California Advocacy Resources

Nonprofit organizations that engage in public policy advocacy in California may have reporting obligations under California’s  Political Reform Act  (PRA) and its implementing regulations. In addition, California’s citizen-initiated ballot measure process is regulated under the California Constitution and the California Election Code.

Take a look at our resources below to learn more about the regulations impacting nonprofit advocacy in California, particularly with respect to ballot measure activity and lobbying of state officials.

Learn About Legislation in California

To effectively influence legislation, it helps to find out the procedures to follow, the relevant people to talk to, and the legislative calendar.

State-level Lobbying Disclosure Resources

Nonprofits that influence state policy in California must be aware of at least two sets of laws: the federal tax laws and regulations that limit lobbying by all 501(c)(3) public charities, and the California laws that require disclosure of certain lobbying activities. Organizations lobbying the California Legislature as well as state-level administrative agencies, boards and commissions may be regulated by the lobbying provisions of the Political Reform Act (referred to here as  “California lobbying disclosure rules”). California lobbying disclosure rules only apply to groups and individuals that meet a relatively high threshold of lobbying activity, so many groups that carry out advocacy work in California will not need to take action to comply with the laws.

City, County, and Special District Lobbying Disclosure Resources

In addition to federal tax law and California state law regarding lobbying activities, certain cities, counties and special districts (including a select number of school districts, airport authorities and transportation authorities) have separate laws regulating lobbying activities. The vast majority of jurisdictions in California do not regulate the interaction between nonprofits and government officials, but you should familiarize yourself with the laws in your jurisdiction.

Ballot Measure Disclosure Resources

Nonprofit organizations active in state or local California ballot measure campaigns must comply both with federal tax law and California ballot measure disclosure rules in the Political Reform Act. Federal tax law permits 501(c)(3) public charities to engage in a limited amount of ballot measure advocacy annually, since the IRS treats ballot measure advocacy as lobbying. Under California’s PRA, however, organizations engaging in certain activities to pass or oppose a ballot measure may need to disclose their expenditures in support of or opposition to the ballot measure, as well as the names of donors whose contributions were used to support the organization’s ballot measure activities. Not all activities in support or opposition to ballot measures will need to be disclosed under state law, so it’s important for nonprofits active in California to learn about the thresholds that trigger reporting, and to know what must be reported.

Nonprofit Voter Assistance and Election Year Activities

Although the IRS prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from engaging in partisan political activity, organizations should know the state and local rules around election related activities.

  • This Practical Guidance – California Nonprofit Voter Assistance resource is designed to help your organization determine how California state and local regulations might apply to your proposed voter engagement and Get Out the Vote work in California.
  • In addition, in California 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, labor unions, and trade associations (as well as for-profit businesses) are permitted to support and oppose state-level candidates. This AFJ factsheet explains how and what activities are permitted.
Recursos en Español Sobre Divulgación de Cabildeo de California

Las organizaciones sin fines de lucro que influyen en la política pública de California deben estar conscientes de dos grupos de leyes: las leyes y reglamentos federales tributarios que limiten el cabildeo de todas las organizaciones 501(c)(3) y las leyes de California que requieren divulgación de ciertas actividades de cabildeo. La Ley de Reforma Política rige las actividades de cualquier persona o entidad que busque influir en las acciones de la Legislatura de California, tanto como de las agencias administrativas, juntas, y comisiones estatales. Eso incluye las organizaciones comunitarias. 

Sin embargo, las reglas de divulgación de cabildeo de California sólo se aplican a grupos e individuos que alcanzan un umbral relativamente alto de actividad de cabildeo, así que muchos grupos que realizan actividades de cabildeo a nivel estatal no necesitarán tomar medidas para cumplir con estas leyes.  

Abogacía Más Audaz de la Alianza por la Justicia ofrece estas dos hojas introductorias en español sobre divulgación de cabildeo de California: 

Alentamos a las organizaciones sin fines de lucro que tengan alguna pregunta a conectarse con uno de nuestros abogados de habla hispana, sin costo, enviando un correo electrónico a