Categories for 501c3 Recognition

We all know that a 501(c)(3) nonprofit is a charitable nonprofit, but what are the specific categories that qualify? If you didn’t know this, don’t worry, we have a great blog about the differences between nonprofits and charities, and one on whether you need a 501c3 charity or not.

Which of these would you think didn’t qualify as a 501(c)(3) charity?

  • Soup kitchen
  • Rugby team
  • Church
  • Library
  • After school program
  • Law firm that defends indigent clients

I’m terribly sorry because we pulled the worst trick in the book. They would all qualify as long as they meet the other requirements. On their face, each of these organizations would be able to qualify as a 501(c)(3) charity.


501c3 Categories

The exempt purposes in section 501(c)(3) include charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.

Charitable, in this case, is the broadest exempt purpose, which includes “relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.” In other words, it is what you think of when you think of charities.


So, what does this mean? This includes all the things you typically think of when you think of a charity. This includes organizations like soup kitchens, churches, after school programs, and more. Additionally, it includes schools, nonprofit laboratories, community restoration organizations, and organizations set up to defend human rights and civil rights.

There are other 501(c) categories that do not fit under the 501(c)(3). Even if your organization doesn’t fit one of these exempt purposes, you may still be able to obtain a tax exempt status.

If you have any questions about whether you qualify for 501(c)(3) or need help obtaining your status, please feel free to contact us at or by calling 919-912-9640.


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