501(c)(3) Information & Application Advice

How To Apply For 501c3

The whole process when you apply for 501c3 is actually fairly easy. The tricky part is making sure you qualify, and making sure that all of your forms and papers are in order before sending the application in.

To clarify, a 501c3 applies to the following non-profits: Religious, educational, prevention of cruelty to animals or children, literary, scientific, testing for public safety, the fostering of national and international sports, and general charitable organizations. In other words, the vast majority of non-profits are covered by the 501c3, but if you didn't find your organization's goal listed above, you may want to look into other 501c exemptions available. Now for how to actually apply.

The 1023 Form

The road towards 501c3 exemption begins with the 1023 form, and, if the gross receipts for the organization are expected to total ten thousand dollars or more, a filing fee of seven hundred fifty dollars will be required. If less than ten thousand dollars, the filing fee is reduced to three hundred dollars, although some forms of organization are automatically considered exempt without the application process, including churches and church related organizations, and any non-private organization whose gross receipts yield less than an average of five thousand dollars.


If you are granted 501c3 status, there are certain activities that your organization will not be allowed to engage in, mainly political. These include elections. You can't use your group to support or endorse a particular candidate. This is to ensure that non-profits aren't being set up as a tax-free campaign fund.

Secondly, you can't engage in petitions and lobbying with your group. Of course, an individual's politics are their own, but to use a church or educational program to advocate a political cause is seen as unsavory. Basically, if an organization doesn't pay taxes, then they can't get involved in political activity.