United States - Politics - Nonprofit Organizations

URL https://Persagen.com/docs/nonprofit_organizations-usa.html
Sources Persagen.com  |  Wikipedia  |  other sources (cited in situ)
Authors Persagen
Date published 2021-07-16
Curator Dr. Victoria A. Stuart, Ph.D.
Curation date 2021-07-16
Editorial practice Refer here
Summary A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, public or social benefit, in contrast with an entity that operates as a business aiming to generate a profit for its owners.
Key points
  • Numerous non-profit charitable organizations in the United States are funded by wealthy, Machiavellian donors who fund these organizations, ultimately to their benefit.

  • Wealthy disruptors anonymously exert their influencer through donor-advised funds ("dark money"), to anonymously subvert the political process through lobbying and influence peddling.

  • Wealth funded partisan appointments result in co-optation of constitutional and legislative structures (e.g., the Supreme Court of the United States, and other governmental appointments), eroding civil rights and liberties while benefiting neoliberal practices.

  • Erosions to civil rights and liberties include increased surveillance and societal disruption (disinformation; erosions to: free speech; freedom of the press; self-determination; increasing influence of alt-right, neo-conservative, Christian-right agendae).

  • Ultimately, these practices result in concentration of power and influence, increased disparities, societal confusion, malaise and apathy, the rise of neofascist regimes, and non-sustainable practices that contribute to environmental and ecological destruction.

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Nonprofit organizations

Background - Nonprofit organizations

  • Source: Wikipedia [captured 2021-07-19]
  • A nonprofit organization (NPO) - also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution - is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, public or social benefit, in contrast with an entity that operates as a business aiming to generate a profit for its owners. A nonprofit is subject to the non-distribution constraint: any revenues that exceed expenses must be committed to the organization's purpose, not taken by private parties. A wide array of organizations are nonprofit, including most political organizations, schools, business associations, churches, social clubs, and consumer cooperatives. Nonprofit entities generally seek approval from governments to be tax-exempt, and some may also qualify to receive tax-deductible contributions, but an entity may incorporate as a nonprofit entity without securing tax-exempt status.

    The key aspects of nonprofits are accountability, trustworthiness, honesty, and openness to every person who has invested time, money, and faith into the organization. Nonprofit organizations are accountable to the donors, founders, volunteers, program recipients, and the public community. For a nonprofit that seeks to finance its operations through donations, public confidence is a factor in the amount of money that a nonprofit organization is able to raise. The more nonprofits focus on their mission, the more public confidence they will have. This will result in more money for the organization. The activities a nonprofit is partaking in can help build the public's confidence in nonprofits, as well as how ethical the standards and practices are.

    Statistics in the United States

    According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the United States, including public charities, private foundations, and other nonprofit organizations. Private charitable contributions increased for the fourth consecutive year in 2017 (since 2014), at an estimated $410.02 billion. Out of these contributions, religious organizations received 30.9%, education organizations received 14.3%, and human services organizations received 12.1%. Between September 2010 and September 2014, approximately 25.3% of Americans over the age of 16 volunteered for a nonprofit.

    Mechanism of Money-raising

    Nonprofits are not driven by generating profit, but they must bring in enough income to pursue their social goals. Nonprofits are able to raise money in different ways. This includes income from donations from individual donors or foundations; sponsorship from corporations; government funding; programs, services or merchandise sales; and investments. Each NPO is unique in which source of income works best for them. With an increase in NPOs within the last decade, organizations have adopted competitive advantages to create revenue for themselves to remain financially stable. Donations from private individuals or organizations can change each year and government grants have diminished. With changes in funding from year to year, many nonprofit organizations have been moving toward increasing the diversity of their funding sources. For example, many nonprofits that have relied on government grants have started fundraising efforts to appeal to individual donors.

    Nonprofit vs. Not-for-profit

    Nonprofit and not-for-profit are terms that are used similarly, but do not mean the same thing. Both are organizations that do not make a profit, but may receive an income to sustain their missions. The income that nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations generate is used differently. Nonprofit organizations return any extra income to the organization. Not-for-profits use their excess money to pay their members who do work for them. Another difference between nonprofit organizations and not-for-profit organizations is their membership. Nonprofits have volunteers or employees who do not receive any money from the organization's fundraising efforts. They may earn a salary for their work that is independent from the money the organization has fundraised. Not-for-profit members have the opportunity to benefit from the organization's fundraising efforts.

    In the United States, both nonprofits and not-for-profits are tax-exempt under IRS publication 557. Although they are both tax-exempt, each organization faces different tax code requirements. A nonprofit is tax-exempt under 501(c)(3) requirements if it is either a religious, charitable, or educational based organization that does not influence state and federal legislation. Not-for-profits are tax-exempt under 501(c)(7) requirements if they are an organization for pleasure, recreation or another nonprofit purpose.

