I am on the Executive Board of the Parent-Teacher Club and my children's elementary school. I was recently questioned by another parent about the legality of a donation that our organization made to a recent Emergency Levy Campaign. I've done some research and found that we are NOT the only parent organization to do this. Can anyone give me a source for the actual "word" on the legality of this situation. If it's not legal, we definitely want to change how this is handled. If it is legal I would like that verbiage and source of information to provide to anyone else who might raise this question. Any information that anyone could provide would be helpful. Thank you in advance. FYI - I am in Ohio.
Lots of assumptions go into this response...assuming you are a 501c3, and assuming the Emergency Levy Campaign is also a legitimate 501c3, and it's not supporting a specific candidate or piece of legislation,and your donation does not constitute a substantial portion of your resources, then, I think the donation was legal. If the donation were to the campaign of a specific individual or to promote a specific piece of legislation, I think that's where the IRS draws the line. The best advice would come from the IRS itself at
in IRS Publication 557, or by calling 1-877-829-5500.
Now... another important question is whether it's in the best interest of your PTO to publically suport this campaign.
I don't know why that link above doesn't work, but it's a page from the IRS website (
) that discusses non-profits and lobbying. Mrs...I'm not an attorney nor an IRS rep, but the language on that page is pretty clear to me that lobbying for a piece of legislation is not allowed if it consumes a "substantial" portion of your $/time. Maybe I can copy the language here...this is directly from the IRS's web site.....
In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.
Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.
An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.
Organizations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying. For example, organizations may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status."