PHOENIX — The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, an independent, investigative newsroom launched in 2012, has been awarded 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Center, known as AZCIR, is a statewide, accountability reporting organization with a mission to produce, foster and promote investigative journalism through original and collaborative reporting, public events and trainings, for the betterment of Arizona communities.

AZCIR has so far relied on individual contributions and foundation grants that are funneled through a nonprofit fiscal sponsor, which accepts donations on behalf of the Center. AZCIR was originally sponsored by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, a similar nonprofit newsroom, and most recently relied on the Institute for Nonprofit News, another nonprofit that provides education and business support services to more than 100 member organizations and of which the Center is a member.

“This is a great milestone for AZCIR and will help to further solidify our role as an independent voice for investigative reporting in Arizona,” said the Center’s Executive Director and Editor Brandon Quester. “The IRS determination for nonprofit status will allow us to seek new funding opportunities and work directly with our individual supporters to accept their tax-exempt donations.”

This IRS ruling now allows AZCIR to accept tax-exempt donations without a fee-based pass-through from fiscal sponsors. It also enables the Center to solicit foundation grants from organizations that require 501(c)(3) recognition from the IRS.

Nonprofit designation from the IRS has been a challenge for newsrooms across the U.S. in recent years, with some organizations waiting up to three years for approval. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation worked with the Council on Foundations to address the long wait times for newsrooms seeking tax-exempt status, which culminated in a 2013 report, The IRS and Nonprofit Media: Toward Creating a More Informed Public.

AZCIR worked with lawyers from Steptoe & Johnson, LLP, to submit the nearly 100-page application to the IRS. The firm provided more than 40 hours of pro-bono consultations with the Center before submitting its application in February 2015.

Special thanks go to attorneys Kevin G. Hunter, Suzanne Ross McDowell and their colleagues for invaluable pro-bono work on AZCIR‘s application for tax-exempt status.