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The nonprofit didn’t plan.
It had no policy for pay.
So folks never knew
What might happen one day.

And then it arrived!
A plan for the pay!
And not just a plan, a policy — hooray!

It was clear!
It was fair!
It was legal and true!
Staff, the board, and donors all said, “Yoo-hoo!”

March 2, 2024 (fast approaching!) will be the 115th birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-Sept. 24, 1991) — the author and illustrator of The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, and Horton Hears a Who! and many, many more classic books for children.

And to quote Dr. Seuss, no matter your nonprofit’s size and mission, you need a compensation policy for all employees that is not a Grinchy “two sizes too small.”

Oh, the places you’ll go with good policy!

A clear and strong compensation policy isn’t just about wages and benefits, it signals to employees, donors, and the public that the care you put into fulfilling your nonprofit’s mission extends to the people who are integral to its success.

A compensation policy states your nonprofit’s values and philosophy when it comes to compensating its employees, lays out pay tiers and benefits, and how they are determined and approved. It describes potential conflicts of interest and how they can be avoided and includes comparability data information that shows how your nonprofit determines compensation based on similarly-situated organizations. Most importantly, it clarifies that compensation within the organization must be reasonable and in line with IRS requirements.

Your nonprofit’s compensation policy will help keep you on track when making hiring decisions and planning — and sticking to! — your budget.

And, remember, a good compensation policy doesn’t just tell employees where they are on a pay scale within the organization and the benefits that are available; it lays out for them in plain language how compensation decisions are made, who makes them, and what they can do to be successful in the organization.

Even if you’re comfortable with your nonprofit’s current compensation policy — when was the last time it was reviewed by the board and an attorney? Whether needing a revision to reflect a new labor law or fine-tuning to add clarity, a robust up-to-date compensation policy provides a fair and consistent framework for making sure employees are paid appropriately for their work. Delaying or blowing off a review of a compensation policy can have dire consequences for a nonprofit. There are a host of state and federal legal requirements when it comes to employees and hiring, from pay to working conditions to benefits. In addition, the IRS requires nonprofits follow specific rules when it comes to compensation in order to maintain their tax-exempt status.

A compensation policy, you will find
Is beneficial to all inclined.

You will like it on a boat.
You will like it with a goat.

You will like it in the rain.
You will like it on a train.

You will like it here or there
You will like it ANYWHERE!

If your organization is interested in drafting or revisiting its compensation policy, don’t hesitate to reach out to me today. My email is: gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com 

####

I. IRS FORM 990

Every nonprofit, every year, must complete and file a version of Form 990, which the IRS calls its “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax.” Just when the “long” version of IRS Form 990 asks about many financial matters – donations, money on hand, non-cash assets, breakdown of expenses, and so on.

IRS Form 990 goes even further, however, and asks nonprofits if they have in place certain policies. In fact, there are ten (10) specific policies which the IRS asks about on Form 990. To be clear, the IRS does not mandate adopting these ten (10) policies. But the IRS, to me, is at the least signaling what polices nonprofits should have in place. Again, my read of Form 990 is
that the IRS is showing nonprofits what it considers to be “best practices.”

II. REASONS AND BENEFITS TO ADOPT THESE TEN (10) POLICIES

One might ask, if these policies are not absolutely required, why have them?

Generally, these ten (10) policies provide substantial benefits, including but hardly limited to:

  • Enhanced confidence of donors and other stakeholders
  • Consistent framework for decision making
  • Increased compliance with federal and state laws
  • Reduced risk to the nonprofit and its management and governing board

The existence of a policy doesn’t mean compliance is assured, of course, but having policies in place provides a framework and sets expectations for a nonprofit’s board members, employees, donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders. Such policies can be referenced if (when) issues arise.

Another major reason to invest in adopting these policies is because the IRS audits tax-exempt nonprofits, just as it audits companies and individuals. Having certain policies in place will only serve to benefit the nonprofit should it happen to be audited. Also, proper policies provide a foundation for soliciting, accepting, and facilitating charitable donations.

