. 
  • Easier to track and report lobbying expenses on Form 990 every year. 
  • Our keeping track guide has a ton of information on how to ensure compliance with the IRS. We also have sample timesheets available on our website, 
  • It’s always good to have a designated recordkeeper for the organization.