Recently the TriYoga centers in Waltham, MA and Cedar Rapids, Iowa became non-profit centers, and are now going through the process of getting Federal Non-Profit status. TriYoga International has filed a “group exemption letter” which will allow centers to qualify as Sec. 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations as chapters under TriYoga International’s Federal tax exempt status. This cuts out the need for each center to go through the expensive tax exempt application process individually. Becoming a non-profit center is now a relatively easy and affordable process. This article will tell you how.
But, before discussing how, you may first ask why? The short answer is to strengthen the community. Having a community-run center, by definition, draws people in. Community members feel empowered to get involved. For example, in September we had an extremely successful sidewalk sale, which was the idea of one of our board members. Members of the community donated items to sell, and many turned out to help price items, put up signs, and help with the sale. We raised $1080! Members have also started a “flowing stitch” group where they get together to knit. More are attending the pranayama classes, and we’re adding a movie night and a book club. These activities are helping to cement a strong connection to the center, and create many more opportunities for creating a supportive community.
Another benefit of the non-profit is that people are more willing to give their time and donate money. This will help keep the center economically viable, and hopefully will enable us to move into a larger space at some point. I’m currently exploring some alternatives for a larger center, including trying to rent town owned property at lower than market rates because we’re a non-profit. The other idea is to create a real estate trust (which would be for profit) which buys a building and rents it to the center. This is predicated on the idea that the current real estate slump offers some great deals. Then even if the center cannot pay high rents in the beginning, hopefully the value of the building will rise once the economy regains health.
A number have asked how this affects the teachers and classes. The non-profit status does not really affect teachers. They get paid the same, but two of us donate classes. Teachers also have the opportunity to earn extra income by offering workshops and specialty classes. The community-run structure empowers all community members. While I ran the center for 8 years, I feel no attachment to owning it, I just want there to be a center. Thankfully, the community members feel the same, and together we’re creating something that is important to all of us.
Interested in creating a non-profit TriYoga center in your area? The groundwork has been laid and it’s a fairly straight forward process. We were very lucky to get a pro-bono attorney who created a set of documents we believe will be usable, with minimal alterations, by all centers that wish to become non-profit chapters. Here are the steps to becoming a non-profit center:
  • Form a Board of Directors. This is required both for the government filings, and for the success of the center. The minimum board positions required include President, Treasurer, and Secretary. Beyond that you can have anything you want. We also have a VP and a Teacher Representative. We first considered adding more positions, then decided to keep the number fairly small so there will never be a problem with having enough people at a meeting to take a vote. We allow everyone who attends the meeting to vote. Our goal is to be inclusive.
  • Create a mission statement. This step is optional, but helpful for letting people know why they should donate their time and money. It needs to be a statement you and those you wish to attract will feel comfortable with and hopefully become inspired by. It also helps guide decisions. For example, our mission statement says we wish to be welcoming and supportive and inspire participation. That is why we decided that anyone who attends the meeting can vote. It takes time and usually a number of tries to get your mission statement right. Here is what we came up with for TriYoga Boston:
TriYoga Boston is a community run non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the teachings of TriYoga. In the belief that TriYoga practices promote greater physical health, mental clarity, and deeper understanding of universal spiritual truths, TriYoga Boston aspires to create a supportive community that welcomes and inspires participation, and fosters personal and spiritual growth.  It does this by offering classes, training teachers in the TriYoga method, and supporting TriYoga International and its projects.
  • File Articles of Organization within your state. The Articles of Organization are fairly short and straight forward. You can go online to your Secretary of State’s office and download the forms. While having an attorney might make things easier, you do not need one to file the Articles of Organization.
  • Adopt By-Laws. We can provide you with a set of By-Laws, which your Board can change as needed.
  • Apply for a Federal tax identification number EIN (your tax ID) from the IRS. Once again, you need to fill out a form. You need an EIN number before you can open a bank account. Here is a link for applying for an EIN online. http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=102767,00.html
  • Execute a Chapter Charter License Agreement with TriYoga International. (Note: you need to first incorporate with the State and become a legal non-profit entity before you execute the license agreement.) This License Agreement enables the center to become a non-profit chapter under the Tri Yoga International group exemption letter, making it unnecessary to go through the difficult and expensive process of applying for Federal non-profit tax status. There is an annual license fee.
If you are interested in becoming a non-profit TriYoga chapter you should first review the Chapter Charter License Agreement.
The process of being included under the group exemption letter is an annual filing with the Internal Revenue Service executed by Tri Yoga International by March 31 of each year. The filing is by letter and includes new Chapters formed during the year. All Chapters included in the annual filing are tax exempt under Sec 501(c)(3) retroactive to the date organized (if organized within the current 15 month period prior to the filing).
In Massachusetts we also needed to file an additional document to be allowed to legally solicit donations. I do not know if this is state specific. I would suggest you check. We would not have known about this if the attorney did not tell us. Apparently it was legal for us to accept donations, but we were not allowed to solicit until this application was approved. You can probably ask someone at the secretary of state’s office.
If anyone is interested in creating a non-profit center I would be happy to speak to you and share our experiences, and provide you with the documents. Personally, I’m very grateful to have the support of the community in running the center, and excited about the future prospects for our growth. I think the community run non-profit model elevates the whole community.