Nonprofits formed to educate or inform the public regarding environmental issues or that are organized for the purpose of preserving the natural environment can qualify for exemption under section 501(c)(3).
Section 1.501(c)(3)-1(d)(2) of the Income Tax Regulations states that the term “charitable” is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes the advancement of education and science. It is generally recognized that efforts to protect and preserve the natural environment for the benefit of the public serves a charitable purpose. Furthermore, the promotion of conservation and protection of natural resources has been recognized by Congress as serving a broad public benefit.
In order to be exempt as an organization described in section 501(c)(3), an organization must be both organized and operated exclusively for one or more of these exempt purposes: charitable, religious, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, educational, fostering national or international sports competition and / or the prevention of cruelty to animals or children.
Specific charitable purposes can include relief of the poor, distressed or underprivileged, erecting or maintaining public buildings or monuments, lessening the burdens of government, lessening neighborhood tensions, eliminating prejudice and discrimination, defending human and civil rights and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.