What is a Nonprofit Organization?

What is a Nonprofit Organization? – Overview

A nonprofit organization is an entity that qualifies for tax-exempt status under various sections of the Internal Revenue Code beyond just 501(c)(3). Nonprofit organizations, often called NPOs, may qualify under different sections of the IRS tax code, including but not limited to 501(c)(3).

Nonprofit organizations are normally granted tax exemptions because they are engaged in furthering a social cause and substantially benefitting the public. Any donation to a nonprofit organization by an individual or business is usually tax-deductible.

Moreover, nonprofit organizations are generally exempt from paying taxes on donations received and money acquired through fundraising, with specific conditions and exceptions depending on the source and use of the funds.

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What is the Eligibility to Become a Nonprofit Organization?

Organizations that further scientific, educational, religious, charitable, public safety, cruelty-prevention and literary causes or purposes are granted nonprofit designation and receive tax-exempt status. Some common examples of nonprofit organizations are national charities, universities, hospitals, foundations and churches.

What is a Nonprofit Organization

What is a Nonprofit Organization – What is the Eligibilit

A nonprofit organization should substantially serve the public by offering goods, services, or a combination of both. These organizations should also make operating and financial information public so donors can be informed about how their contributions are utilized. Nonprofits can also collect donations to dispense to other eligible charities.

However, to receive tax-exempt status, an organization must apply to the IRS and meet the criteria specified in the applicable section of the tax code, not limited to 501(c)(3). Once the organization is registered and begins operations, it must maintain compliance with the relevant state agency regulating charitable organizations. The organization may require a dedicated accounting team or a CIO.

Certain political organizations may obtain tax-exempt status under sections like 527, but they are distinct from 501(c) organizations and subject to different rules regarding political activities. Any organization seeking nonprofit classification should state explicitly in its organization papers that it will not participate in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate or make any expenditure for political purposes.

How do Nonprofits Need to Operate?

While some nonprofit organizations rely solely on volunteers, most large and medium-sized nonprofits usually hire a staff that often includes full-time and full-paid directors, managers and other employees.

Though these organizations have special tax concessions in all aspects, nonprofits must pay employment taxes and follow the state and federal labor and workplace regulations like any other business organization.

Nonprofit organizations are not prohibited from offering assets or income to people as fair compensation for their services. However, they must be explicit in their commitment not to use the organization’s operations for the personal benefit or gain of the founders, employees, relatives, supporters, or associates.

What is the Difference between Nonprofit and Not-for-profit Organizations?

Though the terms nonprofit and not-for-profit are used interchangeably, they define two distinct types of enterprises.

The main difference between the two is their purpose. As you know, nonprofit organizations are required to offer significant social benefits through their goods or services. On the other hand, not-for-profit organizations are not required to have any such commitments and can be formed to serve their members instead of the community.

The IRS does not formally distinguish between ‘nonprofit’ and ‘not-for-profit’ in its tax code, though different sections, including 501(c), address various types of tax-exempt organizations. For instance, nonprofits operate under section 501(c)(3) and cover corporations, foundations or funds for charitable, religious, literary, scientific or educational purposes.

For example, not-for-profit organizations focusing on social and recreational activities might qualify under section 501(c)(7), among other sections. A common example of a not-for-profit organization is a sports club jointly owned by members and established for leisure activities.

Besides this, the code also sets different tax treatments for nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations. Generally, both types of organizations are tax-exempt, meaning their income is not taxed. However, donors who contribute to nonprofits are eligible for tax deductions on the donated amount from their taxable income.


Nonprofit organizations are those enterprises whose main purpose is to provide goods and services for advancing charitable, religious, scientific, literary, and socio-economic causes. These organizations must adhere to strict regulations, including restrictions on political campaigning and contributions, which vary based on their tax-exempt status.

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