Nonprofit-Specific Legal Information

Sections of this topic

    Assembled by Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

    Businesses requiring legal advice should contact an attorney.

    NOTE: The vast majority of U.S. laws apply equally to nonprofit
    and for-profit organizations. Therefore, nonprofit personnel should
    also review information on the overall topic of Legal
    Information (U.S. Law).

    Sections of This Topic Include

    Articles of Incorporation
    Corporate Bylaws
    Registration to Solicit Funds
    Tax-Related Laws Regarding Nonprofits
    Legal Advice for Board Members
    Regulations About Lobbying

    Assessing the Nonprofit’s Legal-Related

    General Resources

    Also, consider
    Related Library Topics

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    of Incorporation

    (or another charter document, eg, Articles of Association, etc.)

    The articles of incorporation (or other forms of
    description, such as charters, constitutions, articles of association,
    etc.) are established when the organization files for incorporation
    with the appropriate state agency. This governing document specifies
    the legal description of an organization, including, for example,
    its name, the purpose or mission of the organization, place of
    business, primary officers, etc. A board of directors gets its
    authority from the articles. See
    Articles of Incorporation

    Corporate Bylaws

    Bylaws represent how the board of directors chooses
    to organize itself, carry out its operations, and organize management
    of the corporation. Not all states require bylaws (so they may
    not always be interpreted as legal documents, as such), yet bylaws
    are often highly recommended for the board in order for a member
    to be clear and consistent in their roles. See
    Corporate Bylaws

    to Solicit Funds

    Some states and cities require registration to solicit
    funds in their locale. Contact your local Secretary of State,
    Secretary of Commerce, Attorney General’s office, etc., to determine
    requirements in your state and city. Also, see
    of Fundraising Activities

    Laws Regarding Nonprofits

    See the following topics in the Nonprofit
    Business Taxes
    , including, for example:
    Do I Need Help to
    Get Started?

    Importance of
    Good Record Keeping

    Getting Tax-Exempt

    Federal, State,
    Sales, Payroll Taxes, etc.

    Preparing and
    Filing Form 990s (including public disclosure)

    Donations and

    Business Income Taxes (UBIT)

    Lobbying and Taxes
    Special Topic
    — When Hiring, Need Independent Contractor or Employee?

    Legal Advice
    for Board Members

    For basic guidelines to help ensure your board is minimizing
    chances of a lawsuit, see Legal Considerations
    for Board Members

    Regulations About

    and Taxes

    Assessing the
    Nonprofit’s Legal Activities

    To conduct a general audit of legal-related matters
    in your organization, see Legal

    General Resources

    International Center for Nonprofit Law

    Nolo Press self-help law
    Center provides extensive information in a wide range of areas,
    e.g., about small businesses, will and estate planning, tax problems,
    patents and copyrights, and employment.

    Additional links

    Regulations: A Glossary

    Online Compendium
    of Federal and State Regulations for U.S. Nonprofit Organizations

    NPO Regulation Resources

    Online Compendium
    of NPO Regulations

    Model Document Retention Policy for Nonprofits

    For the Category of Legal:

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