We’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Here’s what that means for you

We became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization yesterday. I’m beyond excited to share this news with you.

Being a 501(c)(3) means the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has approved us as a tax-exempt, charitable organization. It’s an important and necessary step in turning this site into a sustainable organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t.

For you, it means your contributions are now tax-deductible.

The IRS has a terrific sense of timing. We also started our spring fundraiser yesterday. Here’s how to become a supporter.

The path to a 501(c)(3)

There’s an interesting backstory, too.

First, let’s talk about our name. We’re incorporated as Elliott Advocacy. As you probably know, I’m a classically educated journalist. I’m supposed to tell the story — not be the story. So why are you reading about this on Elliott.org?

Is that some ego trip? No.

Back in 1994, I was lucky enough to snag this domain name. I started to publish my advocacy stories on the site. Readership grew. A decade ago, I began to work with a group of dedicated volunteers who could see the potential of a consumer organization. At the beginning of this year, we incorporated as a nonprofit.

Along the way, we struggled with two questions: First, what was our purpose? And second, what would we call this organization?

After a lot of debate — I mean a lot of debate — we realized the answers were right in front of us. The simple words I’d written many years ago were the perfect mission statement: “To empower consumers to solve their problems and help those who can’t.”

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And we couldn’t think of a better name, so we stuck with Elliott. On reflection, I’m honored to lend my name to this organization. I hope I prove myself worthy of it in the years to come. And I’d also like to apologize to Lydia, my J200 professor at Berkeley, for becoming the story. I hope you can forgive me for bending that rule for a worthy cause.

Thank you

I’m reluctant to claim the government gave us a glowing endorsement. But the IRS took about a week to approve our 501(c)(3) status. It received our application May 10, and we received a determination letter on Monday. The average is 10 weeks, but I know some nonprofits that have waited more than a year. Maybe the IRS saw our ad-free website and read the stories — and understood we were working in the public interest.

Our 501(c)(3) approval might have set a record, but getting to the application was an odyssey. On that path, many fellow advocates have offered encouragement, support, and, occasionally, a little prodding. (That’s OK, I needed it.)

I owe a debt of gratitude to Jessica Monsell, this organization’s first executive director; to Michelle Couch-Friedman, our current executive director; and to my friend Charlie Leocha, with whom I started two other nonprofit organizations.

Many of you, dear readers, also encouraged me to turn this site into a nonprofit organization. And something tells me it wasn’t because you want to deduct your donations from your income taxes. You saw the potential to turn this into a consumer organization that can help even more people. You encouraged me to see past the staff soap operas, the financial roller-coaster, and the numerous technical problems this site encounters every day, and to focus on a long-term vision.

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And I have.

I see a consumer organization that can help many people with advocacy and information. I also see you. Because, without your support, this fledgling nonprofit organization can’t succeed.

Please consider becoming an underwriter now.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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