The Lens received its official nonprofit designation from the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday, ending a 26-month wait.
The designation opens up more funding opportunities for The Lens; some foundations choose to grant money only to official 501(c)(3) organizations. It also streamlines the process for individual donations, which are tax-deductible.
“This IRS declaration marks a new chapter in the life of The Lens,” said Karen Gadbois, co-founder of the organization, which celebrates its third anniversary of publication Jan. 18.
“In the chaotic months and years after Katrina, I saw City Hall decisions being made without the benefit of true public input, and I saw community issues go unreported,” she said. “That led me, an untrained journalist, to create what would become The Lens. I am pleased that the long wait for the IRS to catch up is finally over and we begin the New Year as a formal entity.”
Retired Criminal District Court Judge Calvin Johnson, chairman of The Lens’ board of directors, noted the importance of the designation.
“To achieve this status, an organization must engage exclusively in specific public activities and cannot generate profits for its owners. It also must keep detailed records,” Johnson said. “This is what The Lens has done up until this point and will continue to do. To our readers and those who have supported us financially: We understand that it is a great trust, and we will do all in our power to continue to be worthy of that trust.”
The Lens applied for its 501(c)(3) status on Oct. 16, 2010. It was caught up in a backlog of applications from similar organizations, including the Investigative News Network, SF Public Press and others. (INN and SF Public Press received their designations earlier this year.)
Kevin Davis, CEO of the Investigative News Network, said the delays had caused some other INN members to wait to apply for their nonprofit status.
“News of SF Public Press and The Lens finally receiving their 501(c)(3) determination will not only be welcome,” he said, “but will hopefully move more organizations to move forward with their applications.”
The Lens thanks Liskow & Lewis, the law firm that prepared its 501(c)(3) application, answered detailed questions from the IRS and managed the process. Further, The Lens is grateful for the support of the Center for Public Integrity, of Washington, D.C., which acted as The Lens’ fiscal agent during the waiting period.
The designation doesn’t affect prior grants, which were handled by the Center for Public Integrity.
The Lens strives to educate the public through deep-dive, public-policy oriented reporting and community outreach on a variety of topics facing New Orleans. The organization welcomes donations of any amount.