Nonprofit-Specific Legal Information
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 in the overall topic Legal
Information (U.S. Law).
Sections of This Topic Include
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(or other 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
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 member
to be clear and consistent in their roles. See
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 Nonprofit
Business Taxes, including, for example:
Do I Need Help to
Good Record Keeping
Sales, Payroll Taxes, etc.
Filing Form 990s (including about public disclosure)
Business Income Taxes (UBIT)
Lobbying and Taxes
— When Hiring, Need Independent Contractor or Employee?
for Board Members
For basic guidelines to help ensure your board is minimizing
chances of a lawsuit, see Legal Considerations
for Board Members
Nonprofit’s Legal Activities
To conduct a general audit of legal-related matters
in your organization, see Legal
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.
Regulations: A Glossary
of Federal and State Regulations for U.S. Nonprofit Organizations
NPO Regulation Resources
of NPO Regulations
Model Document Retention Policy for Nonprofits
For the Category of Legal:
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