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Related Clients


The San Francisco Foundation


Women's Funding Network


Trinity Children and Family Services


Rainbow Housing Assistance Corporation


Trust For Public Land



Related Resources

Related publications, FAQs, documents, and useful links for this practice area. View Resources »

Public Charities

The Internal Revenue Code divides organizations exempt under Section 501(c)(3) into two distinct tax categories - public charities and private foundations. A Section 501(c)(3) organization is classified as a public charity (1) by being a certain kind of institution, such as a church, university, or hospital, (2) by meeting one of two mathematical public support tests, or (3) by qualifying as a supporting organization to another public charity. Public charities are subject to substantially less regulation under federal tax law than private foundations, and therefore qualifying as a public charity is usually preferable. We help our clients obtain and maintain public charity status, and take advantage of the greater flexibility of operating as a public charity.


We provide advice on:

  • Public support test calculations.
  • Structuring gifts, grants, and contributions to avoid "tipping" into private foundation status.
  • Compliance with federal and state nonprofit and tax-exemption law applicable to public charities, including Section 4958 of the Internal Revenue Code governing insider transactions.
  • Fiscal sponsorship, permitting a charity to support charitable projects that do not yet have IRS recognition of tax-exempt status.
  • Conducting fundraising activities and compliance with state charitable solicitation registration requirements.
  • Donor-advised funds, allowing a donor to make immediate tax-deductible contributions while retaining the right to recommend future charitable distributions of the funds.
  • Supporting organizations, which qualify as public charities by virtue of their close relationship with other charities that are publicly supported.
  • Property tax exemptions.

We suggest you also view our Nonprofit Governance and Ethics and/or Formation and Tax-Exempt Status practice areas.


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