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You should be able to complete the paperwork for 501(c)3 status in less than a year, but your application will be a bit more challenging because you're already in existence and you have to document what you've done in the past few (I don't remember the specific number) years. The key is to get some volunteers who will devote significant effort to the process. It also helps to have someone with at least a passing familiarity with the IRS and its procedures.

I agree about the 1-year stuff, but we have been unable to find volunteers willing to commit to the time involved. So there is a constant turnover, that results in pretty much having to start over each time. It is a pity because we are working on restoring our historic building (present one built in 1816) and many potential donors insist on a copy of an IRS letter that we are 501(c)(3) and in addition to all the paperwork, there is a fee that IIRC is around $1000, and even that will be a significant expense for us.

We have been in existence since before the IRS existed. In fact, since before the Constitution was signed. Our meeting was founded in 1665 here in what became the State of New Jersey. It was quite interesting legally when many churches had to become legal entities. Who were the legal owners of the properties? (Do not bother to answer that question: it is quite complex.)
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