A 501(c)3 status makes an organization eligible for certain types of funding and allows it to avoid income taxes. Individuals and corporations can only deduct charitable contributions on their taxes if it's made to a registered 501(c)3 organization. To verify an organization's 501(c)3 status, ask for a copy of its letter of determination, search for the organization on the IRS website or verify its registration on GuideStar.org.
IRS Letter of Determination
When a nonprofit is approved for 501(c)3 status, it receives a letter of determination from the IRS. This letter includes the name, address and employer identification number of the nonprofit organization. To verify a nonprofit's 501(c)3 status, ask to view a copy of the IRS determination letter. Many nonprofits have a copy on hand for donors to view.
If you'd prefer, you can verify an organization's 501(c)3 status directly through the IRS. The IRS maintains a list of all organizations with a current 501(c)3 status in an online database that's updated on a monthly basis. To search for the organization, use the Exempt Organization Select Check tool on the IRS website. You can either use the online wizard to find a specific organization or you can download the entire list of approved organization.
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Nonprofit Information Services
You can also use an online information service to look up information about a nonprofit. GuideStar is a well-known and reputable company that reports on nonprofit operations. To verify a nonprofit's 501(c)3 status on GuideStar, navigate to the GuideStar homepage, type the name of the organization into the search engine and click on the organization you want in the search result. Under the Legitimacy Information tab, GuideStar will say whether or not the organization is registered with the IRS.