The B cell survival factor (TNFSF13B/BAFF) is often elevated in autoimmune diseases and is targeted in the clinic for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus. BAFF contains a loop region designated the flap, which is dispensable for receptor binding. Here we show that the flap of BAFF has two functions. In addition to facilitating the formation of a highly active BAFF 60-mer as shown previously, it also converts binding of BAFF to TNFRSF13C (BAFFR) into a signaling event via oligomerization of individual BAFF-BAFFR complexes. Binding and activation of BAFFR can therefore be targeted independently to inhibit or activate the function of BAFF. Moreover, structural analyses suggest that the flap of BAFF 60-mer temporarily prevents binding of an anti-BAFF antibody (belimumab) but not of a decoy receptor (atacicept). The observed differences in profiles of BAFF inhibition may confer distinct biological and clinical efficacies to these therapeutically relevant inhibitors.