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Nonprofit Law/Private charity membership discrimination?


Hi, I have a question regarding 501c3 organizations and membership discrimination.

Can an organization have 501c3 tax exempt status as a private charity if it discriminates in its membership based on sex/gender?

In particular, I am curious about an alumni group that raises money to create scholarships, fund student organizations and create networking opportunities whose membership and leadership are exclusionary to women alumni. I guess this is what makes it a "private" charity (IRS Form 1023)?

Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on this.

I have in my profile that this free forum is only for general questions about IRS federal exemption issues of 501(c)(3) organizations. There are federal laws that apply to certain businesses (whether for-profit or nonprofit), but I do not know of any that would apply
simply to membership of a private club (unless, for example, they
provide public accommodations). is the Title II of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 as to "Public Accommodations".

Some "states have rendered or attempted to render this analysis
moot by enacting anti-discrimination laws that specifically apply
to private clubs. These states include New Jersey, New York,
Maryland, [Pennsylvania] and Connecticut." (3rd paragraph
from the end).

Harvey Mechanic, Attorney at Law -

P.S. This response is intended to be a general statement of law, should not be relied upon as legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship.  

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Harvey Mechanic


I am an attorney and I volunteer time to answer general questions about U.S. Federal income tax issues of nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charities only. Those questions could be about establishing and maintaining legal requirements for such non-profit organizations in the United States, including Internal Revenue service filings and requirements. I will not be working on this free forum to answer questions about Nonprofit's possible unrelated or for-profit businesses or how to fill out forms. This forum is only for general questions about federal tax law, not as the law applies to your specific situation. If you do not make your question public then I will not be spending much of my donated time on answers that would not benefit the public. If you have other questions, please contact me at I will reply from my email. In any case, do not reveal confidential information to me until after I have contracted with you to provide personal legal services. My responses on this forum are intended to be general statements of law, should not be relied upon as legal advice, and do not create an attorney/client relationship. For me to consider your individual situation and how the law applies, I would need to gather extensive information about the situation. To search my previous answers you can do a Google search by "" without the quotes and then add your search terms before hitting enter.


I have been practicing law and especially the law of nonprofit organizations since 1990 when I was admitted to the New York Bar and I have maintained my status with the Bar since that time.


B.S. Columbia University in New York City, 1970

J.D. (Law Degree) Brooklyn Law School, 1990 -- Cum Laude.

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