501c3 Lookup

Group of people in a nonprofit organization.

Verify the legitimacy and tax-exempt status of a nonprofit organization with our IRS 501c3 Lookup tool. 

Our nonprofit lookup tool helps you determine if your donation is tax-deductible. Use it to compare nonprofit charitable organizations before making tax-deductible charitable contributions.

Best Formation Service: Northwest ($29 + State Fees). They can help create your nonprofit.

501c3 Search Tool

What's a 501c3 Lookup?

A 501c3 lookup is a tool that lets you see if nonprofit organizations have been granted tax-exempt status as outlined in the internal revenue code. 

These types of nonprofits receive a special tax break from the IRS, which, in turn, means people can give money to these tax-exempt organizations and not have to pay taxes on the donated sum.

The IRS has a list of all public charities with this tax classification. You can search it using the name, location, or Taxpayer ID Number (TIN) of the tax-exempt organizations.

Before you give money to a group, it's smart to do a 501c3 lookup. This way, you know the group is real, and your money won't be taxed.

How Do I Use a 501c3 Lookup?

Our 501c3 lookup is a free tool that lets you learn about a nonprofit. It's handy if you want to give money to a charity and not get taxed or if you're thinking about working with a nonprofit.

To use the tool, type the group's name into the search bar.

Remember, not all nonprofits have to have a 501c3 status. But, a lot of the larger, well-known charities and private foundations can qualify as tax-exempt organizations according to the IRS website.

Read our Public Charities vs. Private Foundations guide to learn the differences between a public charity and a private foundation.

501c3 Tax Categories

Our table below outlines various organization types and tax deduction limits, a handy reference while using our 501c3 Lookup tool. Simply cross-reference an organization's code from our tool with this table to understand your potential tax benefits.


Description of Entity and Purpose of Donation:

Limit on Tax Deduction:


Public charities

Up to 50% (can rise to 60% for monetary gifts)


Private operating foundations

Up to 50% (can rise to 60% for monetary gifts)


Private foundations

Usually 30%


Organizations with a group exemption letter, where sub-entities under the exemption are eligible for tax-deductible donations, even if not separately listed

Varies depending on multiple factors


Local domestic fraternal organizations operating under lodge system, but donations must be used exclusively for charitable purposes

Up to 30%


Organizations that are charitable but their status as a public charity hasn't been confirmed

Varies depending on multiple factors


Entities defined in section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code excluding public charities and private foundations

Varies depending on multiple factors


Entities where contributions are tax-deductible if used for a federal governmental unit

Up to 50% (can rise to 60% for monetary gifts)


Entities with foreign addresses, generally U.S.-based organizations conducting activities in foreign countries. Some foreign entities that receive tax-deductible charitable donations per treaty are included, as are organizations created in U.S. territories.

Varies depending on multiple factors


Type 1, type 2 or functionally integrated type 3 supporting organizations

Up to 50% (can rise to 60% for monetary gifts)


Non-functionally integrated type 3 supporting organizations

Up to 50% (can rise to 60% for monetary gifts)


Unspecified type of supporting organization

Up to 50% (can rise to 60% for monetary gifts)

Forming Your Own 501c3 Nonprofit

Step 1: Pick a Name

First, choose a name for your nonprofit. Make sure it follows your state's rules and is easy to remember and search.

Recommended: Use our free Startup Name Generator to find the perfect name. Our generator even finds names with an available domain name (website address) for your business).

Step 2: Get a Registered Agent

Most nonprofits need a registered agent. This person or company gets important legal papers for your nonprofit.

You can find the best registered agent service to handle service of process for your tax-exempt entity by checking out our reviews.

Step 3: Choose Your Team

Your nonprofit needs at least three directors who aren't related. They make up your board: president, secretary, and treasurer, other roles are called officers.

Step 4: Establish Rules and Policies

Your nonprofit needs rules, called bylaws, and a policy to prevent conflicts of interest. These are needed to get a 501c3 status with the IRS.

Step 5: Fill Out the Paperwork

You have to fill out formation documents, typically known as Articles of Incorporation for nonprofits, with your state to make your nonprofit official.

You’ll also be required to annually fill out Form 990 if you’re a charity or Form 990-PF if you’re a private foundation collecting donations under 501(c)3 status. Failure to file these forms annually will result in losing your 501(c)3 status, and the IRS will place your charity or foundation center on the Auto-Revocation List.

Step 6: Get a Tax ID Number

Your nonprofit is required to obtain a tax ID number from the government, called an Employer Identification Number (EIN), in order to operate. This is needed whether or not you have employees.

Step 7: Apply for Tax-Exempt Status

Once you've completed the above steps, you can apply for 501c3 status. You do this by filling out Form 1023 online. Once approved, the IRS will send a letter to confirm your tax-exempt status.

Start a 501c3 in Your State

How to Conduct a 501c3 Lookup

The IRS has many kinds of nonprofits, but 501c3 is the most common. These are charities, and they get lots of perks.

These groups don't pay federal taxes. Donors can also lower their taxes by giving money to these groups. 

Here are some of the resources that people use to conduct a 501c3 lookup:

  • The IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool — Check the tax-exempt status and listing of a nonprofit organization with the Internal Revenue Service. 
  • GuideStar — Look up 501c3 status, search 990s, verify nonprofits, and create nonprofit lists.
  • Charity Navigator — Find charities to support that align with your values.
  • BBB Wise Giving Alliance — Charity evaluator that provides charity reports and reviews to help you find the best charities to donate to.

These resources provide information about a nonprofit organization's tax-exempt status, financial statements, and other information that can help you make informed decisions about donating. 

For example, you may want to compile a 501c3 church list if you wish to donate to a faith-based charity to check an organization’s status and make sure its tax returns are up to date.


What is a 501c3?

A 501c3 is a tax-exempt section under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code for nonprofit organizations. These organizations are eligible for federal tax exemptions and allow tax-deductible donations.

What is IRS Form 990?

IRS Form 990 is an annual reporting return that certain federally tax-exempt organizations must file with the IRS. This form provides information on the filing organization's mission, programs, and finances. The information in Form 990 is used by government agencies to prevent organizations from abusing their tax-exempt status. 

How do I use 501c3 Lookup?

The general public can use our 501c3 Lookup tool to verify a nonprofit's tax-exempt status by entering the organization's name or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) into the search bar.

What are EINs, Activity, & NTEE Codes?

EIN stands for “Employer Identification Number,” which is assigned by the IRS for tax purposes. An Activity Code classifies an organization's activities, and an NTEE Code classifies nonprofits into specific categories within the sector.

What are the benefits of having a 501c3 status?

Organizations with a 501c3 status enjoy federal income tax exemption, potential state and local tax exemptions, and the ability for donors to make tax-deductible donations.

How do I start a 501c3 nonprofit?

Starting a 501c3 involves naming the organization, selecting a board, filing Articles of Incorporation, obtaining an EIN, and applying for tax-exempt status with the IRS. Once these things are achieved you can start fundraising for your nonprofit.

Are all nonprofits 501c3 organizations?

No, not all nonprofits are classified as 501c3. The Internal Revenue Code has 29 types of nonprofit classifications, with “501c3” being used specifically for charitable purposes.

How long does it take to get 501c3 status?

The process to get 501c3 status can take from three to 12 months. Factors influencing this timeframe include the application's complexity, accuracy, and the IRS' current workload.