Nonprofit organizations operate in a distinct legal environment, often without professional staff. When mistakes happen or problems arise, the consequences can have devastating and far-reaching effects. Legal assistance that can avoid such consequences may be a significant and unplanned expense.
Since 2010, 159 nonprofit organizations in New Bedford alone have had their tax-exempt status revoked by IRS for failing to file annual reports for three consecutive years. In 2012, over 26,000 Massachusetts nonprofit corporations had their corporate status revoked for failing to file annual reports to the Secretary of State for two consecutive years. While many of these organizations were likely defunct, many were not. Many of these organizations are small, all-volunteer operations, with barely enough cash in hand to run their programs—they have survived due to the commitment and dedication of their volunteers. But often, their boards are untrained in the intricacies of tax-exempt status requirements, or those who did have that knowledge have moved on, moved away, or passed away.
Of the 18,000 organizations known to be active in Massachusetts in the last two years, 32 percent have annual incomes less than $50,000. These organizations that contribute so much to our society—in the form of social services, recreation, arts, education, health, community development, and so on—where do they turn when they need legal help?
The majority of nonprofit organizations rely heavily on grants and donated funds, operating on lean budgets focused on sending resources to their missions. With the limited availability of grants for operating funds, setting aside funds for legal services is not a budget priority.
Providing pro bono services to nonprofits is a satisfying part of the practice of law for most lawyers, and many contribute many hours to nonprofit organizations, either as nonprofit board members or through their law practices. But sometimes, specialized knowledge of tax-exempt entities is necessary, and lawyers may lack the time to become sufficiently knowledgeable to assist a tax-exempt organization with its specific problem.
The Legal Center for Nonprofits, Inc., was formed to address this specific need—to provide affordable direct legal services to established nonprofits and people wishing to start nonprofits. Through our services, new nonprofits start off on the right foot, and once started, our educational programming on nonprofit legal topics helps their boards, staffs, and volunteers keep them moving progressively forward, to better serve their communities.
When you support the Legal Center for Nonprofits, you are supporting the entire nonprofit community, enabling us to provide legal services to nonprofits that need it and educational programs to help nonprofits build capacity to achieve the fullest expression of their missions. Their success strengthens the whole community.
Like our clients, the Legal Center for Nonprofits is itself nonprofit. We charge minimal fees to keep our work affordable to our clients, and, like them, we depend on fundraising and grant-writing to cover our costs. Our board of directors consists of attorneys, small business people, and nonprofit professionals who believe in the value of a strong nonprofit sector and its ability to make our region a better place to live, grow and work.
Your gift to the Legal Center for Nonprofits:
- Ensures excellent, affordable legal services focused on the specific requirements of tax-exempt nonprofits organizations;
- Brings nonprofit legal and management education and training to SouthCoast’s board members, volunteers, nonprofit staffs, and the public, without the need for a trip to Boston.
- Builds the capacity and enhances the viability of all SouthCoast nonprofits.
Please give generously today.
The Legal Center for Nonprofits, Inc., is a Massachusetts nonprofit corporation. Our application for 501(c)(3) charity status is pending before the IRS.