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Obama Foundation Charity Law Compliance Guidelines

Thank you for engaging with The Barack Obama Foundation (the “Foundation”)! Our mission is to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world.

We are a  tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, and our status means we can receive tax-deductible donations and are exempt from paying many taxes. It also means we are prohibited from certain activities, including directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office – whether or not such a political campaign takes place in the U.S. or in another country. We also do not lobby or encourage others to lobby by persuading local or foreign lawmakers to vote for or against pending legislation, or by calling on voters to reach out to their elected officials to vote a certain way.

These rules reinforce the Foundation’s mission and help us stay focused on developing citizenship and civic leaders rather than on defeating one’s opponents; to rise above partisan conversations and engage in true dialogue; and to think about long-term solutions rather than political headlines.

Below are some guidelines to help you have engaging, productive conversations at  Foundation events,  functions, programming (“Foundation Events”):


The following are some examples of some statements to avoid. If you have a question about whether a particular statement crosses the line into political campaign intervention, please reach out to a member of the Foundation’s Legal Team by writing to [email protected].

Overtly partisan statements:

  • “Party A should be proud of their recent bill.”

  • “Party B’s reform package is a recipe for disaster.”

Support for or opposition to any candidate for public office:

  • “Candidate John Doe is not qualified to serve as a Senator.”

  • “Candidate Jane Doe is the right choice for the country.”

Approval or disapproval of a political candidate’s positions or actions:

  • “It’s disappointing to see John Doe’s position on issue x

  • “Candidate Jane Doe’s proposal on XYZ will benefit the entire country.”

Making or soliciting contributions for political organizations or candidates for public office:

  • “Candidate John Doe needs your support to beat the incumbent.”

  • “Jane Doe is counting on voters like us to make change.”

Expressing support for or opposition to a specific political party or ideology

  • “Party A has the correct stance on poverty.”

  • “The current prime minister has done nothing to support job growth.”

Encouraging others to engage in lobbying (direct or grassroots) for proposed legislation at any level (international, national, state, or local):

  • “Call your local elected official to vote yes on Bill XYZ.”

  • “We need to pressure the United Nations Security Council to pass Resolution 1234.”


Even if you do your best to avoid political statements during a Foundation Event, other participants in your conversation may veer into prohibited territory. If this happens, consider the talking points below as a way to steer the conversation back on track.

Acknowledge the statement, but then move on:

  • “Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Let’s stick to the [original question/prompt].”

Remind participants that this Foundation Event is a chance to talk about something other than politics and to connect with others in your area of the world who care about active citizenship:

  • “At today’s event, we have an opportunity to shift our energy and focus away from the current political moment and instead to think and engage on a more fundamental level of what citizenship and democracy means in day-to-day life.”

Use the statement as a way to further the group’s understanding of the speaker’s individual situation:

  • “Let’s talk more about how [issue or candidate] impacts you and your community.”

Use the statement as a way to discuss how it could lead to civic action:

  • “Let’s focus on how we can address [issue] in our local community.”

Use the statement as a way to inspire others to civic action:

  • “Let’s discuss how we can inspire others in our community to care about this issue.”

If you have questions about a specific issue, statement, or activity, please contact a member of the Foundation’s Legal Team by writing to [email protected] (Opens in a new tab).