Adding religious purpose to bylaws and Articles

man_with_bylaws

Dear Carol

Our homeschool group is currently a 501(c)(3) association that was organized in 1986. Our articles of association were recently found and we find out that we are NOT a Christian group, even though many of us are Christian and we are recognized by the community as a Christian group.
Will switching from a secular to a Christian homeschool cause us to lose our funds in the back account or to cause any fee to be incurred by the IRS?

Becky W

Becky,
It is hard for me to advise you without seeing the Articles of Association or your 501(c)(3) application. If you have electronic copies and can sent them to me, it would be helpful.Your Articles of Association (or Articles of Incorporation) and your 501(c)(3) application define your group’s purpose.

Your bylaws and policy manual are where you you explain how you fulfill that purpose. For example, you might include a Statement of Faith in your bylaws, or a membership requirement that members need to be Christians, etc. It’s very simple to change bylaws. You simply get the board to vote  a change. Follow whatever your bylaws  say is needed to change the bylaws.

Nonprofit corporations that wish to add a religious purpose to their Articles of Incorporation, do that by amending the Articles of Incorporation with their secretary of state. These groups need a vote by the board (as outlined in their bylaws) to make changes to the Articles.

(In Becky’s case, her organization is an unincorporated association and is not required to file any Articles of Association or changes to the AoA with the state).

You asked: “Will switching from a secular to a Christian homeschool cause us to lose our funds in the back account or to cause any fee to be incurred by the IRS?You should not lose your funds, but your board needs to approve all changes to the bylaws and Articles of Association.

You could perhaps contact the IRS (via a letter) if you wish to add to the scope of your 501c3 tax exempt application (i.e add that you have a religious purpose).

If you can dig out your 501c3 application (Form 1023) and read what you originally told the IRS, it would be helpful. The religious purpose may already be  mentioned.

I hope that helps.

 Carol Topp, CPA

Comments

  1. Hi Carol,

    Your articles are so very helpful, and I seem to find myself reading them constantly! Forgive me if I have missed the answer to this question, however, I have a question about revising or amending bylaws.

    I recall that there was specific wording we placed in our bylaws to ensure we could later become a 501c3, after our original non profit corporation was formed (in Texas). I know there could be a need from some small changes in our bylaws, but I want to ensure we do not alter this wording. If a 501c3 home school group decides to amend our bylaws, and we follow our current bylaws to do this, can you help me identify what wording must remain in place so that we do not jeopardize our 501c3 status?

  2. Carol Topp says:

    Ashley,
    You are probably thinking of the IRS required language for 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations.
    This language must be in your “organizing document”, usually the Articles of Incorporation. Many groups repeat the language in the bylaws since it is more likely new board members will read the bylaws than the Articles of Incorporation.
    You could put a short explanatory sentence before that section of the by laws. Something like this:

    The following paragraphs are required by the IRS for 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations. This language in included in the Articles of Incorporation for XYZ (your group’s name) and repeated here for information only. Future board members should not amend nor add to the following paragraphs as it could adversely affect XYZ’s tax exempt status.

    Carol Topp, CPA

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