What is the proper legal structure for a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization?

501(c)(4) social welfare organizations may be created as a corporation, trust or simply as an unincorporated association. State law dictates the threshold requirements that need to be met in order to establish an organization.

In order to optimize functionality and governance, well-organized social welfare organizations adopt bylaws, which set forth:

  • The exact purpose of the organization
  • A description of the nature, duties and responsibilities of its officers, as well as how they are appointed
  • The structure for various committees charged with leading on specific areas of organizational activity (e.g., a fundraising committee, an issues committee or personnel committee, for example)
  • Criteria for how to expend funds
  • The process for amending the bylaws

There is no specific language that is required in a package of bylaws, but it is strongly advised that 501(c)(4) entities adopt some form of governing structure.