GuideStar Blog

4 Famous Organizations You Might Not Know Are Nonprofits


When most people hear the word nonprofit,
public charities such as the American Red Cross and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America are the first types of organizations that come to mind.

More than 1.5 million nonprofits were registered with the IRS as tax exempt as of September 12, 2016. Although two-thirds of organizations within this pool are indeed public charities, there are also many organizations whose nonprofit status routinely surprises the journalists, researchers, and everyday users who discover their GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles.

We thought it'd be fun to share these Four Famous Organizations You Might Not Know Are Nonprofits. Who on this list surprises you?

1. NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE

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Its mission:
To perpetuate professional hockey as one of the national games in the United States and Canada.

How it works: The NHL is classified as a 501(c)(6) organization. Section 501(c)(6) provides for exemption of business leagues and professional sports leagues, among other things. (In fact, the NFL was also classified as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit until it dropped its tax-exempt status last year.) The purpose for this classification is to promote common interests (in this case, hockey) and not to engage in a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit.

Although the National Hockey League is exempt, it's important to note the teams within the league are not exempt, and do pay taxes on their profits. Essentially, the league is an organizing entity and the teams are just ordinary businesses that provide the league with revenue. For information on the NHL's funding sources, assets, liabilities, and more, view the National Hockey League's GuideStar Nonprofit Profile.

2. NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION (NRA)

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Its mission: This controversial organization states five main purposes and objectives: to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States; to promote public safety; to train people in the safe handling of small arms; to foster and promote the shooting sports; and to promote hunter safety.

How it works: The NRA, which received tax-exempt status in 1944, is classified as a 501(c)(4) membership association, which is an organization that allots membership status to patrons who give a requested amount in dues. (Think: public radio.)

The NRA is actually an umbrella organization, with four 501(c)(3) charitable subsidiaries and one Section 527 Political Action Committee separate segregated fund. A subsidiary is an organization that is controlled in varying degrees by the parent organization—such control can range from sharing board members to the parent organization appointing the subsidiary’s leaders. The NRA’s four charities are NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund, NRA Foundation Inc., NRA Special Contribution Fund, and NRA Freedom Action Foundation.

Learn more about the National Rifle Association's financial and leadership information by checking out its Silver-level GuideStar Nonprofit Profile.

3. U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

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Its mission: To serves its members and the nation's business community by analyzing national economic and social issues and by helping legislators and national leaders shape policies and proposals to foster the development of American business.

How it works: This is another example of a 501(c)(6) Business League. Businesses contribute to the Chamber of Commerce, which in turn works with legislators on policies that promote business. For more information on the operations behind the Chamber of Commerce, including executive compensation, read its GuideStar Nonprofit Profile.

4. MOZILLA FOUNDATION

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Its mission: To improve and protect the Internet as a public commons, by working with thousands of volunteers to keep the Internet a universal platform and promote continued innovation and usage.

How it works: The Mozilla Foundation was established in July 2003 as a California not-for-profit corporation dedicated to the public benefit. This foundation wholly owns its subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation, creators of the Firefox web browser, along with other free software. Although not the norm, it is perfectly legal for a nonprofit to have a for-profit subsidiary. In this case, the Mozilla Corporation helps to support the foundation's mission. In fact, the large revenue spike for the year 2005 seen in the Revenue vs. Expenses section of the Mozilla Foundation’s Nonprofit Profile correlates with the launch of the Mozilla Corporation. See its Silver-level GuideStar Nonprofit Profile for more financial information.

Courtney-Cherico.pngAs content marketing associate, Courtney Cherico manages GuideStar's social media platforms and top-rated blog. Follow GuideStar on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date on the latest nonprofit sector news.

Topics: GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles 501(c)(4) nonprofit registration