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The Nonprofit FAQ: General Considerations

Select an FAQ   (35):

'Milestones' in the Life of a Nonprofit
The IRS and the UK Charities Commission have brief guides to starting, operating, and closing down a community-service organization or charity.
A Classified List of Key Texts
Prepared by a former student at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy.
Approaches to the History of Nonprofits
Approaches to documenting and understanding the history of nonprofits in the US by two well-known scholars.
Are churches required to register as 501(c)(3)s?
Generally, no. But some organizations connected to churches do apply for recognition as tax-exempt by the IRS.
Are NPO wages too low?
Several writers think so, and offer arguments to support their points of view.
Books That Give Background on Nonprofits for Donors
The 'Library' at this site has a short list at
Can 501(c)(3)s get involved in helping (or hindering) candidates for public office?
Basically no. 501(c)(3)s are not permitted to do anything to help or hinder the election of any candidate to public office. This item reproduces the texts of IRS statements on this question and provides links to other IRS materials.
Can a Donor Retrieve Gifts of Money or Goods?
In most cases, the answer is 'no.'
Can you get a tax deduction for a gift to 'your own' nonprofit?
When you work for a nonprofit -- either for pay or as a volunteer -- you can make the same sort of gifts anyone else could make.
Does a strong nonprofit sector make any difference?
Discussion of the connection between 'civil society' and nonprofit organizations.
How alike are nonprofits and for-profit businesses?
Some observers say running a nonprofit is much harder.
How can I find a list of all nonprofit organizations?
No single list of nonprofits is available. This item offers some suggestions of ways to look for information about organizations online.
How Much is Enough?
A brief essay on philosophical approaches to measuring one's moral responsibilities toward others.
Is it Possible to Receive a Deduction for a Gift of Services?
In general, the answer is 'no.' A deduction cannot be taken when no income has been earned.
Is there a difference between 'directors' and 'trustees'?
The terms have specific meanings, but in fact are often used more or less interchangeably.
Is there a difference between 'nonprofit' and 'not-for-profit'?
Both terms are frequently used and frequently seen. There is no firmly established distinction, though some people have strong preferences between them.
Key Texts for Understanding Nonprofits
Compiled from email discussions of the topic.
Must all nonprofits be purely about helping others?
No. That requirement applies to foundations and public charities (501(c)(3)s), but there are many types with other requirements
Periodicals with news and commentary about nonprofits
Subscription and other information about general interest publications that focus on the nonprofit sector. Links to online sources.
Published summary information on US nonprofits
Readily available overviews of the field (out of date).
Research on Nonprofits
Starting points for learning more about nonprofits and the various ways scholars examine them.
Resources about Management of Nonprofit Organizations
An annotated list of some online services that are focused on the challenges of running nonprofits (mostly in the US)
See What Nonprofit Books are Selling Now at Amazon.Com
Amazon.Com offers a service that tracks sales in categories. This item includes a link with a current list of books in the 'nonprofit' category that have been purchased freqently.
Should we incorporate a 'private' or a 'public' nonprofit?
In general, it is probably better to be a 'public charity' than a 'private foundation.' This note explores the question briefly.
The Best E-Newsletters for Grants and Nonprofit Leaders
A ranked and annotated list of online announcement and discussion services for nonprofits prepared in September 2006 and revised in August 2008.
Theories of Management, Leadership and Organizations
Free Management Library offers information about basics of management, leadership and organizations
What about calculating fund raising ratios?
These calculations are more difficult to interpret than they might appear.
What about hate groups?
Notes about the relationship between nonprofit status and hateful acts, and some resources for dealing with expressions of hate on the Internet and in other forms.
What are the 'Top Forty' Charitable Organizations in the US?
There's really know way of knowing. This essay provides some advice on how a donor might choose among many worthy organizations.
What information must nonprofits disclose?
Generally, it depends on what kind of information is at stake and who is doing the asking.
What is nonprofit social entrepreneurship?
Simply put, a nonprofit social entrepreneur addresses social issues by starting a business enterprise that is not designed to return profits to any owners.
What is the legal definition of 'volunteer'?
There is no single and universal definition. Much depends on the context and the organizational setting.
What should we say to our employees about philanthropy?
The key is wanting to give, not having to.
When can a NPO charge?
Whether or not an organization charges for its services is not the measure of not-for-profit status.
Why should I volunteer?
Because it is satisfying to do useful work that benefits others or the community and because volunteering offers many benefits and opportunities for the people who participate.