New columnist

All about local nonprofit organizations



Let me start by explaining that I have over 30 years of experience working with nonprofits, and I am passionate about communicating how vital the nonprofit sector is to our community's social and economic well-being of our community.

The JOLT has invited me to write a regular column highlighting nonprofits in Thurston County.

Most people who work in nonprofits are focused on one specific mission (animals, children, environment, etc.) or worked their way up the career ladder (yes, nonprofits have a career ladder) with one specific nonprofit. A few of us, such as myself, have worked with non-direct service organizations, that is, organizations that support other nonprofits (think the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound or United Way). I like to say that I have worked with all nonprofits, everything from AIDS to Zoos and everything in between.

Why should you care?

You have benefited from the services of nonprofit organizations throughout your life. Chances are, the hospital where you were born is a nonprofit. The schools you attended (unless one was an online school named after a major town in Arizona) were nonprofit. Your soccer team was a nonprofit. If you are a member of a homeowners association, bicycle club or social club, chances are they are a nonprofit. If you belong to a religious group, it's a nonprofit.

Not all nonprofits are alike

You may have heard nonprofits refer to themselves as 501c3 but that is only one type of nonprofit organization. According to the Internal Revenue Service (and yes, nonprofits do pay taxes but more on that in another column), there are over 29 different tax-exempt types. The IRS defines 501(c)(3) Charitable Organizations as those that are “organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, educational, or other specified purposes.”

For example, the 501(c)(4) designation refers to civic leagues, social welfare organizations and local associations of employees.  A 501(c)(6) refers to business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards etc. My favorite to cite is 501(c)(13) which refers to cemetery companies (there's your Halloween reference!) The 501(c) indicates the organization is a nonprofit and the number designates an organization's tax requirements and donation process.

Can you take a tax deduction?

‘Tis the season for making donations and these designations are important to know as they influence whether or not you may take a tax exemption when someone solicits you for a donation.

Not only that, but the changes in federal taxes enacted in 2017 also affect your ability (or willingness) to deduct charitable donations from your income. More on this in a future column.

Soliciting your ideas

That seems like enough education for one column, but keep following me to better understand the nonprofits operating in Thurston County and their impact on your life.

If you know of a nonprofit doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) is about celebrating our local nonprofits!

Mary Beth Harrington lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at


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  • susankibbey

    I feel very fortunate to have Mary Beth on the staff of JOLT! What a wealth of knowledge.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2021 Report this