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Lobbying is one form of advocacy, and refers to a paid person communicating with government employees or politicians in order to influence a government decision, legislation, policy or programs. Lobbying can be in the form of face-to-face communication, phone calls, faxes, emails, letters, or any other form of communication. Lobbyists may be employees of organizations, or consultants paid to lobby on behalf of clients. Unpaid volunteers are generally not considered to be lobbyists (in that they do not need to register as lobbyists) provided they do not receive an honorarium or stipend of any kind. This is particularly important to know because not-for-profit board members are often involved in advocacy work and if they are volunteers, they are not considered lobbyists.

Lobbying is part of advocacy, and as such is an important element of democratic and responsible government. In our society, it is quite appropriate for individuals and organizations to make politicians and bureaucrats aware of needs for legislation, public policy, funding and programs. It is also appropriate for government officials to consult with both constituents and experts in areas where legislation, public policy, funding and programs are being contemplated. For example, if a provincial or territorial government is considering new regulations related to professional licensing, it should be interested in the views of those professionals and industries that will be affected by the regulations. The input that those constituents bring to the table helps governments formulate more effective regulations.

There are two particular areas where not-for-profits must ensure that lobbying and advocacy activities conform to legal requirements:

  • Statutory requirements for the registration of lobbyists
  • Maintaining charitable status under the Income Tax Act

For guidance and suggested policies on lobbying, please refer to Chapter 3 of Not-for-Profit PolicyPro – Advocacy and Public Policy.

Stephanie F. Smith, B.Comm., M.B.A.
Principal of a contract executive and management consulting firm and
co-author of Not-For-Profit PolicyPro

Occasional Contributors

In addition to our regular guest bloggers, Inside Internal Controls blog published by First Reference, provides occasional guest post opportunities from various subject matter experts on the topics of risk management and best practices in finance and accounting, information technology, environmental issues, corporate governance, sales/marketing and operations, not-for-profits and business related issues in Canada. If you are a subject matter expert and would like to become an occasional blogger, please contact Yosie Saint-Cyr at If you liked this post and would like to subscribe to Inside Internal Controls blog click here.

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