"Helping Those Who Help Others"

Nonprofit organizations include a multiplicity of activist, professional, special interest, civic, cultural, public health, public service, public broadcasting, and religious groups that work for the public good rather than in pursuit of profit. Nonprofits may operate locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally.

In the United States, nonprofits are recognized and authorized by Congress, which determined that certain types of enterprises should be free from the burden of taxation.

  • Thus, it established a class of entities now known as tax-exempt corporations or nonprofit corporations.
  • A nonprofit corporation is not forbidden to make a profit, but there are limitations on how it is permitted to make money and what it can do with its revenues.

In giving these corporations tax exempt status, Congress imposed specific requirements and limitations on their activities. To qualify for nonprofit status, an organization must be approved by the IRS, which monitors them closely and has the power to revoke tax exempt status for organizations that do not comply with the rules.

Nonprofits seek funding through a variety of means.

  • Some function primarily from dues and contributions.
  • There are many grants available through both federal agencies and private foundations, but the competition for a really good grant can be huge.
  • Few organizations are able to survive on dues, contributions and grant money alone.
  • Building a large base of donors can be the key to long-term sustainability, but keeping donors committed takes work.

Larger organizations often can afford to advertise in the same ways that a for-profit business will, using print ads or television, but this is often out of reach for smaller organizations with tight budgets.

  • Many organizations rely heavily on direct marketing to keep them in touch with their donors and keep the donors giving. Direct marketing is advertising that communicates its messages straight to the public or to another business rather than using an intervening medium, such as television, radio, or print advertising. Direct mail is the most common form of direct marketing. It's a cheap way to reach donors, and can be very effective both in raising funds and keeping donors involved through regular updates about programming activities.  
  • Some organizations also use telephone fundraising (called telemarketing when it's done for profit) to reach donors. It can be a more personal approach than a piece of mail, but some donors will not be receptive to phone calls from an organization, and the cost can be prohibitively high.
  • Special events can be an effective means of raising funds. For organizations that work locally or have a large number of local offices, an annual banquet, rummage sales, fashion shows, auctions, or other activities that can bring out many members of the community to participate, potentially bringing in much more money than such an event will cost. An activity such as a walk or run can also be a useful tool. Participants will ask friends, family, coworkers, or others to contribute a set amount for each mile or kilometer that they travel.
  • Organizations that don't have the funds or the organizational apparatus to arrange an independent event can sometimes partner with another organization or make arrangements so that participants in an existing activity raise money through their involvement.
  • Some nonprofit organizations maintain year-round rummage sales - they open thrift stores in which they sell donated items and often train and employ people from the group(s) they are working to serve, such as battered women, the disabled, recovering addicts, or the homeless.