Bolder Advocacy Workshops
For Nonprofits and Foundations

Bolder Advocacy wants your nonprofit organization to be the best, most effective advocate for your cause that you can be – and we provide a great curriculum of training programs designed to help you get there.

Bolder Advocacy has provided trainings to thousands of nonprofit organizations.  We work with nonprofit boards, staff, and volunteers to improve their understanding of the legal issues involved in influencing public policy advocacy so they can maximize their advocacy and election-related activities, learn what it takes to engage in effective advocacy, and confidently engage in their advocacy campaigns.

Below is a list of workshops offered by Bolder Advocacy.  These workshops can be customized and combined depending on your organization’s specific needs and the intended audience. Many of these workshops are also available in Spanish.

After your training, you can follow up with any questions you may have as part of our free technical assistance program. Please email us at [email protected], click here, or call us at 866-675-6229 for more information.

Logistical details

Bolder Advocacy trainings can take many forms and can be customized for you and your organization. We can offer  a stand-alone in-person workshop, a webinar, a presentation at a conference, or a series of sessions. The length of the session depends on your particular needs. Although AFJ charges a fee for most trainings, our goal is to make the sessions as accessible and affordable as possible. In general, the cost of training includes trainer preparation time, a customized presentation, access to relevant factsheets and other written resources, unlimited follow-up technical assistance for training attendees, and travel expenses. Costs vary depending on the preferred training format.

Bolder Advocacy makes all decisions regarding the acceptance of an organization’s training request, based on availability. If you have questions or need more information, please contact us at [email protected].  You may schedule a workshop or request a training quote online using our workshop request form. We look forward to working with you to design and deliver the information you need!

Workshop Topics by Category

Advocacy and Lobbying for Nonprofits
Advocacy During an Election Year
Maximize Your Advocacy: Tips for Your Social Media and Online Presence/Campaigns
How Funders Can Engage in and Support Advocacy
Planning, Building & Evaluating Advocacy
Advocacy for 501(c)(4)s, Unions, and Coalitions
California Advocacy Laws
Texas Advocacy Laws

Advocacy and Lobbying for Nonprofits

Advocacy and Lobbying 101: Legal Tips for 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Advocates

501(c)(3)s play an important role in educating the public about policy issues and actions taken by elected officials, including the President. Elected officials vote on bills, make public statements and executive decisions, and set the course for public policy on a wide range of issues. These actions may be consistent with or conflict with a nonprofit’s position on an issue. After this workshop you will have a clear understanding of how to maximize your advocacy, the kinds of advocacy activities 501(c)(3)s can engage in, and when a communication is considered lobbying.

Participants will learn:

  • How federal tax law permits lobbying for charities and how lobbying is defined;
  • One easy step most charities can take to maximize the amount they’re allowed to spend on lobbying;
  • Yearly lobbying limits for charities;
  • Tips for taking advantage of the narrow definitions of lobbying – which will help charities make the most of their lobbying limit; and
  • The application of these rules to ballot measure activities.

This session complements Being a Player: A Guide to the IRS Lobbying Regulations for Advocacy Charities.

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Lobbying 201: Recordkeeping and Reporting for 501(c)(3) Organizations that Lobby

Once you have a basic understanding of the IRS definitions of lobbying and how to determine your organization’s lobbying limits, you will need to track your lobbying expenses to be able to accurately report to the IRS and (where applicable) state and local agencies. Proper recordkeeping is critical in order to meet filing obligations, for strategic planning and fundraising purposes, and for basic organizational management and governance.

Participants will learn:

  • How to track your lobbying time and expenses so that your 501(c)(3) organization stays within its lobbying limits;
  • How a 501(c)(3) reports its lobbying to the IRS, such as on the Form 990 or Form 990-EZ;
  • How tracking and reporting varies depending on whether the charity measures its lobbying under the insubstantial part test or the 501(h) expenditure test;
  • How state and local law may require additional tracking and reporting; and
  • Various options for keeping track of lobbying activities and expenditures.

