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 the Elliott Advocacy website?
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.”
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.
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.
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.