Non Profit – 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organizations

charitable and nonprofit composite graphic

The Internal Revenue Code in the United States provides for more than 25 types of nonprofit organizations. However, 501(c)(3) organizations remain the most popular category, named after the section of the tax code that provides for their existence (Internal Revenue Service, n.d.).


501(c)(3) nonprofits are organizations established for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or other similar purposes. These organizations, unlike regular companies, are exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code. Examples include universities, churches, hospitals, and charities such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army (National Council of Nonprofits, n.d.).

Key Features

  • They are exempt from federal income tax.
  • Donations made to these organizations are tax-deductible.
  • These entities must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes.


The status provides two primary financial benefits: tax exemption and the ability to accept tax-deductible donations. This means that these organizations do not have to pay federal income tax on any profits made from activities that are substantially related to the charitable, educational, or other purposes that form the basis of the organization’s exemption (Internal Revenue Service, n.d.).

  • Tax-exempt status
  • Ability to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions
  • Eligibility to apply for government and private grants
  • Potential discounts on postage and other services


These entities must follow strict regulations set by the IRS to maintain their tax-exempt status. They must demonstrate that their earnings do not inure to the benefit of private shareholders or individuals. They must avoid political campaign involvement, restrict their lobbying activities, and ensure their activities do not serve private interests (Council on Foundations, n.d.).

  • Not engaging in political campaigns
  • Restricting lobbying activities
  • Ensuring earnings do not benefit private individuals or shareholders

Contribution to Society

These organizations play a vital role in society, contributing to various sectors such as health, education, social services, and more. They provide services and benefits to people who might otherwise not have access to them. These organizations also contribute significantly to the economy through job creation and purchasing goods and services (National Council of Nonprofits, n.d.).

In conclusion, 501(c)(3) nonprofits provide essential services to the community, enjoying certain financial benefits due to their tax-exempt status, while also adhering to specific obligations to maintain this status. With an understanding of 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, individuals can make informed decisions when interacting with, donating to, or establishing such an organization.


  1. Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). Charities and non-profits. Retrieved from