Ryan Oberly


Ryan Oberly advises a wide range of nonprofit organizations, including all forms of public charities, private foundations, social welfare organizations, trade associations, and social clubs.

As head of the firm’s fed tax practice group, Ryan helps nonprofits understand the rules governing their tax-exempt status and develops tax structuring and compliance strategies to address unrelated business income compliance, private benefit and inurement, political campaign and lobbying, private foundation excise taxes, joint ventures, grantmaking, program related investments, and other federal tax issues. Ryan regularly represents clients in all stages of IRS audits and serves as tax counsel on litigation matters involving tax issues for nonprofits. Ryan also heads the firm’s international practice group and navigates clients through the diverse tax, sanctions, and other legal and practical challenges in advancing a nonprofits’ mission overseas.

Ryan is a passionate advocate for philanthropy and the importance of a robust and pluralistic nonprofit sector for a healthy civil society. He has taught the Law of Nonprofit Organizations as an adjunct law professor at DePaul University's College of Law (Chicago) and Charleston School of Law. He currently co-chairs the Religious Organizations subcommittee of the American Bar Association's Exempt Organizations Committee and regularly speaks and writes on legal developments affecting nonprofit organizations. He serves on the boards of religious and international humanitarian organizations and annually runs the Hood to Coast Relay to help bring clean water and sanitation solutions to South Sudan.

Prior to starting Wagenmaker & Oberly, Ryan worked at Mosher & Wagenmaker, a law firm dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations.

Outside of work, Ryan enjoys surfing, skiing, and spending time with family and friends in Charleston's Daniel Island community, where he lives with his wife and three children.

Professional Involvement
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  • American Bar Association, Federal Tax Section- Tax-Exempt Organizations Committee (Religious Organization & International Philanthropy Sub-Committees)
  • Contributor to ABA's Comments on IRS Notice 2020-36, Proposed Revisions to Group Exemptions, September 2020
  • IRS' TE/GE Advisory Council Member, 2007-2022
  • Illinois Super Lawyers®-Rising Star, 2014-2018 (Non-Profit Law)
  • Chicago Bar Association's Tax-Exempt Organizations Committee, Chairman, 2008-2010, 2012-2013
  • CBA's Fed Tax Executive Board from 2009-2010
  • Christian Legal Society
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  • Religious Tax Reclassification for Public Charities, Co-author with Sally Wagenmaker and Paul Winters, Taxation of Exempts (January/February 2022)
  • Donor Naming Considerations, Co-author with Elisa Anchan, Taxation of Exempts (July/Aug. 2020)
  • A Gift Not So Simple--Tax Issues Associated With 'Love Offerings', Co-author with Michael Mosher, Taxation of Exempts (July/Aug. 2012)
  • IICLE's Nonprofit Corporation Guide: a Organizing a Nonprofit Corporation (2012)
  • General Legal Questions for Nonprofits, Illinois Attorney General's Charitable Trust Bureau
Community Involvement
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Speaking Engagements
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  • Tax Roundtable: Taking the Wheel: Audit and Tax Challenges of Charitable Vehicles, Illinois CPA Society Annual Not-for-Profit Organization Conference (2022)
  • The Perils and Pitfalls of Lawyers Serving on Boards of Churches and Other Nonprofits, Christian Legal Society (2022)
  • Legal Aspects of International Missions, CLS General Counsel Forum (2022)
  • Exempt/Non-Exempt Joint Ventures: Furthering Exempt Purpose Through Partnerships with For-Profit Companies, Strafford (2022 & 2018)
  • Hate Speech: An Overview for Tax Exempt Organizations, American Bar Association Section of Taxation, Exempt Organizations (2020)
  • Nonprofits Engaging in International Activity: Learn the Rules and Avoid the Risks, NonprofitWebAdvisor (2019)
  • Fundraising Compliance: Navigating New Lands with Old Maps, Chicago-Kent College of Law's 38th Annual Conference on Not-For-Profit Organizations (2019)
  • Form 990 Related Party and Compensation Disclosures, Chicago-Kent College of Law's 37th Annual Conference on Not-For-Profit Organizations (2018)
  • Nonprofit Law for the Arts, Charleston Arts Alliance (2017)
  • Why Our Clients Are Exempt: The Role of Tax Policy for 501(c)(3) Practitioners, Chicago Bar Association (2016)
  • Diplomacy and the Law: The Art of Nonprofit Mergers, Chicago Bar Association (2015)
  • Cause-Related Marketing, Commercial Co-Ventures, and the New Era of Multi-State Fundraising, Chicago-Kent College of Law's 32nd Annual Conference on Not-For-Profit Organizations (2014)
  • Where's My Application? - An Anecdotal and Practical Discussion of Exempt Organization Processing in the Wake of the IRS Scandal, IRS TE/GE Advisory Council (2013)
  • The Significance of 'Control' in Multi-Corporate Structuring for Exempt Organizations, Chicago Bar Association (2013)
  • Recent Tax Developments for Religious Organizations-A Review of the Supreme Court Hosanna-Tabor Decision, Chicago Bar Association (2012)
  • Ethical Pitfalls for Attorneys Serving on Nonprofit Boards, Illinois State Bar Association (2011)
  • Unrelated Business Income Tax Issues in Creative Fundraising, Christian Community Development Association (2011)
  • Legal Structuring for Multi-Site Churches, New Thing Exponential Conference (2010)
  • Top Ten Legal Hot Spots for Tax-Exempt Camps, American Camping Association (2010)
  • International Grantmaking, Northwestern School of Continuing Studies (2009)
  • Multi-State Charitable Solicitation Compliance, Illinois CPAs for the Public Interest (2008)
Adjunct teaching engagements
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  • Charleston School of Law
  • DePaul University College of Law
  • DePaul University Graduate School
  • Harper College
  • Northwestern University Institute of Continuing Education




J.D. University of Richmond
Universidad de Deusto (International Law)
B.A. Denison University (History and Spanish)

Bar Admissions

South Carolina
United States Tax Court
Professional Involvement
Speaking Engagements
Adjunct Teaching Engagements
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