The following is a list of journalism projects that have successfully formed independent nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) exempt status with the IRS. With each organization is a link to the actual application materials filed bythe organization, as well as some of the subsequent correspondence the organization had with the IRS. Reviewing these applications can give you a sense of the amount of work that goes into seeking a tax exemption, and how these organizations explained their educational activities to the IRS. (The DMLP voluntarily redacted some information in these documents in order to protect sensitive business information and applicant privacy.)
We recommend that you read these after first reviewing the basics of Section 501(c)(3) and our introduction to the 501(c)(3) application process. You may also want to take a look at our in-depth analysis of the IRS decision-making process around journalism applicants.
Although these materials can be informative, we do not recommend copying them for your own application. Each organization is unique, and explaining why your particular nonprofit qualifies for a federal tax exemption requires a thorough and detailed evaluation of your own operations. Again, we recommend attorney assistance with this process; you can find more information about locating a lawyer to help you on the Legal Assistance section of our site.
The DMLP wishes to extend a large thanks to each of these organizations for their willingness to share this information with other potential applicants.
- The Austin Investigative Reporting Project runs the Austin Bulldog, a nonprofit independent online news site for investigative reporting in the public interest. The Austin Bulldog covers matters including government, media, and politics in Austin, Texas. The Austin Investigative Reporting Project incorporated on May 14, 2009, and applied for 501(c)(3) status on August 5, 2009. Their application was approved by the IRS on September 21, 2009. Download their application materials.
- The Common Language Project runs the Seattle Globalist, a “hyperglobal” publication covering connections between Seattle, Washington and the rest of the globe. The project is housed by the University of Washington’s Department of Communications. The Common Language Project incorporated as a Washington State nonprofit corporation on December 7, 2006, and filed for 501(c)(3) status on January 25, 2007. According to the applicant, the IRS requested a small modification to the purposes section of their articles of incorporation, and granted the application shortly thereafter. Download their application materials.
- Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public policy issues facing the State of Oklahoma. Oklahoma Watch generates original content distributed through its website and with media partners around the state. Oklahoma Watch incorporated as Information Challenge, LLC on October 18, 2010, and changed their name to Oklahoma Watch, LLC on October 19, 2010. The organization converted to a nonprofit organization on November 23, 2011, and applied for 501(c)(3) status on July 15, 2013. Their application was approved by the IRS on November 17, 2013. Download their application materials.
- Out of Eden Walk is the organization supporting journalist Paul Salopek, currently on a seven-year journey from humankind’s birthplace in Ethiopia to the southern tip of South America, the last place humanity settled. Along the way he is publishing regular dispatches on the project’s own website and through National Geographic. The travel began in 2013, and will continue until 2020. Out of Eden Walk incorporated on October 9, 2012, and applied for 501(c)(3) status on November 20, 2012. Their application was approved by the IRS on February 14, 2013. Download their application materials.
- The Raleigh Public Record reports and documents the news of Raleigh, North Carolina. Through its website the Record covers issues affecting all Raleigh communities, using traditional reporting as well as audio and visual storytelling. The Raleigh Public Record incorporated as a North Carolina nonprofit corporation on August 20, 2009, and filed for 501(c)(3) status shortly thereafter. On February 12, 2010, the IRS requested additional information, to which the Raleigh Public Record responded on February 22, 2010. The IRS awarded the Raleigh Public Record 501(c)(3) status about a month later. Download their application materials.
- The San Francisco Public Press (SFPP) is an independent nonprofit, noncommercial organization dedicated to producing important local public- interest news for the San Francisco area. SFPP has worked with over 70 professional freelance journalists and volunteers and over 30 nonprofit media partners, and publishes both online and through an advertising-free broadsheet. SFPP incorporated as a California benefit corporation on November 18, 2009. The organization filed for 501(c)(3) status on January 3, 2010. The IRS and the San Francisco Public Press then engaged in a long period of correspondence, before the IRS granted 501(c)(3) status on August 31, 2012. (A technical revocation of status due to the length of the application process required the IRS to reissue a determination letter on April 2, 2013.) Download their application materials.
What is Section 501(c)(3) status, and does it make sense for your organization?
Guide to the IRS decision-making process for journalism non-profits
Introduction to the 501(c)(3) application process