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Nonprofit Law/501(9)(C)(3) Status for Residential Coop Garden in NY


I am on the Gardening Committee of an large NYC residential cooperative.  About half our the grounds are in the form of a garden.  There are no driveways.  The walkways are open to the public.  The public is welcome to sit on our benches and enjoy the garden, which is maintained both by a hired yard firm that does certain basic work such as mowing, and resident-volunteers who do most of the gardening.  The co-op board pays for the yard firm and many plants.  Several residents have asked if they can contribute money to the garden instead of volunteer labor.  WE have no mechanism to accept such funds, and no way to assure that such donations are set aside for the gardens, as opposed to being allocated to other needs of the co-op.  Would it be possible for us to form a 501(C)(3) corporation to accept such donations?. Would it be wise?

Sometimes the IRS approves 501(c)(3) organization status for gardens on private property, but it depends, in large part, on whether the primary purpose is for public or private benefits. An extensive discussion by the IRS of the private benefit issue
relating to 501(c)(3) organizations is found at:
and especially on page three as to private property improvements.

I would think that it may be wise to try for such status, but first I would need to analyze your drawings and the public access and public invitations and that would be beyond the scope of my offer of free services.  If you want to inquire about hiring me for such work, please contact me directly to the email address below.

Harvey Mechanic, Attorney at Law -
Member of New York Bar

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


DO NOT GIVE ME INFORMATION THAT YOU WANT KEPT CONFIDENTIAL. 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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