    Nonprofits are either member-serving or community-serving. Member-serving nonprofit organizations create a benefit for the members of their organization and can include but are not limited to credit unions, sports clubs, and advocacy groups. Community-serving nonprofit organizations focus on providing services to the community either globally or locally. Community-serving nonprofits include organizations that deliver aid and development programs, medical research, education, and health services. It is possible for a nonprofit to be both member-serving and community-serving.


  • Please refer to the source article (Wikipedia) for the continuation of this content.

  • 501(c) Organizations

  • Main article: 501(c) Organizations
  • A 501(c) organization is a nonprofit organization in the federal law of the United States according to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501(c) (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)) and is one of over 29 types of nonprofit organizations exempt from some federal income taxes. Sections 503 through 505 set out the requirements for obtaining such exemptions. Many states refer to Section 501(c) for definitions of organizations exempt from state taxation as well. 501(c) organizations can receive unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, and unions.

    For example, a nonprofit organization may be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) if its primary activities are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering amateur sports competition, preventing cruelty to children, or preventing cruelty to animals.

    501(c)(3) Organizations

  • Main article: 501(c)(3) Organizations
  • 501(c)(3) tax-exemptions apply to entities that are organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes; or for testing for public safety, to foster national or international amateur sports competition, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals. The 501(c)(3) exemption also applies for any unincorporated community chest, fund, cooperating association, or foundation that is organized and operated exclusively for those purposes. There are also supporting organizations - often referred to in shorthand form as "Friends of" organizations. 26 U.S.C. § 170, provides a deduction, for federal income tax purposes, for some donors who make charitable contributions to most types of 501(c)(3) organizations, among others.

    The IRS explains that to be tax-exempt, "an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes ... and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual." Private inurement means that the organization's assets must not unduly benefit a person.

    Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are prohibited from conducting political campaign activities to intervene in elections to public office. On the other hand, public charities (but not private foundations) may conduct a limited amount of lobbying to influence legislation. Although the law states that "No substantial part..." of a public charity's activities can go to lobbying, charities may register for a 501(h) election allowing them to lawfully conduct lobbying activities as long as their financial expenditure does not exceed a specified amount. 501(c)(3) organizations risk loss of tax exempt status if any of these rules are violated.

    A 501(c)(3) organization is allowed to conduct some or all of its charitable activities outside the United States. Donors' contributions to a 501(c)(3) organization are tax-deductible only if the contribution is for the use of the 501(c)(3) organization, and that the 501(c)(3) organization is not merely serving as an agent or conduit of a foreign charitable organization. Additional procedures are required of 501(c)(3) organizations that are private foundations.

    501(c)(4) Organizations

  • Main article: 501(c)(4) Organizations
  • Main article: Citizens United v. FEC
  • A 501(c)(4) Organization is a social welfare organization, such as a civic organization or a neighborhood association. An organization is considered by the IRS to be operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare if it is primarily engaged in promoting the common good and general welfare of the people of the community. Net earnings must be exclusively used for charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.

    According to The Washington Post, 501(c)(4) organizations:

    Allowed Activities

    501(c)(4)s are similar to 501(c)(5)s and 501(c)(6)s in that the organizations may inform the public on controversial subjects and attempt to influence legislation relevant to its program and, unlike 501(c)(3) organizations, they may also participate in political campaigns and elections, as long as their primary activity is the promotion of social welfare and related to the organization's purpose.


    Electioneering communications

    The use of 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), and 501(c)(6) organizations has been affected by the 2007 case FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc., in which the Supreme Court struck down the part of the McCain-Feingold Act that prohibited 501(c)(4)s, 501(c)(5)s, and 501(c)(6)s from broadcasting electioneering communications. The Act defined an electioneering communication as a communication that mentions a candidate's name 60 days before a primary or 30 days before a general election.


    Contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations are not tax-deductible as charitable donations unless the organization is either a volunteer fire department or a veterans organization. Dues or contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations may be deductible as a business expense under IRC 162, although amounts paid for intervention or participation in any political campaign, direct lobbying, grass roots lobbying, and contact with certain federal officials are not deductible. ...


    A 501(c)(4) organization is not required to disclose their donors publicly, with the exception of organizations that make independent expenditures as of 2018. The former complete lack of disclosure led to extensive use of the 501(c)(4) provisions for organizations that are actively involved in lobbying, and has become controversial. Criticized as "dark money," spending from these organizations on political advertisements has exceeded spending from super political action committees (super PACs). Spending by organizations that do not disclose their donors increased from less than $5.2 million in 2006 to well over $300 million during the 2012 election season.

