Date of Graduation
Project/Capstone - Global access
Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA)
School of Management
Richard Greggory Johnson III, Ph.D.
Internal Revenue Service code automatically confers 501(c)3 nonprofit charity status on religious nonprofits which appear to be “A church, convention of churches, or association of churches described in section 170(b)(1)(A)(i),” as labeled in the IRS Form 990. Additionally, religious charities functioning as a part of a church have no requirement to report any financial information or policies to the IRS or anyone else. This acquiescence to secrecy keeps most of the data on these nonprofit organizations unavailable for research or to inform legislative action or agency policies. This automatic status may also lead to complacency in organizations in financial accountability, use of recent research and tools to help nonprofits be more effective, and the development of policies which protect vulnerable people. A small survey of a niche category of “church” nonprofits which endorse ministers to the federal government to serve as chaplains demonstrates this concern. Literature reviewed affirms the value of transparency and nonprofit improvement tool use, as well as raises concern about possible changes to legal and agency standards. Both transparency and legal standing also affect the ability of these nonprofit organizations to raise money, particularly at a time when religious donations are flat or constrained, and church affiliation is falling. Substantive recommendations are offered to better place religious nonprofits in these arenas and contribute to balanced societal progress.
Smith, Mark W., "IRS-sanctioned Secrecy for Religious Nonprofits: Stepstone or Stumbling Block?" (2023). Master's Projects and Capstones. 1553.