“Let’s Go Legal” Gives Nonprofit Boards a New Tool to Strengthen Their Nonprofit Legal Knowledge & Practice
By Nancy Bacon, Director of Learning with Washington Nonprofits
I filed my organization’s paperwork with the state. I’m good to write letters to donors saying that their donations are tax deductible, right?
I got a friend to create a website for us. Since we help others, it’s okay if we find great photos from the web and use them, right?
We can’t afford a full time executive director, so we are hiring an independent contractor to run our organization. Is that okay?
No. It is federal law that determines the tax deductibility of donations, not state law. Intellectual property and employment laws apply no matter that kind of organization you are. Each of these questions opens a larger conversation about fundraising, protection of rights, and how you compensate people. Wayfind and Washington Nonprofits partnered to create “Let’s Go Legal” to help nonprofits understand more about nonprofit law and what you need to know to stay compliant and protected.
“Let’s Go Legal” covers the five main topics board members need to know, telling you bottom line information and giving you a checklist to help you apply that information to your organization. The five topics are:
- State Law: How to stay compliant in Washington State
- Federal Law: What you need to know if you decide that you want your revenue to be exempt from federal income taxation and accept tax-deductible funds
- Fundraising: What you need to know when you accept other people’s money for charitable purposes
- Employment: What you need to know related to the people you pay to move your mission forward
- Intellectual Property: How your organization protects its ideas and unique products and respects the ideas created by others.
“Let’s Go Legal” describes nonprofit organizations as being like a car. You need to register it with the state, driving on federal roads involves an additional set of rules, you need fuel to move your car forward (that’s the money part), the people in the car matter, and the look and feel of your car make it special. Accompanying the resources provided is a “document vault” of key documents to help learners put ideas from “Let’s Go Legal” into practice.
About Let’s Go Legal
Let’s Go Legal includes 5 main elements. Everything can be found on the Washington Nonprofit Institute site here.
- Videos: Watch 6 short videos, including an introduction and five topic videos.
- Kit: Download a pdf document to follow along with the videos and check up on your organization using the Nonprofit Legal Checklist.
- Document vault: Grab a document that you may need, customize it to your organization, and put it in front of your board for discussion and approval.
- Interactive graphic: Explore all of these resources in an interactive “Thinglink.”
- Game: Roll the dice and see what you know!
“Let’s Go Legal” was developed by Washington Nonprofits and Wayfind, with support from the Office of the Secretary of State. Washington Nonprofits, our state nonprofit association, makes sure nonprofits have the tools they need to succeed. Wayfind helps nonprofits with their legal needs. Wayfind provides pro bono legal services and puts on legal trainings for nonprofits. Together they are closing the gap that exists between what nonprofits need to know and what information they have at their fingertips.
Wayfind provides pro-bono legal assistance to qualified nonprofits. Visit wayfindlegal.org for more information.
Let’s Go Legal is part of a series that includes “Finance Unlocked for Nonprofits (FUN),” “Boards in Gear (BIG),” and hot-off-the-press….. “Strategic Planning in Nonprofits (SPiN).” All of these are available on the wanonprofitinstitute.org site.
About the Author:
Nancy Bacon is Director of Learning with Washington Nonprofits, our state’s nonprofit association with the mission of making sure all nonprofits have what they need to succeed. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Washington Nonprofits, visit us online at http://www.washingtonnonprofits.org.