Can my nonprofit organization engage in advocacy? What is advocacy?  Is it different from lobbying?


Yes, non-profits may engage in advocacy, although there are restrictions.  There is also a legal difference between advocacy and lobbying. 

Advocacy is voicing support for an issue or cause, such as telling the public about the benefits of arts education on your website. This can include attending public meetings with the city government, such as budget hearings, and giving testimony. There are no limits to pure advocacy by nonprofits.

Lobbying (sometimes called “direct advocacy”) refers to advocacy efforts intended to influence legislation, such as writing to the Board of Supervisors to oppose a bill that affects arts education. Nonprofits may engage in a limited amount of lobbying; in San Francisco, a proposition enacted in 2015 places some restrictions on lobbying. See https://ballotpedia.org/City_of_San_Francisco_Registration_Fee_and_Monthly_Reports_for_Expenditure_Lobbyists,_Proposition_C_%28November_2015%29.

Engaging in significant advocacy/lobbying activities?

ABBA is focused on policy education and cannot provide legal advice, please follow your city and county guidelines when you consider participating in advocacy/lobbying activities. If your organization is spending more than 10% of its expenditures on direct advocacy/lobbying, you should file a 501(h) provision form. The current 501(h) provision allows nonprofit arts organizations to allocate expenditures of up to 20% of the first $500,000 of their annual budget to direct advocacy and lobbying. If the organization exceeds $500,000 in annual income, only 15% of the next $500,000 can go to advocacy expenditures, and so on up to $1 million. To engage the 501(h) provision, an organization must complete the IRS Form 5768 (PDF form).

More resources:

CalNonprofits website

Bolder Advocacy, Supporting or Opposing Ballot Measures in California: What You Need to Disclose?

Independent Sector, Advocacy Rules

American Bar Association, Nonprofits and Lobbying Yes, They Can!


Is advocacy the same as fundraising?

Can you help my organization/program raise funds?


There is a difference between advocacy and fundraising. Advocacy takes a broader view and has a deeper effect than fundraising, which is focused on securing one-time allocations of money, typically for one organization or program, and does not impact policy decisions.

When advocating for policies that support the arts, we are promoting an expectation that our public infrastructure should include sustainable funding for the arts – rather than focusing on one-time fundraising campaigns. 

Can you pass this petition to your mailing list?


No. ABBA is focused on developing deep and lasting relationships between artists, arts organizations, funders, and governmental agencies. As such, our communications strategy is carefully designed to further this goal. If your petition relates to arts policy or arts education in the SF Bay Area, please review the Contributor Guidelines and reach out to us to learn about how your work may align with ABBA’s current goals and strategies.

Moreover, we believe that engaging people to write or call their elected officials, or speak at public hearings if they are able, are far more effective than sending petitions, which are increasingly easy to manipulate or to ignore.

Can I participate in advocacy?

I work for a foundation, city, school district or the County.


It's up to you and your employer. Individuals can legally participate in advocacy, but you may not want to put your employer in a difficult position. Some people choose to send letters or spread the word about advocacy campaigns using their personal email accounts, without reference to their employers.

There is a crisis in my community/school district/organization/city. Can you help?


We encourage you to reach out to ABBA if you are experiencing an issue that directly affects arts creation and participation, but please be aware: ABBA is a young, volunteer-based organization that engages in campaigns when we believe our community is in a position to affect large-scale change. Our capacity is limited, and our work is focused on issues that affect a broad spectrum of the arts in the Bay Area. We are generally not able to offer help with specific problems that affect individual artists or organizations.

Does ABBA endorse candidates?

Can you tell me for whom I should vote? 


ABBA does not endorse candidates. We may conduct surveys of candidates in a particular election, or work with candidates and elected officials in creating platforms that are most beneficial to artists and arts organizations. As a young organization our focus is to provide fair and balanced information to the arts community through information on our website and newsletter.

Can I post about an event or fundraising campaign to your Facebook wall?

Will you retweet about my event or fundraiser? 


ABBA is a small organization with a specific focus. There are many existing resources you can use to get your information out.  However, we welcome and value interactions with people and organizations about issues relating to arts, culture, and arts education as long as they do not promote a specific event or fundraiser. Please see our Contributor Guidelines - Facebook/Twitter Policy

Can you fund/promote my project, blog, or event?


ABBA does not have the resources to fund or promote events. We recommend contacting the San Francisco Arts Commission and/or Grants for the Arts to investigate funding opportunities.

We can share and amplify advocacy opportunities as well as professional development events, but we do not partner with individual artists or groups to promote arts events or draw attention to particular organizations. We do not cross-promote or share mailing lists unless it is done as part of an advocacy or professional development event that we are producing. Please review the Contributor Guidelines for details on how we select events/information to share.

Is my personal information safe?

I became a member/signed up for email/participated in a campaign.  


In brief: yes. All personal information is kept confidential within the organization and is not disclosed or sold to other entities.

How do I unsubscribe or change my email preferences?


There is an unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email we send out.


Technical Issues

I am having a website problem, such as issues signing up for events, subscribing to the e-blast, or becoming a member. 


First, please try refreshing or restarting your browser. If there is high traffic on our system, sometimes it just needs to reload the page. If you continue having problems with the website, please email info(at)betterbayarea(dot)org.


How do I become a member? Can I send a membership check instead of joining online?


Become a member online or send a check made out to SOMArts Cultural Center, memo: Arts for a Better Bay Area to:

Arts for a Better Bay Area

℅ SOMArts Cultural Center

934 Brannan St,

San Francisco, CA 94103

Did you get/process my membership?


You will receive an error message instantly if your online membership did not process correctly. Additional membership questions: Please contact info(at)betterbayarea(dot)org.