We want to expand our mission to add various activities — how can we do that and still maintain our tax-exempt status?

By asking this question you have passed the first test of becoming a great risk manager! You are asking whether what you want to do is within the mission. In some cases the mission statement may be broadly worded and no changes will be necessary. Often, however, the existing mission statement is too narrow. Your board should determine whether or not to amend the mission statement. The mission statement may or may not be the same as what is written in the “certificate” or “articles of incorporation” or corporate charter that was filed with the state when your nonprofit was formed. That is the language that the IRS evaluated when the nonprofit applied for and was granted tax-exemption. Accordingly, if the corporate purpose clause of the articles of incorporation needs to be changed, that must occur by following the state law requirements for amendments to the articles of incorporation, and then the amended filing should be forwarded to the IRS with your organization’s next annual 990 filing. A shift in the nonprofit’s programs or activities should also be reflected on the annual 990, even if the change was not so significant as to warrant an amendment to the articles of incorporation.

  • The IRS web site includes an explanation of what it wants to see when a nonprofit makes significant changes to its governing documents.