What is a 501(c)(3) organization?
A 501(c)(3) is type of incorporation that is used to set up a charitable corporation. A charitable company is a type of company that is set up with the intention of providing a service to the community, rather than making a profit. Incorporating a company makes it a legal entity, responsible for its actions in the community. This is important, as it removes a great deal of the responsibility from the person who is starting the company. If you start a 501(c)(3) company, you want the legal liability for possible damages to be the responsibility of the 501(c)(3) corporation so that your personal possessions are safe from creditors.
Public charities constitute the majority of 501(c)(3) organizations, with private foundations also falling under this category. To be recognized as a public charity, your nonprofit must be organized and operated for purposes that are beneficial to the public interest. These purposes include
- relief of the poor, distressed, or underprivileged
- advancement of religion
- advancement of education and science
- creation or maintenance of public buildings or monuments
- lessening the burden of government
- elimination of prejudice and discrimination
- defense of human and civil rights
- combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency
The organization must not operate for the benefit of a private person. Upon dissolution, its assets must be distributed to another 501(c)(3) charity. It is not allowed to engage in any partisan political activity. Lobbying is accepted but cannot be a substantial part of its activities. Public charities are the only tax-exempt organizations that can receive tax-deductible donations.