Exempt organizations that wish to change their name often secure a trade name or “do business” under a fictitious name. Presumably they opt to use a fictitious name rather than formally change their name because they believe a legal name change is too much trouble or they don’t know how to accomplish it. . . . A better approach is to change the organization’s legal name with both state and federal authorities to present a unified and cohesive brand to donors and supporters.
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.
Often prospective clients call us wanting to know whether we know of any dormant nonprofits that are going out of business that they could take over. The idea is that taking over an existing entity avoids the hassle and expense of incorporation, creating a governance structure and obtaining tax-exempt status for a brand new entity. Presumably, a new board of directors would be substituted in place of the old board and new officers would be elected.
When considering whether to include voting members in a nonprofit corporation, it is important to understand that voting members of a nonprofit corporation are generally analogous to shareholders of a business corporation. Voting members have statutory rights under state law; therefore, it is important to clarify the right of members to avoid inadvertently creating a voting membership class and vesting ultimate control in the members when that is not your intention. Once a membership has been established, it may be difficult to eliminate, and it may be impossible without the consent of the members.
Let’s be clear about one thing. No one owns a nonprofit corporation.
While there is no outright ownership, there is control. One of the fundamental questions I ask when forming a new nonprofit corporation is how board members will be selected. This is a key question because those who hold the power to select board members retain the ultimate authority over the corporation.
The possibilities are limited by the nonprofit corporation statute in the state where the corporation is domiciled.
Ellis Carter and Deanna Rader will be co-presenting a webinar on December 15th at 4:00 pm as part of the Arizona Charter School Association’s Charter Starter program. One of the first sessions that the program will offer is a webinar on the legal aspects of starting an Arizona charter school.
In my practice representing nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations, there are often themes that emerge. Over the last few weeks I have had a spate of calls from would be nonprofits that paid either a nonprofit start-up “consultant” or a document preparation company to form their nonprofit and handle their IRS filings. In each case, the work product that made it to my office required substantially more work to fix than it would have taken to do properly the first time around. You get what you pay for, and sometimes, you pay dearly for what you get. Before hiring someone to help you with the legal and tax aspects of starting a nonprofit, make sure they are licensed to provide the type of assistance they are offering, have specific experience representing nonprofits, and are in fact representing you rather than helping you to commit malpractice on yourself.
Once a non-profit founder has surveyed the non-profit landscape and found a legitimate need, recruited an initial board, created business and fundraising plans, and scraped together some start-up funding, he or she is ready to proceed. In Arizona, it usually makes the most sense to form the entity as an Arizona non-profit corporation. The steps required to form a nonprofit in Arizona are covered.