Lobbying Guidelines for Private Foundations

Private foundations are prohibited from participating or intervening in partisan political campaigns and from expressing views on specific legislation to legislators or issuing a “call to action” in communications about legislation with the general public unless the legislation regards matters which might affect the existence of the foundation, its powers and duties, its tax-exempt status, or the deduction of contributions to the foundation (also known as the “self-defense” exception).

Private foundations may:

  • Build relationships with elected officials;
  • Share with them information about the foundation’s activities and grants;
  • Provide technical assistance or advice to legislative body or committee in response to a written request;
  • make available nonpartisan analysis, study or research.

Restrictions on Grants
In general, private foundations may not earmark a grant to a nonprofit for lobbying. They may provide general support grants to organizations that lobby and they may provide grants for specific projects with a lobbying component, so long as their grant amount does not exceed the budgeted non-lobbying expenses for the project.


Global Topics: Public Policy
Policy Issues: Lobbying & Political Activity
Resource Types: Fact Sheet