In Kind Contributions - What Volunteers & Activists Need to Know!
September 3, 2020
In-kind contributions to political campaigns from volunteers and activists are subject to state and federal reporting rules. Here's what you need to know!
In Washington state, "incidental in-kind contributions" are small amounts of goods or services donated directly to a state or local campaign that together with other in-kinds from the same contributor don't exceed $25 in value during the election cycle (we're currently in the general election cycle). Be sure to keep the campaign you are helping with incidental in-kind contributions informed about your donations as if you exceed the $25 election cycle limit, all of your incidental in-kind contributions are reportable to the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).
In Washington state, the first $50 of volunteer "out of pocket expenditures" are not treated as an in-kind contribution. This is measured on a campaign-by-campaign basis. Once a volunteer spends more than $50 out-of-pocket for a single campaign, the campaign is required to report all of that volunteer's out of pocket expenditures as an in-kind contribution. As an example, let's say a volunteer decides to write postcards to voters in their precinct. They purchase 100 "voter postcards" from their local store for $14 ($15.25 including sales tax). Postage for the 100 postcards is $35. So they've spent a total of $50.25 on 100 postcards and postage. If the postcard project only mentions one state or local candidate, the volunteer needs to advise the campaign immediately so that the campaign can report to the Public Disclosure Commission the volunteer's in-kind contribution on its next PDC filing. If the postcard project mentions two state or local candidates, then each candidate mentioned on the postcard is allocated its share of the cost on a 50/50 basis. This means that $25.13 is a volunteer out of pocket expenditure for each of the campaigns. The volunteer should keep track of their expenses on a campaign by campaign basis so that if the $50 limit is exceeded for any particular campaign, the campaign can be timely informed of the in-kind contribution for PDC reporting purposes.
For federal candidates, such as candidates to the United States House of Representatives, volunteer "out of pocket expenditures" can be as high as $1,000 before a reporting obligation exists.
Campaign contribution rules can be very complicated, and this is just a high-level overview of some of those rules.
If you are interested in helping with a particular campaign, you may wish to contact the campaign in advance to find out how they would like to be kept informed of expenses that might be incurred as a volunteer.
For state and local candidates in Washington, visit the Public Disclosure Commission website and enter your address in the "Follow the Money" section to find out information on state and local campaigns in your voting district. Click on the candidate name, then click on the hyperlinked date in the "Registration" section. You'll be taken to the most recent C-1 form filed, which shows the contact information for the state or local campaign.