Nonprofit/Tax Exemption

Federal nonprofit tax exempt status is available through CDSS for affiliates in the USA who meet certain guidelines. This is useful for nonprofit bulk mail permits and tax exempt donations, and may be necessary for the rental of some halls or camp facilities.

How to Apply

The application fee is $125; thereafter, the annual fee is $75 (in addition to membership dues).

Our Application and Guidelines are available below in PDF format.

We've also provided some sample documents, including some sample bylaws (since you'll need to write bylaws in order to become a nonprofit).

For more information, call or write Jeff Martell: 413-203-5467 x103,

Note about Organizational Structure

There are two main types of organizational structure that are allowable within the group exemption. One type is a membership organization, with voting members; the other is a nonmembership organization, with a self perpetuating board and no larger body of voting members.

Many problems are found in bylaws submitted for the group exemption because of misunderstandings on the differences between those two types of organizations. The most common problem is the attempt to combine both types; this does not work and such bylaws must be rewritten to clarify one or the other type of organizational structure.

Many people express the opinion that the only way to be truly connected to your active participants is to have a membership organization. CDSS believes otherwise: that it is just as possible to have a membership organization be disconnected from the people it serves as it is for a non membership organization. The difference is not how the bylaws are structured; instead it is in how the organization is run. We have no objection (nor preference) to either type of organization.

We've also heard it said that non membership organizations are not allowed under nonprofit law. Federal law does not require membership organizations. The state laws we are aware of also have no such requirement, but it is possible that some state will have such a distinction.

In order to have a membership organization there must be a way of determining who is or isn't a member. The easiest way to do this is to have annual dues. Although there are ways around this, my advice to any organization that does not want to require dues (or that wants the option of charging no dues) is to create a non membership organization. If you are determined to have an organization with voting members and without charging dues, you must come up with a method of determining who the members are, how and when people might stop being members, maintaining a membership list and somehow cutting off additions to the membership list in advance of a meeting to insure that current group cannot be suddenly overtaken by another group.

Non membership organizations actually can have members; they can even charge dues. The real difference is solely that non membership organizations have no voting members.