This session complements Keeping Track: A Guide to Recordkeeping for Advocacy Charities.

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Influencing Federal Policy? Learn How the Lobbying Disclosure Act Affects Nonprofits

Any organization that works to influence federal legislation, regulations, nominations, contracts, or permits needs to be aware of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). The LDA imposes potential registration and reporting obligations on individuals and entities, including nonprofits that lobby various federal officials. This session provides an overview of the LDA and what it means for your nonprofit organization.

Participants will learn:

  • The types of lobbying and administrative advocacy covered by the LDA;
  • The thresholds for registering and reporting under the LDA;
  • When and what forms to file; and
  • The rules that regulate making gifts to members of Congress, the cabinet and executive branch employees.

For more information, please see Understanding the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

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Advocacy During an Election Year

Nonpartisan Advocacy in Partisan Times

Election years provide a great opportunity for public charities to highlight issues and interact with candidates and the voting public. However, public charities cannot support or oppose candidates, and must avoid the appearance or reality of electioneering and other partisan activity, particularly in public and social media communications. This webinar will highlight some common pitfalls and provide suggestions and tips for avoiding them.

Participants will learn:

  • How you can continue to advocate for your issues during election years;
  • How you can educate the public through candidate forums and questionnaires;
  • How you can respond to candidate statements;
  • How you can conduct nonpartisan voter registration and ensure get-out-the-vote efforts are conducted legally;
  • How you can safely support or oppose ballot measures without being partisan; and
  • How staff and volunteers’ partisan activities in their personal time can be kept separate from their activities on behalf of the organization.

This session complements The Rules of the Game: A Guide to Election-Related Activities for 501(c)(3) Organizations.

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Seize the Initiative: Nonprofit Organizations and Ballot Measure Campaigns

Increasingly, nonprofit organizations are on the front lines of ballot measure campaigns.  In promoting their policy agendas, organizations need to understand the laws governing their participation in initiatives and referenda.

Participants will learn:

  • How a 501(c)(3) organization may support or oppose ballot measures;
  • How ballot measure expenditures apply to a 501(c)(3)’s lobbying limits;
  • How a 501(c)(3) organization can work in a coalition with a 501(c)(4) on an initiative;
  • How state ballot measure laws may affect nonprofit involvement in ballot measure campaigns; and
  • How ballot measure campaigns can be funded.

This session complements Ballot Measures and Public Charities: Yes, You Can Influence that Vote.

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Maximize Your Advocacy: Tips for Your Social Media and Online Presence/Campaigns

Influencing Public Policy in the Digital Age: Rules That Apply to Your Social Media and Other Online Activities

Over the past several years, there has been a dramatic increase in the avenues available to nonprofits to communicate their messages to an ever-wider audience. While the communication methods offered by social media may be new, the rules that govern advocacy by nonprofits have not changed.  If your organization utilizes Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or any other social media platform, this workshop is for you!

Participants will learn:

  • How your nonprofit can take advantage of social media while staying in compliance with laws that govern advocacy;
  • How to treat social media and other communications in the context of lobbying limits for 501(c)(3) organizations; and
  • How 501(c)(3) organizations can avoid violating campaign intervention rules during an election season.

This session complements Influencing Public Policy in the Digital Age: The Law of Online Lobbying and Election-Related Activities.

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How Funders Can Engage in and Support Advocacy

Investing in Change: Foundation Support for Lobbying and Other Advocacy

Private and public foundations can play an important role in advocacy by engaging in advocacy themselves and funding their grantees to advocate on their issues. After this workshop, your foundation will have a clear understanding of the kinds of advocacy activities you can safely engage in and best practices for grantmaking to give your grantees the most flexibility under the law for their advocacy efforts. Not sure how to make the case for funding advocacy?  Uncertain whether you can fund grantees that lobby?  Wondering whether your public or private foundation can speak out on a particular issue?  This training answers these questions and more! The workshop is designed for foundation staff and trustees.

