People choose to launch non-profit organizations for a variety of reasons. Steve Streit, for example, started Patti’s Way, a 501(c)(3) charity, to honor his mother Patti’s generosity and kindness to others.

But a 501(c)(3), which is a specific tax-exempt category of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, isn’t the only way to create a charitable organization. Let’s explore some alternatives.


If there’s a cause you want to support but you don’t feel ready to create a non-profit, consider incubating or seed funding a social venture. An incubator allows you a high degree of control over the investment — and it’s tax deductible. But, you will need the resources to bankroll it.


Is your alma mater the institution you most desire to support? Consider creating a charitable endowment. Gifting funds to a university that has a program in place for managing charitable endowments takes the onus off you for managing a non-profit. And the institution of higher education can apportion your gift in whatever ways it deems most crucial.

Corporate Foundation

When you invest in a corporate foundation, you earmark the cause(s) you want to the money to be used for. This gives you a great deal of control over your investment  — and typically a large tax deduction as well.

Trust Fund

You may not be a trust fund baby, but you can create a trust and dedicate the assets to charitable causes. There are two distinct advantages to this strategy: you set the terms of the trust, so the money is distributed over time instead of in a lump sum, which helps maximize the impact of your gift. Second, a certain type of trust, known as an “accelerated gift” trust, affords you a tax deduction.

Fiscal Sponsorship

In fiscal sponsorship, a non-profit agrees to provide administrative support and some or all of the legal and financial responsibility to groups or individuals that are doing work related to the sponsor’s mission. 

This partnership frees you up to focus on your initiative, providing the community services close to your heart, while your fiscal sponsor provides financial and administrative support behind the scenes. 

Going the For-Profit Route

If none of these options appeal to you as the ideal approach, think about going the for-profit route. A for-profit social enterprise generates funds specifically to reinvest them in the social sector, such as the worthy causes you wish to support. It also allows you to diversify your investment across a portfolio of causes that call to you.

A social enterprise is a mission-driven, for-profit business that uses its resources for public good. Let’s take a look at a few examples of how you might structure such a venture: 

Public Benefit Corporation

A public benefit corporation, also known as a B Corp of PBC, is a social enterprise that focuses on stakeholders such as people and planet, not just profits. Two PBCs that consider this triple bottom line are household names Warby Parker, the online eyewear giant, and green shoe manufacturer Allbirds.

Mutual Aid Organization

Mutual aid, as the name implies, is not a charity; rather, it’s a mutually beneficial system in which all parties involved benefit. One well-known example of a mutual aid organization involves those impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012: volunteers distributed essential goods unavailable due to the superstorm, and created a community of service hubs, where those in need could seek out and receive resources and support.

There are myriad ways to show support for your community and the causes that fuel your life’s purpose. While a 501(c)(3) may be one of the better-known solutions, these other options can be equally useful.