    Every organization, including a 501(c)(4) organization, that expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a particular political candidate and spends more than $250 during a calendar year must disclose the name of each person who contributed more than $200 during the calendar year to the Federal Election Commission. The Federal Election Commission is required to enforce this provision based on a federal court decision in 2018.

  • Under U.S. federal law, "the IRS is required to provide the public with certain tax information [IRS Form 990] for 501(c)(4) organizations upon request - but personal identifying information of donors must be redacted by the agency."

  • 501(c)(5) Organizations

  • Main article: 501(c)(5) Organizations

  • 501(c)(6) Organizations

  • Main article: 501(c)(6) Organizations

  • 527 Organizations

  • Main article: 527 organizations
  • See also:
  • A 527-Organization or 527 Group is a type of U.S. tax-exempt organization organized under Section 527 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 527). A 527 group is created primarily to influence the selection, nomination, election, appointment or defeat of candidates to federal, state or local public office.

    Technically, almost all political committees, including state, local, and federal candidate committees, traditional political action committees, "super PACs," and political parties are "527 organizations." However, in common practice the term is usually applied only to such organizations that are not regulated under state or federal campaign finance laws because they do not "expressly advocate" for the election or defeat of a candidate or party.

    There are no upper limits on contributions to 527s and no restrictions on who may contribute. There are no spending limits imposed on these organizations. The organizations must register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), publicly disclose their donors and file periodic reports of contributions and expenditures.

    Because they may not expressly advocate for specific candidates or coordinate with any candidate's campaign, many 527s are used to raise money to spend on issue advocacy and voter mobilization. Examples of 527s are Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, The Media Fund, America Coming Together, the Progress for America Voter Fund, and the Secretary of State Project.

    Political Action Committees  (PACs)

  • Main article: Political Action Committee
  • In the United States, a Political Action Committee (PAC) is a 527 organization that pools campaign contributions from members and donates those funds to campaigns for or against candidates, ballot initiatives, or legislation. The legal term PAC has been created in pursuit of campaign finance reform in the United States. This term is quite specific to all activities of campaign finance in the United States. Democracies of other countries use different terms for the units of campaign spending or spending on political competition (see political finance). At the U.S. federal level, an organization becomes a PAC when it receives or spends more than $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election, and registers with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), according to the Federal Election Campaign Act as amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001 (also known as the McCain-Feingold Act). At the state level, an organization becomes a PAC according to the state's election laws.

    Contributions from corporate or labor union treasuries are illegal, though they may sponsor a PAC and provide financial support for its administration and fundraising. Union-affiliated PACs may only solicit contributions from members. Independent PACs may solicit contributions from the general public and must pay their own costs from those funds.

    Super PACs  (Super PACs)

  • Main article: Super PACs
  • Super PACs, officially known as "independent expenditure-only political action committees," may engage in unlimited political spending (on, for example, ad-buys) independently of the campaigns, but are not allowed to either coordinate or make contributions to candidate campaigns or party coffers. Unlike traditional PACs, Super PACs can raise funds from individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups without any legal limit on donation size.

    Super PACs were made possible by two judicial decisions in 2010: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and, two months later, SpeechNOW.org v. FEC. In SpeechNOW.org, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that PACs that did not make contributions to candidates, parties, or other PACs could accept unlimited contributions from individuals, unions, and corporations (both for profit and not-for-profit) for the purpose of making independent expenditures.

    The result of the Citizens United and SpeechNOW.org decisions was the rise of a new type of political action committee in 2010, popularly dubbed the "super PAC." ... According to FEC advisories, Super PACs are not allowed to coordinate directly with candidates or political parties. This restriction is intended to prevent them from operating campaigns that complement or parallel those of the candidates they support or engaging in negotiations that could result in quid pro quo bargaining between donors to the PAC and the candidate or officeholder. However, it is legal for candidates and super PAC managers to discuss campaign strategy and tactics through the media.

    Additional Reading

  • [📌 pinned article][ProPublica.org, 2022-12-28] How to Evaluate a Nonprofit Before You Donate.  It's important to know that your charitable donation will be well spent and support the programs you care about. Here's how to check on a nonprofit's finances. ... Once the IRS makes the Form 990s public, you can find it in ProPublica's Nonprofit Explorer, a Form 990 lookup tool. Search for a nonprofit by name or browse by state or type. ...

  • [OpenSecrets.org, 2020-10-06] While Biden's campaign pulled negative ads, super PACs kept attacking Trump.

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