The Johnson Amendment: Keeping Charities Nonpartisan Since 1954

The Johnson Amendment ensures that 501(c)(3) organizations remain above the political fray by withholding exempt status (or revoking it) from organizations that engage in any amount of political activity. Requiring 501(c)(3) organizations to abstain from involvement in political activity ensures that they are able to remain dedicated to their missions without the distraction and divisiveness that partisan politics creates. Continue Reading

Three Sheets to the Wind – Fundraising with Alcohol in Washington

In general, where a charity is holding a public fundraising event, a liquor license is required to sell or serve alcohol. Organizations that have obtained a Special Occasion license may sell spirits, beer, and wine by the individual serving or sell bottles of wine for on premises consumption. Continue Reading

Creating Joint Ventures with For-Profits

To reduce the risk to the tax-exempt organization, the tax-exempt partner should exercise sufficient power and control over the joint venture’s activities to ensure the joint venture operates in furtherance of its tax-exempt purposes. Tax-exempt organizations must be particularly careful when entering into joint ventures structured as partnerships or LLCs because the IRS attributes the activities of such entities to its owners. Continue Reading

Conflicts of Interest – Why They Matter

As most nonprofit directors and executives already know, if decision makers do not disclose their conflicts of interest and properly manage them, there is no way to know whose interest they are serving when they make decisions. Directors and trustees of nonprofits have a fiduciary duty of loyalty to make decisions in the organization’s best interest without regard to their own interests or the interests of third parties. Even the most well-meaning individuals can find their decisions clouded by competing interests. Continue Reading

How to Survive a Micro-Managing Board

The micro-managing board members show up to their first board meeting and before they have done anything of substance for the organization, they want to revamp the reports, review the nonprofit’s journal entries, question every expense, and critique the Chief Executive’s management style. One might rightly ask whether these activities are adding value. I would argue that nine times out of ten they are not. Continue Reading

Starting a Nonprofit in Washington State

Once a potential founder has read our post on Nonprofit Business Planning – Steal All the Underpants, and has determined that a new nonprofit organization would serve a legitimate need in the community and can be supported without stealing any underpants, she must then consider the steps necessary to form the nonprofit corporation in Washington State and obtain tax-exemption from the IRS. Continue Reading

Cause Related Marketing and Commercial Co-Venture Best Practices

Often companies are blissfully unaware that their charitable sales promotion is a regulated activity and are surprised to learn that there are regulations they must comply with. However, states have an interest in protecting consumers from false and misleading advertising. They also have an interest in protecting charities from being exploited. Accordingly, at least 20 states regulate such cause marketing offers which are referred to interchangeably as “commercial co-ventures” or “charitable sales promotions.”
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When is a Contribution Not a Contribution? By Billy Minch, CPA

For those of us who spend our lives working in, with, or around nonprofit organizations, this is generally thought of as a pretty easily answered question… but is it really? Recently, several of the clients we serve have received contributions from vendors and service providers that may challenge, or at least stretch, the definition of what gets recorded as a contribution. Continue Reading

Multistate Fundraising Registration and Filing Portal

Recognizing the complicated labyrinth that is the multi-state charitable solicitation registration process, a new organization called the Multistate Registration and Filing Portal, Inc. has been formed as a Delaware nonprofit corporation (“MRFP”). The MRFP is working with the National Association of States Charities Officials and the National Association of Attorneys General to develop an online system that will permit nonprofits and professional fundraisers to comply with all states’ registration and annual filing requirements through a single portal. Continue Reading

Nonprofit Jargon Buster – Directors vs. Trustees

The group of individuals charged with the governance of nonprofits are often referred to interchangeably as “directors” or “trustees.” These terms are similar in that they both refer to the group of individuals who have a fiduciary duty to oversee the nonprofit organization. However, from a legal perspective, there are important distinctions. Continue Reading