An individual may volunteer personal services to a campaign without making a contribution as long as the individual is not compensated by anyone for the services. Volunteer activity is not reportable.
Uncompensated services by volunteers
An attorney, working as a volunteer (that is, the attorney receives no compensation from anyone for their volunteer services), writes policy papers for the campaign.
If volunteers are, in fact, paid by any person for their services, then the activity is no longer considered volunteer activity. If the payment is made by someone other than the campaign itself, then an in-kind contribution results and the campaign must report it. (Exception: “Free Legal and Accounting Services”) Refer to Advisory Opinions (AOs) 2007-08, 1982-04 and 1980-42.
Foreign national as campaign volunteer
Although foreign nationals may not make contributions or expenditures (including advances of personal funds) in connection with any federal, state or local election, an individual who is a foreign national may participate in campaign activities as an uncompensated volunteer. In doing so, the volunteer must be careful not to participate in the decision-making process of the campaign. The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations specifically prohibit foreign nationals from participating in the decisions of any person involving election-related activity. For example, a foreign national volunteer may attend committee events and campaign strategy meetings, but may not be involved in the management of the committee.
Incidental volunteer activity at corporate or labor facilities
Generally, if an individual provides services to a campaign during paid working hours, the employer makes a contribution to the campaign. However, an employee, stockholder or member of a corporation or labor organization may make occasional, isolated or incidental use of corporate or labor organization facilities for their own individual volunteer activities on behalf of a campaign. "Incidental use" is considered the use of facilities for no longer than one (1) hour per week or four (4) hours per month. For example, an employee may use an office phone to make calls that pertain to political volunteer work. If the volunteer activity is limited to “incidental use” of the facilities the volunteer does not have to reimburse the organization for use of the facilities (only for any increased overhead or operating costs).
When use of the facilities exceeds “incidental use,” the volunteer must reimburse the organization the usual and normal rental fee within a commercially reasonable time. The reimbursement is considered an in-kind contribution from the volunteer and must be reported by the benefiting campaign committee.
Note that if any person (including an employee, stockholder or member) uses the facilities of a corporation or union to produce campaign materials, reimbursement is required regardless of how much time is spent on the activity.
Use of real or personal property: activities in home, church, community room
Individuals, in the course of volunteering personal services, may use their homes—or the recreation room of the residential complex where they live—for campaign-related activities without making a contribution. A nominal fee paid by an individual volunteer for the use of a recreation room is not considered an in-kind contribution to the campaign and is not, therefore, reportable.
Volunteers may use a church or community room for campaign activities as long as the facility is regularly used for noncommercial purposes by members of the community, without regard to political affiliation. Again, a nominal fee paid by an individual volunteer for the use of the room is not a contribution.
Food, drink, invitations for home, church or community room event
When holding a campaign-related activity in a home, church or community room, an individual may spend up to $1,000 per candidate, per election, for food, beverage and invitations for the event without making a contribution. (For example, two individuals living together may spend up to $2,000 per candidate, per election.) Any amount spent in excess of $1,000, however, must be reported by the campaign as an in-kind contribution. If an individual co-hosts an event held in someone else’s home, any expenses paid by the nonresident cohost are considered contributions to the campaign benefiting from the event.
Internet volunteer activity
An uncompensated individual or group of uncompensated individuals may engage in certain voluntary internet activities for the purpose of influencing a federal election without restriction. These exempted internet activities would not result in a contribution or an expenditure under the Act and would not trigger any registration or reporting requirements with the FEC. This exemption applies to individuals acting with or without the knowledge or consent of a campaign or a political party committee. Exempted internet activities include, but are not limited to, sending or forwarding electronic mail, providing a hyperlink to a website, creating, maintaining or hosting a website and paying a nominal fee for the use of a website, and any other form of communication distributed over the internet. Refer to AOs 2018-03 and 2011-14.
Use of employer’s computer and Internet internet access
A corporation or a labor organization may permit its employees, shareholders, officials and members to use its facilities for individual volunteer internet activity, without making a prohibited contribution. The individual volunteer must comply with the corporation’s or labor organization’s internal policies for computer and internet use and must complete the normal amount of work for which the employee is paid is expected to perform. Also, the activity must not increase the overhead or operating costs of the organization, and the activity must not be coerced. The organization may not condition the availability of the internet or the computer on their being used for political activity or for support for or opposition to any particular candidate or political party.
Not exempt: paid web communications
If an individual or group of individuals pays a fee to place a communication on another person or entity’s website, the communication is considered general public political advertising, and thus qualifies as a public communication. As such, it may require a disclaimer and/or reporting, and may count as a contribution and/or expenditure.