501(c)(3) versus 501(c)(4)

The Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund (the Action Fund) is an independent advocacy organization that is affiliated with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (the Campaign) but separate from it.

As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Action Fund is legally allowed to do a number of things that the Campaign, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, cannot. Most notably, while the Campaign is limited in the amount of lobbying it can do to promote effective legislation to prevent and reduce tobacco use, the Action Fund may do as much lobbying as it chooses (and its resources allow).

In addition, while the Campaign cannot engage in activities intended to influence the outcome of campaigns and elections, the Action Fund may, with some limits, educate the public about the tobacco control policies and voting records of different candidates, evaluate the tobacco control votes and policies of competing candidates, and, in some state and local elections, even support or endorse specific candidates, depending on state and local election laws.

Using these special tools responsibly and effectively, the Action Fund can help make the tobacco control movement much more effective and greatly increase our chances of quickly reducing the massive amount of death, disease, and disability caused by smoking and by the tobacco industry's enormous economic and political power.

The Action Fund's much broader scope of available activities is based largely on the fact that it is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization to which contributions are not tax deductible. Contributions to 501(c)(3) organizations, such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which have a more limited scope of permitted activities, are tax deductible.

Accordingly, the Action Fund cannot accept contributions from many foundations and public health organizations that make donations only to 501(c)(3) nonprofits, and must rely more on contributions from individuals who want to help fight the big tobacco companies, hold our elected representatives accountable on tobacco control issues, and reduce smoking and its horrible harms and costs both in their own communities and throughout the country.