Groups often discuss changing into an official non-profit organization, especially after they have been around for a number of years. Knowing that this discussion frequently occurs, this article supplies information on gaining and maintaining non-profit status.
I’ve been part of Pagan inclusive festivals where every contractual responsibility is on the shoulders of just one responsible person, and other festivals that were run by a group that had received federal 501(c)(3) and state non-profit related status. I’ve only been a part of 501(c)(3) organizations (educational, professional, and spiritual ones) once they had been underway for years. However, even then these groups regularly evaluated their mission and purpose. Any non-profit requires a clear, definable mission statement and purpose. A group’s mission should relate to a unique service, with a defined community, and with goals for that service and community. Success requires a group of elders or volunteers who have dedication, real world skills, and a vision for the group. This includes the ability to adequately find funding for the goals of the group.
If your group has a calling to carry out a specific service or event, part of your planning will be to determine your source of funding: such as user fees, sales, grants, donations, etc. Unfortunately, in the Pagan or minority religions community we have to fight anti-institutional mistrust that individuals have developed in dealing with large, entrenched religious organizations. (Unfortunately, often this mistrust is deeper than financial or organizational issues, but results from a member being uneasy in any group – a topic beyond the reach of this discussion.)
I understand the unease some feel when their spiritual group starts talking finances. (Paradoxically, this often occurs after a handful of members have shouldered the costs of the group silently for years. Even utility bills, toilet paper, printer supplies, and the like add up over time.) I believe that a Pagan or related group can define their goals sufficiently to encourage their members to contribute in effort, time, and – yes- cash. This doesn’t mean shooting for the moon the first year, but changing as circumstances permit. Many organizations have started with simple goals and grown over time as interest, participation, and funding permits.
Along with resolving funding issues and complying with their by-laws, non-profit groups must maintain adequate accounting records and complete documentation of activities. (A lack of such records can be perceived as “intent to circumvent fiduciary obligations“.) Many groups also opt for separate insurance to protect their officers (Directors’ and Officers’ liability policies).
Here is non-profit information for 501(c)(3) groups, and pagan- related groups in particular. Included are examples of Pagan groups that have federal non-profit status.
501(c) organization, Wikipedia
Should Churches Incorporate and Seek IRS Recognition of 501(c)(3) Status?, David L. Bea, Attorney, Chicago, IL (2009)
The IRS Tax Guide for Churches is available through the IRS website. Also see the IRS Tax Information for Churches and Religious Organizations page, and About Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3).
Nonprofit Startup Resources By State, Grantspace
Non-Profit Management Knowledge Base, Grantspace
Challenges and Pitfalls
Nonprofits Especially Need Protection Against D&O Liability Risks, Insurance Journal, 9-17-2001
Liability of Not-for-Profit Organizations and Insurance Coverage for Related Liability, The International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law, March 2002
A discussion of a wide variety of legal issues, including tort liability, wrongful employment practices, personal injury, membership discrimination, breach of fiduciary duty, and the liability of the parent organization.
What Can I Do If a Nonprofit Isn’t Following Its Bylaws?, Grantspace, 12-9-2014
Advice for Pagan/Druid Groups
What I learned as a Pagan Event Planner– Dana Eilers (2012). Includes an analysis of all sorts of issues, including event and site management: An excellent review of the issues involved.
Editorial – Pagans and Non Profit Corporations, Posted on November 5, 2010 by Nels Linde, Pagan Newswire Collective- Minnesota.
Pagan Festival Tips– general festival tips I came up with in 2009.
Pagan groups that have 501(c)(3) status
The Council of Magickal Arts Inc. – is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that exists to create two festivals a year and produce an online quarterly newsletter, The Accord.
Assembly of the Sacred Wheel – is a legally recognized Wiccan non-profit religious organization based in the Mid-Atlantic region. The form of Wicca that the Assembly practices is syncretic and draws inspiration from Astrology, Qabala, the Western Magickal Tradition and the folk religions of Europe.
The Church of All Worlds – is a web of Nests and Proto-Nests; these groups are the basic congregation of CAW.
Circle Sanctuary -founded in 1974 by Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) non-profit Wiccan church and 200-acre nature preserve dedicated to networking, community celebrations, spiritual healing and education. Circle Sanctuary sponsors gatherings and workshops at the Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve in the forested hills of southwestern Wisconsin, USA.
Cherry Hill Seminary – is a leading provider of education and practical training in leadership, ministry, and personal growth in Pagan and Nature-Based spiritualities.
Reclaiming: a Community of People, a Tradition of Witchcraft – and a 501(c)3 non-profit religious organization
The Association of United Pagans – is a Non-Profit California Religious Corporation dedicated to a select set of goals and challenges which are not uncommon to fellow pagans around the globe. The AUP promotes unity, diversity and acceptance under federal and state codes 501(c)(3) and CA 23701(d).
The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) – is an organization dedicated to networking Pagan-identified Unitarian Universalists (UUs), educating people about Paganism, promoting interfaith dialogue, developing Pagan liturgies and theologies, and supporting Pagan-identified UU religious professionals.
The Church of the Sacred Circle – is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit church organized under the laws of the State of Utah. We welcome all those of Earth-based paths including those who follow Paganism, Wicca, Witchcraft, Asatru, Druid, Shamanic, Eclectic and other traditions.