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Nonprofit Organizations: Overview

Nonprofit Organizations: Overview

Nonprofit organizations include everything from neighborhood associations that meet a couple of times a year and have no assets to Harvard University and the Gates Foundation, each with tens of billions in assets. They include soup kitchens and traditional "charities" that serve the poor as well as your local church, the Chamber of Commerce, the Sierra Club, the United Steel Workers labor union, and the Metropolitan Opera. As you can see, there's no "one-size-fits-all" way to think about nonprofit organizations.

So we categorize. NCCS often divides nonprofit organizations into the three major categories. Click on a column heading or other link to learn more:
501(c)(3) Public Charities 501(c)(3) Private Foundations Other Exempt Organizations
Arts, higher education, hospitals, human services & more

Gross receipts $25,000 or more -> Filing IRS Form 990
Examples: Hospitals, colleges, human services, museums & more
Small (under $25,000)
Examples: Community theaters, neighborhood orgs., new organizations & more
Congregations (registration voluntary)
Unregistered Two primary categories:
  • Very small orgs. (gross receipts under $5,000)
  • Congregations
  • All must register and file
  • Most rely on investment income generated from their endowments
  • Only 3,000 of 100,000 have staff, but these account for vast majority of assets
  • A small % are "operating foundations," but most are "grantmaking foundations"
  • Most are "family foundations"
501(c)(4) "Social Welfare"
  • 100 or so big HMOs or managed health plans
  • Mix of advocacy groups, civic clubs

501(c)(5) Labor unions, farm bureaus & more

501(c)(6) Business leagues

501(c)(7) Social & recreational clubs

15-20 other small categories include veterans organizations, fraternal organizations, cemetery companies, & credit unions.