Can you Sell a NonProfit? Understanding the Complexities of Nonprofit Corporations

Can you Sell a NonProfit? Understanding the Complexities of Nonprofit Corporations

Like a for-profit organization, a nonprofit can sign contracts, borrow, buy, and sell assets, and take every necessary step to run an efficient operation and achieve its goal.

A nonprofit organization isn't owned by anyone or a group of people. They are established for several reasons, and generating profits isn't one. But can nonprofits sell their assets? Yes, they can and that's by understanding how it works.  If a nonprofit organization undergoes significant changes or transitions. A nonprofit cannot be sold to another individual or organization but its assets might be transferred to another nonprofit or entity with a similar mission.

Understanding Nonprofits

Unlike a for-profit organization, a nonprofit ownership structure doesn't involve shareholders or determine. Simply put, a nonprofit is created to further a mission, social cause, or shared priority. Unlike a typical business, nonprofits are prohibited from making a profit. Most communities have a nonprofit set up where businesses, governments, and citizens support them in many ways to benefit the communities they serve. Nonprofits establish a board of directors to manage the organization. Most often, they vote for an executive director who heads a team of volunteers and employees to do the work. Although state and federal taxes take care of key services and programs, it's just not enough. Here's where Nonprofits come in, filling in the gap in help that normal people cannot access. 

How do Nonprofits Work?

Nonprofit organizations are required to sort out founding documents with the IRS. The boards of directors organize a meeting at least twice annually. Many duties and responsibilities are accrued to board positions, and board members make key decisions regarding nonprofits. Nonprofits create fundraising activities to help gather the funds needed to support their projects. Because nonprofit organizations support the state, community, and federal governments, they're not required to pay taxes. It's the government's way of appreciating the good works of nonprofit organizations. 

The main difference between nonprofit and for-profit entities lies in their purpose and how they distribute profits. Nonprofit organizations are dedicated to a mission or cause, and surplus funds are reinvested in the organization's mission rather than distributed to shareholders. For-profit entities aim to generate profits for their owners or shareholders.

The strategy and Concept of Selling a nonprofit financial

Selling nonprofit assets requires a strategic planning process to ensure legal compliance, obtain the right approvals, and keep the organization's mission in place. Whether the nonprofit plans to shut down or merge with another organization, selling a nonprofit can be emotionally draining. The legal requirements for terminating and selling a nonprofit can be sophisticated. 

Nonprofits must meet with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to undergo the legal dissolution process per the agency's requirement regarding how nonprofit organizations are dissolved.  Once a nonprofit has achieved its goal or would prefer to improve by merging with another organization, it's up to the nonprofit board of directors to decide whether to sell the organization. 

If there are no voting members, it's left to the board to decide whether to dissolve the organization based on its motion. That's only the beginning of the process. 

Boards of organizations should first plan the nonprofit dissolution, which determines how the outstanding assets and liabilities will be handled. 

 Then, the charity must distribute its assets, resolve the remaining dent, and file the required form with the IRS. 

Selling Assets Vs. Selling Organization

You are allowed to sell off all nonprofit assets. However, selling assets in the nonprofit sector involves divesting specific holdings like real estate or intellectual property to generate funds or streamline operations. This approach allows the corporation to adapt without relinquishing its entire entity. The process includes legal approvals, valuation, marketing, and adherence to regulatory requirements.

On the other hand, selling non-profit legally entails transferring complete control, often through mergers or acquisitions.This strategic decision involves complex negotiations, legal, due diligence, and approval from authorities. The sale of the organization has broader implications, affecting the entire entity, including its mission, staff, programs, and assets. Both processes necessitate careful consideration of legal, financial, and mission-related factors to ensure a smooth transition while addressing the organization's strategic goals.

Considering to Sell a Nonprofit

Considering a sale of a Nonprofit is a multifaceted process often driven by distinct factors, and they can be:

Financial Struggles

Like every other business, there are nonprofit issues that make it necessary to re-calibrate resources. A thoughtful revaluation of financial strength may force organizations to consider the sale of assets to bolster fiscal stability. 

This proactive approach enables these organizations to address emergent financial issues while positioning themselves for sustained impact in the future. 

Change in Mission or Focus

The evolution of a nonprofit's focus or mission is inherent to its growth. As these organizations respond to evolving societal challenges or adapt to the ever-changing needs, it may be time to realign assets. Therefore, considering a sale is the best way to ensure that resources are more directed towards activities that align with the organization's purpose, Maintaining effectiveness and relevance. 

