Lobbying and advocacy for the public's health: What are the limits for nonprofit organizations?

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Nonprofit organizations play an important role in advocating for the public's health in the United States. This article describes the rules under US law for lobbying by nonprofit organizations. The 2 most common kinds of nonprofits working to improve the public's health are 'public charities' and 'social welfare organizations.' Although social welfare organizations may engage in relatively unlimited lobbying, public charities may not engage in 'substantial' lobbying. Lobbying is divided into 2 main categories. Direct lobbying refers to communications with lawmakers that take a position on specific legislation, and grassroots lobbying includes attempts to persuade members of the general public to take action regarding legislation. Even public charities may engage in some direct lobbying and a smaller amount of grassroots lobbying. Much public health advocacy, however, is not lobbying, since there are several important exceptions to the lobbying rules. These exceptions include 'nonpartisan analysis, study, or research' and discussions of broad social problems. Lobbying with federal or earmarked foundation funds is generally prohibited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1425-1429
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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