Top 10 Things Public Charities Can Do to Get Ready for 2023


Tim Mooney, Natalie Roetzel Ossenfort, Quyen Tu


On this episode, we’ll discuss how your organization can prepare to maximize your advocacy and impact in 2023. With several states gearing up for new legislative sessions and the 118th United States Congress about to head to work, the time is ripe for ensuring that your organization is ready to boldly advocate on behalf of the communities and causes you care about. That’s why today we present to you:

Our Attorneys for This Episode:

Quyen Tu Natalie Roetzel Ossenfort Tim Mooney

Top 10 Things Your Public Charity Can Do Now to Get Ready for 2023

1) Calculate Your Lobbying Limit  

  • If your organization has made the 501(h) election, your total lobbying limit is based on your organization’s annual exempt purpose expenditures.  
  • You can use our lobbying calculator to estimate how much your organization can spend during your fiscal year on lobbying activities. 
  • By understanding how much you are allowed to spend on lobbying, you can more effectively prepare for upcoming legislative sessions. 

2) If you haven’t done so already, consider making the 501(h) election. 

  • Most public charities have the option to maximize their lobbying limits by making the 501(h) election. 
  • Organizations that do can easily calculate their lobbying limits and, in some instances, allocate up to 20% of their budgets to lobbying activities. 
  • If you don’t, however, your lobbying limits are based on the somewhat vague and confusing “insubstantial part test,” which limits lobbying to around 3-5% of an organization’s overall activities each year. 

3) Brush Up on State Lobbying Disclosure Laws in preparation for upcoming legislative sessions – We have a Lobbying Practical Guidance series that will help! 

  • Created in partnership with the Democracy Capacity Project, this series will help you and your nonprofit determine how state lobbying disclosure rules may impact your policy work 
  • We currently have guides published for 19 states, but several more are coming soon! 

4) Remember that lobbying at the Federal level (to Congress or Executive branch officials) may implicate the Lobbying Disclosure Act. 

  • The triggers for lobbyist registration under the LDA are relatively high, so many groups won’t need to register and report as lobbyists.

5) Create a Policy Agenda (see ROTG #13 – aka the previous episode) 

6) Assess whether you need a 501(c)(4). 

  • Running up against your public charity’s lobbying limits? Wanting to take a stand on candidates running for public office?  
  • If so, it might be time to consider forming an affiliated 501(c)(4) (aka social welfare organization).  
  • Our publication entitled “The Connection” will help get you started. 

7) Convene or join a coalition to amplify your impact. 

  • Coalitions can take several forms (i.e. informal partnerships, fiscal sponsorship arrangements, independent 501(c)(3)s or 501(c)(4)s). 
  • Just remember that the rules that apply to your organization’s tax-exempt status follow you in to coalition work. So, for example, if you happen to work for a 501(c)(3), you’ll need to make sure that any coalition work you engage in is conducted in a nonpartisan manner (not designed to support or oppose candidates for public office). 
  • Use our coalition checklist to get started today. 

8) Audit your recordkeeping system 

  • Proper recordkeeping is essential to meeting your advocacy goals. It can help your organization:  
    • Comply with filing obligations (e.g. IRS 990 / state lobbying reporting requirements),  
    • Informing strategic planning / stay focused on your mission, and  
    • Obtain funding (by building trust with your funders and boosting your ability to provide detailed budgets and grant reports) 
  • For sample timesheets and other recordkeeping tips, check out BA’s Keeping Track guide. 

9) Connect with your funders, supporters, and champions 

10) Make plans to celebrate the victories, large and small, along the way!