To be organized exclusively for a charitable purpose, the organization must be a corporation (or unincorporated association), community chest, fund, or foundation. A charitable trust is a fund or foundation and will qualify. However, an individual will not qualify. The organizing documents must limit the organization's purposes to exempt purposes in section 501(c)(3) and must not expressly empower it to engage, other than as an insubstantial part of its activities, in activities that are not in furtherance of one or more of those purposes. This requirement may be met if the purposes stated in the organizing documents are limited by reference to section 501(c)(3).
In addition, an organization's assets must be permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose. This means that if an organization dissolves, its assets must be distributed for an exempt purpose, to the federal government, or to a state or local government for a public purpose. To establish that an organization's assets will be permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose, its organizing documents should contain a provision ensuring their distribution for an exempt purpose in the event of dissolution. If a specific organization is designated to receive the organization's assets upon dissolution, the organizing document must state that the named organization must be a section 501(c)(3) organization when the assets are distributed. Although reliance may in some cases be placed upon state law to establish permanent dedication of assets for exempt purposes, an organization's application can be processed by the IRS more rapidly if its organizing documents include a provision ensuring permanent dedication of assets for exempt purposes. For examples of provisions that meet these requirements, see Charity - Required Provisions for Organizing Documents.
Learn more about the benefits, limitations and expectations of tax-exempt organizations by attending 10 courses at the online Small to Mid-Size Tax Exempt Organization Workshop.