Participants will learn:

  •  Why public and private foundation should support advocacy;
  • An overview of activities that constitute advocacy and public policy work;
  • Various advocacy roles for foundations;
  • The tax code’s definitions of lobbying;
  • Activities that are exceptions to the definitions of lobbying, including those which private foundations can engage in;
  • Rules for private and public foundation grants to nonprofits that lobby, including general support, specific project, and multi-year grants; and
  • Grant agreement language that permits support for policy work.

This session complements Investing in Change: A Funder’s Guide to Supporting Advocacy.

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Foundations and Election-Related Activities

If you work for a foundation that wants to engage in and/or fund election-related activities, you need this training!  It reviews the federal tax rules governing public and private foundation support for election-related activities and also explains the types of activities in which foundations may be involved, such as issue advocacy, voter guides,  and candidate debates and forums. In addition, the session covers ballot measures and examines the special rules for private foundations and voter registration drives. The workshop is designed for foundation staff and trustees.

Participants will learn:

  • How private and public foundations can fund nonpartisan election-related activities;
  • Special rules for private foundations looking to fund voter registration; and
  • How foundations can conduct civic engagement work.

This session complements Investing in Change: A Funder’s Guide to Supporting Advocacy and Foundations and Ballot Measures.

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Advocacy Rules for Foundation Grantees

There are many opportunities for 501(c)(3) public charities to advocate for their missions, up to and including lobbying. Knowing how to approach foundations to obtain grants that cover advocacy work can greatly improve a nonprofit’s chances to get and keep this critical funding. This workshop will help you understand the rules that foundations operate under so you can be savvier when it comes to requesting support for advocacy.

Participants will learn:

  • Why different types of foundations have to follow different rules;
  • How those foundation rules affect advocacy grantmaking; and
  • What activities foundations may legally fund.

This session complements Foundation Advocacy Grants: What Grantees Need to Know.

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Planning, Building and Evaluating Advocacy and Community Organizing

Assessing and Strengthening Your Advocacy and/or Community Organizing Capacity

For nonprofits engaged in advocacy and community organizing, having a keen understanding of organizational capacities is crucial to being able to act quickly when opportunities arise. Bolder Advocacy’s capacity assessment tools – ACT!, ACT!Quick, and PowerCheck – are designed to help groups become more effective by supporting their ability to carry out and sustain advocacy and community organizing efforts. These tools provide groups with a snapshot of their organizational assets, as well as help them prioritize areas for improvement. Results can help nonprofits and their funders understand where capacity needs to be strengthened to achieve social change goals, including through increased collaboration with partners to fill gaps in expertise. The tools can also be used again at regular intervals to track progress toward capacity-building goals over time.

Participants will learn:

  • Basic principles of advocacy evaluation;
  • How to measure advocacy and/or community organizing capacity using AFJ’s free online tools: ACT! or ACT!Quick for advocacy and PowerCheck for community organizing; and
  • How other organizations have used these tools to maximize their impact.

*This session can be focused solely on advocacy or solely on community organizing or both. Most of the tools are also available in Spanish.

Game Plan

This interactive session will introduce nonprofit staff and board members to the power of and need for advocacy.  We will discuss how advocacy can further an organization’s mission and how organizations can build their capacity to effectively advocate. Participants will learn advocacy fundamentals, including defining goals, objectives, and appropriate targets.

Participants will learn:

  • How advocacy can be an effective tool to accomplish organizational goals;
  • What makes advocacy different from providing services; and
  • The basic elements of an advocacy campaign.

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Advocacy for 501(c)(4)s, Unions, and Coalitions

Should Our Organization Create a 501(c)(4)?

Many 501(c)(3) organizations want to do more than their tax status allows, which is where 501(c)(4)s come in. If you’re curious about the advantages of creating a new 501(c)(4) organization, this workshop will help.

