At the end of the five years, the IRS put them through a literal reality check, asking for proof that they had, in fact, received most of their support from public sources. Although 95% of nonprofits eventually passed this test and received their permanent ruling, it made for some nervousness as the five-year mark approached.
But no more. The IRS recently announced that, because it's so pleased with the amount of information that nonprofits must reveal year by year on their Form 990, it's doing away with both advance rulings and this five-year double check. Better yet, the new rule applies to nonprofits that have already formed but haven't yet reached the five-year mark. As one lawyer I know said, "This will be a relief to the parents on our preschool board."
For details, see the IRS announcement of September 8, 2008.