 Mergers and Acquisitions

Collaboration in the form of mergers and acquisitions presents nonprofits with an avenue for synergistic growth. The strategic combination of organizations with similar missions can enhance efficiency, increased impact, and a broader reach. Nonprofits contemplating a sale through mergers and acquisitions are driven by the vision of creating a stronger, more resilient entity that collectively addresses complex challenges and delivers more excellent value to stakeholders.

The Process of Selling Non-profit Financial Assets

Although you can sell off all nonprofit assets, selling a Nonprofit asset requires complete compliance with the state's Nonprofit corporation law.

Board Approval and Dissolution Plan

Generally, selling Nonprofit Assets starts with an agreement between the board of directors to dissolve and then draft a plan of dissolution. If a nonprofit is a 501(c) (3) organization, federal tax law requires that its remaining  assets be distributed for tax-exempt status purposes; in other words, assets will be distributed to another 501(c) (3) organization.

States Attorney General Approval 

A formal Dissolution of a nonprofit organization may involve complex steps. Some states mandate the notification of, or approval by, the Attorney General. You may need to request approval for a dissolution plan or file a petition to dissolve the nonprofits. 

Notify the IRS

Being a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, it is required to notify IRS of a Dissolution by simply filing the Form 990. Some documents, such as the plan of dissolution and articles of dissolution, must be attached. If your EIN is available, you didn't file for tax-exempt status and are not requested to file an annual notice or tax return; all you must do is notify the IRS Exempt Organization Entity division. 

With proof, the letter should indicate the withdrawal of your Nonprofit activity and the account closure. 

Legal and Financial Assessment

Conduct a thorough legal and financial assessment of the proposed sale. This includes identifying any legal restrictions or obligations tied to the assets and understanding the financial implications of the sale.

Use Proceeds for Charitable Purposes

After the sale, allocate the proceeds according to the nonprofit's mission and within the legal framework. Be transparent about how the funds will be used and ensure they contribute to the organization's charitable objectives.

Challenges and Concerns 

As expected, selling nonprofit assets presents several challenges and concerns. Ethical considerations are critical as the decision to sell the Nonprofits must strictly align with the organization's code value and mission. The potential backlash from stakeholders and the community is a critical concern, especially if they think the sales don't correlate with the organization's core values. Transparency and open communication can address this concern. 

Legal hurdles can be challenging. Going through complex legal requirements, such as restrictions on particular assets or compliance issues, demands careful attention. Failure to adhere to legal frameworks may lead to lawsuits, creating financial and reputational risks for the nonprofit.

Alternative to Selling 

When faced with financial challenges, there are alternatives for nonprofits rather than outright selling assets and it depends on the type of organization you are operating.

Merging with Another non-profit legally

Explore the option of merging with a like-minded nonprofit organization. You can host live events on Instagram or FB to promote your corporation and attract organizations that share similar values with you. This can lead to operational efficiencies, shared resources, and a strengthened impact. 

Restructuring or Rebranding

Instead of selling assets, you can do the restructuring of the organization to streamline operations or rebrand to enhance visibility and relevance. This approach may involve strategic changes in programs, governance, or communication to better align with the organization's mission and adapt to evolving needs.

Seeking Partnerships or Sponsorships

Forge partnerships with other nonprofits, businesses, or governmental agencies to share resources, expertise, or funding. 


Can a nonprofit be sold to a for-profit entity?

No, a nonprofit cannot be sold to a for-profit entity. Nonprofits are organized for charitable, educational, or social purposes, and their assets are dedicated to these missions. 

What happens to the funds after marketing and selling a nonprofit?

After selling a nonprofit, the funds are typically used to further the organization's mission or to fulfill legal obligations. 

Are there tax implications when selling a nonprofit?

Yes, nonprofits can face tax implications during sales. The tax treatment depends on the nature of the assets sold, the nonprofit's purpose, and how the proceeds are utilized.


Selling a nonprofit involves a complex process with financial, legal, and ethical considerations. Due diligence remains essential. Thoroughly assessing financial implications, legal obligations, and aligning with the organization's mission is paramount. Ethical considerations must guide every step to ensure the nonprofit's core value stays intact throughout the process.

For expert guidance on selling your Nonprofit, contact us today. Our team is here to assist you with valuable information, advice, and guide you ethically and legally.

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Nonprofit Tips
Mandy Ellis

Mandy is a passionate and dedicated writer with a flair for philanthropy. As a seasoned fundraising enthusiast, Mandy not only crafts compelling narratives about the transformative power of giving for nonprofits but actively engages in the cause.

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