Participants will learn:

  • The various advocacy activities 501(c)(4) organizations can engage in, including lobbying and partisan election-related activities;
  • How affiliated 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations can work together;
  • Tips for staying in compliance with your 501(c)(4) status; and
  • What kinds of election-related activities and independent expenditures are permissible for 501(c)(4)s, and how much of this activity is allowed.

This session complements The Connection: Strategies for Creating and Operating 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and Political Organizations.

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Maximizing Your Advocacy: The Advantages of 501(c)(4)s

This training will provide an overview of how a 501(c)(4) organization can effectively – and legally – promote issues important to the community it serves.

Participants will learn:

  • How federal tax law applies to 501(c)(4)s’ lobbying and election-related activities;
  • What kinds of election-related activities and independent expenditures are permissible for (c)(4)s, and how much of this activity is allowed; and
  • How state lobbying disclosure and campaign finance laws apply to 501(c)(4) organizations.

This session complements The Connection: Strategies for Creating and Operating 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and Political Organizations.

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Working Together: Building Nonpartisan Partnerships with 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, Unions and Political Organizations

Different types of organizations are increasingly collaborating on lobbying, voter engagement, and other advocacy activities, but they need to be aware of the rules governing organizations with different tax-exempt statuses.  If your organization wants to engage in coalition work with multiple types of tax-exempt organizations, this workshop will help explain how different types of nonprofit organizations can work together while staying in compliance with the law.

Participants will learn:

  • The different roles of 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, unions, and political organizations;
  • The federal tax rules affecting how these organizations can work together;
  • The legal separations necessary between affiliated organizations, such as funding and fundraising constraints; and
  • Permissible joint activities of different types of nonprofits, including election-year activities.

This session complements The Connection: Strategies for Creating and Operating 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and Political Organizations.

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California Advocacy Laws

Understanding California’s Ballot Measure Disclosure Laws

Ballot measure advocacy by nonprofits isn’t just legal – it’s important, powerful, and fundamental to democracy. With policy being decided at the ballot box in California, it’s important for nonprofits to be part of the conversation. This training will help nonprofits understand what they can do to advocate around ballot measures and will also help them grasp ballot measure reporting requirements.

Participants will learn:

  • How much ballot measure advocacy is permissible under IRS rules, one simple step you can take to maximize 501(c)(3) ability to participate in ballot measure advocacy, and tips for staying nonpartisan;
  • The California ballot measure disclosure reporting laws, including what types of activities and expenditures give rise to different types of reporting needs; and
  • How to avoid pitfalls and take advantage of different options for raising money for California ballot measure work.

This session complements Ballot Measure Activities Exempt from California Disclosure Laws and Supporting or Opposing Ballot Measures in California: What Do You Need to Disclose?

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Understanding California’s Lobbying Disclosure Laws

Nonprofits can safely, legally and effectively engage in state-level advocacy and lobbying work in California, but they need to understand what rules apply to their lobbying activities under California state law, in addition to federal tax law. This training is designed for all tax-exempt organizations doing work in the state of California.

Participants will learn:

  • When an organization (or its employees) should start filing California lobbying disclosure reports;
  • The definitions of activities that are considered “lobbying” under California state law and how those definitions differ from IRS lobbying definitions; and
  • The restrictions on organizations or individuals that lobby in California.

This session complements Shaping the Future: A Compliance Guide for Nonprofits Influencing Public Policy in California

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Texas Advocacy Laws

Understanding Texas Lobbying Disclosure Rules

Nonprofits can safely and legally engage in state-level advocacy and lobbying work in Texas, but they need to understand what rules apply to their lobbying activities under Texas state law, in addition to federal tax law. This training is designed for all tax-exempt organizations doing work in the state of Texas.

Participants will learn:

  • When organizations (or their employees) should register as lobbyists and start filing Texas lobbying disclosure reports; and
  • The definitions of activities that are considered “lobbying” under Texas state law and how those definitions differ from the IRS lobbying definitions.

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