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Nonprofit Law/501c3 Donations to Others


QUESTION: Greetings,
I work for an international 501c3 public charity organization. We are being asked by our office in Thailand to make a donation from our offices here in the US (so we are acting as a pass-through) to a company we just found out had their 501c3 status revoked. Is this allowed? Can a 501c3 company make a donation to a for-profit company or just another 501c3 company?

ANSWER: No. See which is an IRS
publication about prohibited conduit arrangements.

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.    

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Based on your reply I understand that we cannot complete this particular transaction. However, in general, are 501c3 organizations allowed to make donations to a for-profit organization or only to another 501c3 organization?
Thank you,

Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) which is available at:
has, in part, that the 501(c)(3) organization must be "operated
exclusively for religious, charitable ...or educational purposes
... no part of the net earnings of which  inures to the benefit of
any private shareholder or individual".

Therefore, a 501(c)(3) organization may not make a donation to a for-profit organization.  It may make a grant to another public charity. A 501(c)(3) organization may make grants to individuals who are needy, but only by following certain procedures.

Revenue Ruling 56-304 has:
--- Start of Excerpt ---
Organizations privately established and funded as charitable
foundations which are organized and actively operated to carry on
one or more of the purposes specified in section 501(c)(3) of the
Internal Revenue Code of 1954, and which otherwise meet the
requirements for exemption from Federal income tax are not
precluded from making distributions of their funds to individuals,
provided such distributions are made on a true charitable basis in
furtherance of the purposes for which they are organized.

However, organizations of this character which make such
distributions should maintain adequate records and case histories
to show the name and address of each recipient of aid; the amount
distributed to each; the purpose for which the aid was given; the
manner in which the recipient was selected and the relationship,
if any, between the recipient and (1) members, officers, or
trustees of the organization, (2) a grantor or substantial
contributor to the organization or a member of the family of
either, and (3) a corporation controlled by a grantor or
substantial contributor, in order that any or all distributions
made to individuals can be substantiated upon request by the
Internal Revenue Service.
---End of Excerpt---
(cited with approval in IRS instructions for Form 1023 Application
for Exemption on pdf page 23 middle column) at:

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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