Exceptions to the Rule, Part 1: You Don’t Have to Be a 501c to Use VolunteerMatch

approvedWhen it comes to the safety and privacy of the volunteers, we don’t joke around. That’s why our policies on who can use VolunteerMatch.org are some of the strictest in the business.

Today our Web service is used by some 75,000 participating organizations.  And while 9 in 10 of our member organizations are official 501(c)s, not all are. In fact, not only are some not tax-exempt, some of our organizations are actually for profit! With this post, I thought readers would appreciate an overview on the exceptions.

The Process In Place

Unlike some volunteer recruiting services and billboards, not just anyone can create a VolunteerMatch account and then immediately start posting “Help wanted” ads on VolunteerMatch. Not only would this create a situation ripe for fraud, it could lead to instances where volunteers are taken advantage of.

To review these applications, we have a state-of-the-art system which we call myself, my co-worker Dee, and our team of volunteeers.


Each week, around 200 organizations join the VolunteerMatch network, and our crew of Community Support folks are responsible for making sure the organizations are who they say they are, that they have a mission that benefits the community, and that they are not involved in shady business that could hurt our community of volunteers.

If we can say so ourselves, not only are we thorough in our jobs, but we are insanely committed to working quickly. Typically our turnaround time for an organization to be approved (or asked for more info) is less than 48 hours. It’s not fool-proof — no screening system could be — but it helps our network of volunteers, companies, and other business partners all breathe easier knowing that systems are in place to ensure a strong and healthy community.

Exceptions to the Rule

After more than decade in business, VolunteerMatch has added some important exceptions to our policies, and lots of organizations might benefit from knowing more about this.

There are three types of organizations which we broadly speaking allow in as exceptions.

  • Certain organizations without 501(c) status
  • Certain for-profit organizations
  • Government agencies & schools

In coming posts, I’ll take a look at each of these exceptions to help clarify how and why we accept certain organizations that don’t fit the standard definition of “nonprofit.” First, however, let’s look at how and why certain  organizations without 501(c) status can use VolunteerMatch.

Exception #1: Organizations That Aren’t 501(c)

As our policy states, there are three instances where we’ll allow organizations without 501(c) status to use VolunteerMatch.

  • If your 501(c) status is pending.

If you applied and you’re still waiting to hear back from the IRS, we’ll take all your verifying documents for now, and then request you follow up with your official 501(c) papers later on. Simply put, some organizations, particularly new ones, are on a knife edge financially — they may not last long without the help of great volunteers. We don’t want to penalize organizations that have a pressing recruitment need but who are waiting for the IRS to get back to them.

  • If you’re operating under the fiscal umbrella of a sponsoring organization.

If another 501(c) has officially taken your organization or program on as a fiscally sponsored organisation, you can submit paperwork from them attesting to their support and begin using VolunteerMatch. While this requires a  bit more paperwork to process, we recognize that fiscal sponsorship is an increasingly popular way for mission-based folks to save money while making a difference.

  • If your organization is a for-profit company that is collaborating with a nonprofit.

Lots of organizations work closely with for-profit partners and vendors to accomplish goals — especially in special event management and production. If a company is involved in a specific volunteer event or opportunity such as an AIDS ride, fun run, or conference, and they can submit the valid EIN of the partner nonprofit, we will approve their use of VolunteerMatch.

One final note…. not surprisingly, in each of these exceptions, we actually require more paperwork and documentation to approve the organization than otherwise. If you want to be an exception to the rule, we’ll gladly help you get into our network… but we’re keeping an eye on you for everyone’s sake.

Coming up next week, I’ll take a look at how and why certain for-profits can use VolunteerMatch to recruit volunteers. In the meantime, if you have any questions about who can use VolunteerMatch and how, please don’t hesitate to let us know at support@volunteermatch.org.

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