In most cases, you do require reasonable cause to abate penalties. Often, the IRS will give you a "first--timers" excuse for the first year. In the realm of small not-for-profits, I would take a shot. I would write in and request a penalty abatement. Throw in anything you can that looks like reasonable cause. If you want assistance, the Taxpayer Advocate may work with you. Consider contacting your local Taxpayer Advocate (which is part of the IRS).
Marty Davidoff, firstname.lastname@example.org, 732-274-1600. This answer is provided for general information only. You should seek advice from an attorney or tax professional.
You absolutely have to give it a shot. Draft a letter explaining the situation in detail and respectfully request an abatement of the penalty. Reasonable cause is in the eye of the reader and you may get an abatement. You will not know until you try. If it is denied you will only be in the same place you are now.
Any individual seeking legal advice for their own situation should retain their own legal counsel as this response provides information that is general in nature and not specific to any person's unique situation. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Advice given in this response cannot be used to eliminate penalties with the IRS or any other governmental agency.
Generally, if there has been a failure to file, there is a reason why the paperwork was not filed. That reason may be found to be reasonable cause. You don't know until you try.
I hope this helps.
Steven A. Leahy
Please note that the above is not intended as legal advice, it is for educational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is created or is intended to be created hereby. You should contact a local attorney to discuss and to obtain legal advice.