AGU was created in 1919 to advance the science of geophysics, the study of Earth and its environment in space. For its first 53 years, AGU was a part of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In 1972, when the Union broke away to form a separate entity, its organizers agreed to exclusively support activities related to science and education. No profit would be used for other purposes, and particularly not for the benefit of individuals. On the basis of its mission, AGU was granted not-for-profit status by the federal government.
To be in this circle of tax-exempt scientific, educational, charitable, and religious organizations is indeed a privilege that affords significant benefits. AGU receives lower postal rates, the opportunity to receive charitable contributions, exemption from income tax except on unrelated business income, and access to the tax-exempt bond market.