By Mary Beth Harrington
Let me start by explaining that I have over 30 years of experience working with nonprofits and am passionate about communicating the importance of the nonprofit sector to wellbeing. social and economic aspects of our community.
JOLT invited me to write a regular column on Thurston County nonprofit organizations.
Most people who work in nonprofits are focused on a specific mission (animals, kids, environment, etc.) or have climbed the ladder in their careers (yes, nonprofits have a scale of career) with a specific non-profit organization. A few of us, like me, have worked with non-direct service organizations, that is, organizations that support other nonprofits (think Community Foundation of South Puget Sound or United Way). I like to say that I have worked with all the nonprofits, from AIDS to zoos and everything in between.
Why should you care?
You have benefited from the services of non-profit organizations throughout your life. Chances are, the hospital where you were born is a non-profit. The schools you attended (unless one of them was an online school named after a large city in Arizona) were non-profit. Your football team was a non-profit. If you are a member of a homeowners association, bike club, or social club, chances are it is a non-profit organization. If you belong to a religious group, it is a non-profit organization.
Not all associations are the same
You may have heard that nonprofits are called 501c3, but this is just one type of nonprofit organization. According to the Internal Revenue Service (and yes, nonprofits pay taxes, but more on that in another column), there are over 29 different types of tax exemptions. The IRS defines 501 (c) (3) charities as those that are “organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, public safety testing, literary, educational, or other specified purposes.” .
For example, the designation 501 (c) (4) refers to civic leagues, welfare organizations and local employee associations. A 501 (c) (6) refers to trade leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, etc. My favorite to quote is 501 (c) (13) which refers to cemetery societies (there is your Halloween reference!) The 501 (c)) indicates that the organization is non-profit and the number denotes the requirements tax and the donation process of an organization.
Can you benefit from a tax deduction?
It is donation season and these designations are important to know because they influence whether or not you can qualify for a tax exemption when someone asks you for a donation.
Not only that, but the changes to federal taxes in 2017 also affect your ability (or willingness) to deduct charitable donations from your income. More on this in a future column.
Solicit your ideas
Sounds like enough education for a column, but keep following me to better understand the nonprofits operating in Thurston County and their impact on your life.
If you know of a non-profit organization that is doing something right, celebrating success, needing exceptional volunteers, or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) is meant to celebrate our local nonprofits!
Mary Beth Harrington lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and individual organizations articulating the issues facing nonprofits. Send him your ideas at [email protected]