Arizona Adopts the Benefit Corporation

Arizona recently passed benefit corporation legislation (SB 1238). Arizona joins fifteen other jurisdictions including California, New York and the District of Columbia that have already passed legislation. While the new law is not effective until December 31, 2014, the Arizona benefit corporation offers social entrepreneurs an important new option to consider when forming a new venture.

Risky Business – Using Unlicensed Images

A simple explanation of copyright law is that if you did not create it, get a license to use it, or purchase it, you are likely in violation of copyright law. Further, copyright infringement is a strict liability offense. If you use someone’s image without a license to use it, you infringe upon their copyright. This is so even if you paid a website designer or other third party and they posted the image without your knowledge.

Arizona Open Meeting Law Basics

We are often asked whether nonprofits must follow Arizona open meeting law (“OML”). Generally, nonprofits are not required to follow open meeting law; however, there are some exceptions – most notably charter schools. Charter schools are treated as public institutions for OML purposes because they are both funded with state tax dollars and are overseen by the state.

IRS Launches Compliance Check of 1300 Self-declared 501(c)(4),(5) and (6) Organizations

As the IRS Exempt Organizations division indicated in its 2013 work plan, it is conducting a compliance check of self-declared tax-exempt organizations. The IRS recently mailed over 1,300 questionnaires to self-declared Section 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), and 501(c)(6) organizations. The project is part of the IRS’ plan to gather information about self-declared exempt organizations, determine whether self-declared exempt organizations are complying with applicable tax-exempt law, and increase voluntary compliance.

Better Safe than Sorry: Nonprofits’ use of Waivers, Releases and Disclaimers

Many nonprofits use some form of waiver or release in their programs. Typically, volunteers and participants are asked to assume the risk of participation and hold the organization harmless if they are injured. However, waivers and releases are not foolproof as many courts do not favor them. Still, they are often successful, and nonprofit organizations have nothing to lose in requiring them.

Co-Working Spaces – Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Models

“Co-working” has exploded in the last five years. Essentially, co-working spaces are places where workers – typically freelancers, self-employed individuals and start-up ventures – can go to work while being surrounded by like-minded, creative entrepreneurs without having to rent their own offices. Many co-working spaces have a mission to create social change and spur community rejuvenation, making them of great interest to the social impact sector.

Nonprofit Volunteers – Minimizing the Risks

Minimizing legal exposure is important because volunteers’ acts are generally imputed to the nonprofit organization. Specific, written volunteer policies and procedures are critical. Important components of a good volunteer program include clear and forward-thinking volunteer policies, thorough volunteer applications, screening, and management.

Best of CharityLawyer

Every year we like to take stock of our most popular posts to evaluate what our readers are finding most interesting and useful on the blog. What follows is a list of CharityLawyer’s top 10 posts for 2012 measured by page views:

Nonprofit Law Jargon Buster: What is the Doctrine of Cy Pres?

From time to time, charities are faced with what to do with a restricted gift when the terms of the donor’s restriction can no longer be fulfilled. The doctrine of cy pres permits the courts to modify the charitable purpose of a charitable trust to a purpose that reasonably approximates the designated purpose, where the designated charitable purpose becomes unlawful, impossible, or impracticable to carry out or where it becomes wasteful to apply all of the property to the designated purpose.

Is it time for a Legal Audit?

A legal audit is an overview of an organization’s non-financial compliance, governance and risk management issues. Organizations typically consider a legal audit when new management takes over and wants to ensure they are starting with a clean slate or the in the wake of a costly mistake.

Nonprofit Corporations: Eight Items to Do By Year End

Hold Annual Meeting. Most corporate bylaws require that the directors meet at least annually. Many state nonprofit corporation statutes also require an annual meeting. The annual meeting is typically the meeting where the board (or voting members) fill vacancies on the board, appoint officers, approve budgets, circulate and sign conflict of interest disclosures, and ratify actions taken during the year.

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions: Top 10 Common Pitfalls for Employers

Sure, it takes a good deal more paperwork and money to maintain an employee versus using an independent contractor. But it’s more than worth it to make sure you are properly categorizing an employee. “Independent Contractor” does not have a finite definition under the law. Certain liabilities also don’t apply to independent contractors, such as worker’s compensation, FMLA, paid family leave benefits, unemployment insurance, and other various potential benefits. So, it can be tempting to try to wedge a person into an independent contractor position when they actually should be classified as an employee.

Self-Policing Abuse Cases Can Lead to Catastrophic Failure by Kimberly Witherspoon

Self policing allows serious problems to fall through the cracks. The most significant failure of self-policing seems to be a knee-jerk desire to protect the organization rather than the purported victim. This results in a failure to report allegations of abuse to the authorities, and instead be willfully blind to crimes committed against children. Institutional behaviors of denial, irresponsibility, cover-ups and possible criminal behavior seem to thrive in a self-policing organization. Jerry Sandusky’s case is a clear example of this willful blindness. Tolerating or ignoring abuse to children under the care of charitable organizations that are supposed to nurture and protect them undermines the noble purpose of such entities and thus weakens the organization.