501c3 Organizational Structure

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Obtaining the 501c3 tax exempt status from the IRS benefits a non-profit organization by making donations exempt from taxes and opening the grants available to the organization. Any corporation filing for the 501c3 status must fill out IRS Form 1023 (see link 1 in Resources). Part II of that form asks for the group's organizational structure.

Who Qualifies

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According to the IRS, in order to apply for the 501c3 tax-exempt status, a non-profit must be organized as corporation, an unincorporated association or a trust.

Incorporate the Non-Profit

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Non-profit organizations are incorporated in their state of origin by filing the articles of incorporation with that state's secretary of state. The articles of incorporation name the people incorporating the non-profit, explains the purpose of the organization and mentions that if the non-profit dissolves, none of the non-profit's employees or board members benefit.

Trusts and Unincorporated Organizations

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Non-profits set up as trusts need to fill out a trust agreement. This agreement will need to be submitted with Form 1023. Unincorporated organizations should attach the articles of association or any organizing documents.


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The other organizing document the IRS needs to show non-profit organizational structure for 501c3 status is the group's bylaws. The bylaws dictate how the organization will be run, including the duties of officers and board members and the size of the board.

Keep Good Records

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The IRS requires any updates to the bylaws or articles of incorporation be carefully recorded. Record and report any changes.