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Editor’s note: The Philadelphia Community Corps runs Philly Reclaim – a non-profit architectural salvage store in Philadelphia. The following info is taken directly from their email newsletter.

The Philadelphia Community Corps needs your help.

Recently, Grid Magazine wrote an article about a setback at the Philadelphia Community Corps. We lost our 501c3 nonprofit status for about 6 months, from August 2021 to February 2022, due to a clerical error at the IRS. They admitted fault and reinstated our 501c3, but in the meantime we lost roughly 70% of our revenue because we couldn’t do deconstruction projects, fundraise, or apply for grants.

We were facing financial hardship before that happened, but that was almost the nail in the coffin for us. It still may be. 

This is certainly not our first taste of adversity. Over the years as a startup nonprofit, there have been a lot of hard times. When we were struggling to stay afloat, or barely hanging on, and I didn't know what was going to happen. 

We always fought through those times. No matter how bad it got, we knew if we hung on for long enough the hard times would pass. There were moments when it felt like we might lose everything, but somehow we always survived.

This time, the Philadelphia Community Corps really needs your help.

We’re launching a fundraising campaign to recover from this financial setback, and we would sincerely appreciate your donations and support.

Here’s the link to the fundraising page: https://philadelphiacommunitycorps.networkforgood.com/projects/157871-help-the-philadelphia-community-corps-recover

Please note: this fundraiser is a peer-2-peer fundraising campaign, so if you go to that page you’ll see two options, “Start Fundraising” and “Donate.” If you only want to donate then you select that option, but if you click Start Fundraising the platform will guide you through the steps of creating your own mini-fundraiser for the PCC. Then any funds you raise will be added to the bigger campaign. This is a way for many people to get involved in the fundraising itself. Many hands make light work!

What Happened

On August 23rd, 2021 the IRS erroneously revoked our 501c3 status without warning. This was totally unexpected. We were shocked.

When we demanded to know why they did this they said it was because we hadn't filed our 990 tax returns and that it was an automatic revocation that happens when your 990 tax returns aren't on file. The only problem with that is that we DID file our 990 tax returns, and we had proof of that since we sent them by certified mail.

It didn't matter to the IRS though because there was no human involved in the revocation process that we could speak to. We needed to file for reinstatement, but the IRS was still so far behind on reinstatement applications from the pandemic that there was no telling when they would get to ours.

It took 6 months before they looked into it, and even then it was only because Congressman Evans's office filed a Congressional Inquiry into what was going on on our behalf.  If not for Congressman Evans's office we have no idea how long they would have left us waiting.

When the IRS finally looked into the matter, guess what? They had our 990 tax returns the whole time! Whoops! They filed them under the wrong time period, and that's why they thought they were missing and revoked our 501c3. It was entirely their fault—a simple human error on their part.

On February 15th, 2022 the IRS sent us a letter to that effect, stating that they had "erroneously" revoked our 501c3 status and that our 501c3 was now reinstated, but it was too little too late.

The problem is that in the 6 months following the 501c3 revocation we lost 70% of our revenue. We almost had to declare bankruptcy. Deconstruction projects are normally the majority of our revenue, and we couldn't do any because the main reason why people hire us is so that they get a big tax deduction for donating building materials. Without the tax-deductible charity organization status, we couldn't take on any deconstruction projects between August 2021 and February 2022.

In addition to that, we couldn't fundraise or apply for grants! We weren't able to have our annual end-of-the-year holiday fundraising campaign. We had to sit the holiday season out.

The only thing we had to keep us going these last 6 months was our Philly Reclaim store sales, and that's normally only about 30% of our revenue.

There was no apology from the IRS for almost putting us out of business or compensation for our financial losses. They made a paperwork mistake and it almost destroyed the Philadelphia Community Corps. If we don’t raise some money fast it still might.

What Now

Philadelphia Community Corps needs your help recovering from this financial crisis. We need to fundraise as much as we can right now to get our nonprofit organization back on track to financial sustainability. 

The Philadelphia Community Corps’ first need is to survive as a nonprofit, but we’re continuing to help others as we fundraise. Philly Reclaim is open and now that we have our 501c3 again we’re doing deconstruction projects again. 

Recently, Philly Reclaim gave out $100 eCoupons again, so that everyone has access to the architectural salvage we’ve reclaimed from the landfill. We’re also looking at multiple upcoming deconstruction projects where we’ll be training the demolition contractors in sustainable deconstruction practices.

Once the Philadelphia Community Corps becomes a financially sustainable nonprofit organization again we will be able to continue working towards helping people in various ways.

If we succeed, we can get back to accomplishing our goals:

The PCC can become the Philadelphia region’s central nonprofit drop off center for building material donations

  • The PCC can help families, small businesses, and our community afford high-quality reclaimed building materials. 
  • The PCC can train the existing demolition industry of contractors and workers to practice deconstruction techniques to salvage materials for reuse
  • The PCC can replace wasteful, 20th-century demolition practices with sustainable 21st-century deconstruction practices.
  • The PCC can keep our architectural heritage out of the landfill, preserving materials like old-growth lumber, original bricks, doors, windows, mantelpieces, furniture, plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures, antiques, etc. 
  • The PCC can conserve our natural environment by reducing the need to harvest virgin resources
  • The PCC can help job trainees learn trade skills, and gain access to career employment opportunities
  • The PCC can revitalize blighted neighborhoods by removing abandoned buildings

The Philadelphia Community Corps is the Philadelphia region's only deconstruction and reuse workforce development nonprofit. It would be a tragedy for Philadelphia to lose that.

If the PCC fails, the city takes a huge step back to a time when there was no avenue for donating reusable building materials instead of landfilling them. For years now we've been diverting building materials from the landfill for reuse. We've slowly taught thousands of people that they don't have to landfill their reusable building materials because there's a place they can take them. That could become untrue again if the PCC can’t recover from the IRS’s mistake.

If the Philadelphia Community Corps succeeds we can transform our city’s demolition industry, unleashing many entrepreneurial and career opportunities. Philadelphia could become an example and a leader of this emerging sustainable industry. 

This is a hard time we’re going through, but we’ve been through hard times before. We’ve never given up before and we won’t this time. Here’s what we’re doing to fight back:

Now that we have our 501c3 back we’re hitting the ground running looking for deconstruction projects, so we can restore the 60% of our revenue these projects normally make up

  1. Now that we have our 501c3 back we’re organizing this fundraising campaign to raise money
  2. Now that we have our 501c3 back we’re going to start applying for grants again
  3. In a few weeks, we’re going to launch another campaign selling t-shirts and other PCC gear to raise money
  4. We did the eCoupon giveaway at Philly Reclaim again to bring in new customers, clear our old inventory, and make room for new donations
  5. We’re planning flea markets and auctions events at Philly Reclaim to increase traffic, turnover our inventory, and bring in fresh salvage for sale

Can you help us?

We’ll do what’s in our power, and we’re asking you to please consider donating to help us get the rest of the way there. 

Thank you for your support!

P.S. Here is that link to the fundraiser again: https://philadelphiacommunitycorps.networkforgood.com/projects/157871-help-the-philadelphia-community-corps-recover