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What Is a Nonprofit?

Alliance Defending Freedom is a nonprofit organization. What does that mean?
Alliance Defending Freedom
Your God-given rights and constitutional freedoms are worth protecting

What is a nonprofit? As the name suggests, a nonprofit is an organization that is not primarily aimed at making a profit. Rather, nonprofits are focused on charitable purposes.

Of course, charitable efforts predate any organized form of record keeping. It is safe to assume humans would not be anywhere near as prosperous as we are today without our fellow man coming alongside to help us in our need.

Perhaps one of the more famous examples from antiquity might be the formation of the church around AD 30. Acts 4 tells us that

“...the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. ... For there was not a needy person among them because all those owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as they had need.” (CSB)

Of course, the early church was not a “nonprofit” in the sense that we use the term today. Fast-forward to America in the 19th century, and legislation like the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act of 1894 first referenced charitable organizations as tax-exempt in American law.

Alliance Defending Freedom is one of those tax-exempt charitable organizations. How does ADF’s work qualify? Read on to find out.

IRS requirements

The Internal Revenue Service defines a nonprofit as an organization that exists solely for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and none of its earnings may be granted to any private shareholder or individual.

Those exempt purposes cover a very wide swath of activities—from serving the homeless to hosting amateur sports competitions.

How does ADF qualify as a nonprofit?

The work of ADF falls under several of the purposes defined by the IRS, including the advancement of religion, lessening the burdens of government, and defending human and civil rights secured by law.

Decades ago, the legal and cultural threats to religious freedom began multiplying. And for many years, very few Christians were showing up to defend your God-given and constitutionally protected freedoms in court. As a result, those seeking to restrict your right to freely live out your faith were often successful in their efforts.

By funding cases, training attorneys, and successfully advocating for freedom in both the court of law and in the court of public opinion, Alliance Defending Freedom has changed that.

In 2022, ADF received nearly 6,300 requests for legal help. That means that about 17 Americans per day were turning to ADF because of hostile government overreach infringing on your freedoms in one of our key focus areas.

ADF is also engaged in 104 different countries across the globe through our international team, resulting in over 1,100 advocacy matters outside U.S. borders.

And ADF never charges a penny to represent clients in court. We are funded entirely through grants and donations from like-minded individuals and organizations.

Those supporters, our Ministry Friends, can be assured of a clear and transparent look at how their donations are used through our Ministry Friend Bill of Rights.

Ministry Friends who support the work and ministry of Alliance Defending Freedom have the right:

  • To know that Alliance Defending Freedom will never sell, rent, or make available their names or information related to their gifts for non-Alliance Defending Freedom purposes.
  • To know how Alliance Defending Freedom spends funds available to us and to be made aware of the cases or operations their gifts help fund.
  • To know that Alliance Defending Freedom is in compliance with federal, state, and municipal laws.
  • To designate their gift to one of our priority projects.
  • To receive a quick response to their inquiries about Alliance Defending Freedom finances and programs.
  • To visit our ministry offices and meet with us personally.
  • To expect that Alliance Defending Freedom will never use high-pressure tactics to solicit their support.
  • To know that Alliance Defending Freedom is efficient, organized, and well-managed.
  • To know that Alliance Defending Freedom has an involved and responsible independent Board of Directors that takes its oversight duties very seriously.
  • To know that our appeals for funds are truthful and accurate to the very best of our knowledge.

What are ADF’s key focus areas?

Here at Alliance Defending Freedom, we often talk about securing “Generational Wins” through our work in the courtroom and in the culture.

But what is a Generational Win? And why is it important?

A Generational Win achieves a significant victory changing the law and culture of the nation for a generation and is sustained by deliberate action so that the victory endures for generations to come.

ADF is working to secure Generational Wins in the five key areas below:

Life is safeguarded – Guaranteeing the right to life from conception to natural death

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that wrongly found a constitutional right to abortion.

The Court upheld Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which protects unborn children and their mothers by limiting abortion to 15 weeks gestation. With Roe gone, states are once again empowered to protect women and their babies from the harms of abortion.

ADF was honored to serve on the Mississippi team defending the law at the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. From working with Mississippi lawmakers and Gov. Phil Bryant to draft and enact the Gestational Age Act in 2018, to helping defend this important law all the way to the Supreme Court, ADF has been privileged to ensure that women and their unborn children are defended and cherished in Mississippi.

ADF will continue to work with state and federal legislatures to ensure that life is a human right guaranteed across the country, and that mothers, fathers, and their children receive the support they need to choose life and thrive.

Religious freedom prevails – Restoring religious freedom as a fundamental right

Here are a couple of recent examples of ADF’s work to protect religious freedom for all:

Catholic Charities West Michigan, one of the region’s largest social services providers, faced closure of its adoption and foster care ministry for prioritizing the placement of children in homes with a mother and father. ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of the organization, and in March 2022, state officials agreed that Catholic Charities was free to continue serving children and families according to their beliefs.

ADF is also representing the Christian Employers Alliance challenging two Biden administration mandates that force religious employers to pay for and perform gender transition surgeries, procedures, counseling, and treatments in violation of their religious beliefs.

All can speak freely – Securing free speech for all

One graphic artist in Colorado took a stand for every American’s freedom from government censorship and coercion.

Lorie Smith is a website designer and graphic artist who owns a studio called 303 Creative. She left her job in the corporate world so she could promote causes close to her heart, like supporting animal shelters, veterans, and children with disabilities. She was also excited to expand her portfolio to create custom websites that celebrate marriage between a man and a woman.

But a Colorado law—the same one used to target ADF client Jack Phillips—made it clear that Lorie is not welcome in that space. After realizing Colorado gave her an impossible choice—either be silenced or be forced to communicate ideas about marriage that violate her beliefs—Lorie challenged the unjust law. In July 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled against Lorie, holding that Colorado can force her to create custom websites promoting messages that she disagrees with.

ADF appealed the incorrect ruling and represented Lorie before the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2022. And on June 30, 2023, the Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that Colorado cannot force Lorie to create websites promoting messages she does not believe.

Lorie’s landmark victory reaffirmed that free speech is for everyone, and every American should be free to choose what to say—and what not to say—without fear of government punishment.

Marriage and family are protected – Ensuring the law respects God’s created order for marriage, the family, and human sexuality

ADF has filed or intervened in multiple lawsuits to protect female athletes from being forced to compete against and share private spaces with males.

In Connecticut, four female high school track athletes were deprived of honors and opportunities after the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference adopted a policy that allows males who identify as female to compete against them.

In Tennessee, the Association of Christian Schools International intervened in a lawsuit that could determine, among other things, whether males who identify as female can use female-designated showers and locker rooms and compete on female sports teams.

Several other cases are also underway throughout the country.

Parental rights are guaranteed – Guaranteeing the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children

A school district in Albemarle County, Virginia, enacted an “Anti-Racism Policy” that teaches children race-based division and resentment in violation of our clients’ belief that every person is created in the image of God and is worthy of dignity and respect.

Some schools are even pushing children to “transition” to the opposite sex—and keeping it a secret from parents.

ADF is representing several families throughout the country in cases like these, in addition to creating the Parents’ Toolkit on Critical Theory, which explains the harmful policies and ideologies being promoted in public schools and spells out exactly what options parents have to combat them. If the government truly wishes to “protect children,” then the rights of parents must be safeguarded according to the highest legal standard.

The bottom line

Your God-given rights and constitutional freedoms are worth protecting. ADF is the world’s largest legal organization dedicated to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and God’s design for marriage and family. And we stand ready for protect those freedoms for everyone.

Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom

ADF team members contributed to the writing and publication of this article.