Last, but not least, Form 990 is made accessible to the public, meaning it can be used as a public relations tool if filled out diligently. Major donors can and often do review a nonprofit’s Form 990 to ensure the nonprofit is compliant, putting charitable donations to good use, and continues to operate in alignment with its overall mission.

III. WHAT POLICIES ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

The IRS made a major revision to Form 990 in 2008. The old version focused largely on financial data. Now, Form 990 reports extensive information on operations such as board governance, fundraising, non-cash assets, and more. Let’s cover all ten (10) policies the IRS asks nonprofits to report on in its Form 990. I’ll discuss each policy in alphabetical order.

1. COMPENSATION

Data related to compensation is reported in multiple sections on Form 990: Part I, Part VI, Part VII, Part IX, and Schedule J.

Competitive compensation is just as important for employees of nonprofits as it is for for-profit employees. Having a set policy in place that objectively establishes salary ranges for positions, updated job descriptions, relevant salary administration, and performance management is used to establish equality and equity in compensation practices. A statement of compensation philosophy and strategy, which explains to current and potential employees and board members how compensation supports the nonprofit’s mission, should be included in the compensation policy.

2. CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Found on Form 990 Part VI, Section B, Line 12 a-c.

A conflict of interest policy should do two important things. First, require board members with a conflict (or a potential conflict) to disclose said conflict. Second, exclude individual board members from voting on matters in which there is a conflict.

The Form 990 glossary defines a “conflict of interest policy” as follows:

A conflict of interest policy defines conflicts of interest, identifies the classes of individuals within the organization covered by the policy, facilitates disclosure of information that can help identify conflicts of interest, and specifies procedures to be followed in managing conflicts of interest. A conflict of interest arises when a person in a position of authority over an organization, such as an officer, director, manager, or key employee can benefit financially from a decision he or she could make in such capacity, including indirect benefits such as to family members or businesses with which the person is closely associated. For this purpose, a conflict of interest doesn’t include questions involving a person’s competing or respective duties to the organization and to another organization, such as by serving on the boards of both organizations, that don’t involve a material financial interest of, or benefit to, such person.

Form 990 asks whether the nonprofit has a conflict of interest policy, as well as how the nonprofit determines and manages board members who have an actual or perceived conflict of interest. This policy is hugely important, as conflicts of interest that are not successfully and ethically managed can result in sanctions against both the nonprofit and the individual with the conflict(s).

3. DOCUMENT RETENTION AND DESTRUCTION

Found on Form 990 Part VI, Section B, Line 14.

This policy should clarify what types of documents should be retained, how they should be filed, and for what duration. It should also outline proper deletion and or destruction techniques. The document retention and destruction policy (sometimes called, simply, a “DRD policy”) is useful for a number of reasons. The principle rational as to why any nonprofit would want to adopt such a policy is that it ensures important documents—financial information, employment records, contracts, information relating to asset ownership, etc.—are stored for a period of time for tax, business, and other regulatory purposes. No doubt document retention is incredibly important should litigation or governmental investigation arise.

A strong, clear DRD policy also allows nonprofits to save time, space, and money associated with both hard copy and digital file storage, by determining what is no longer needed and when…it’s like sanctioned spring cleaning!

4. FINANCIAL POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

Different than the investment policy (as discussed below), financial policies specifically address guidelines for making financial decisions, reporting financial status of the nonprofit, managing funds, and developing financial goals. The financial management policies and procedures should also outline the budgeting process, investment reporting, what accounts may be maintained by
the nonprofit, and when scheduled auditing will take place. Form 990 does not make a specific ask about a nonprofit’s financial policies, but this type of policy will serve as an indispensable guide to organizing, collecting, and reporting financial data.

5. FORM 990 REVIEW

Found on Form 990 Part VI, Section B, Line 11.

Form 990 asks the following questions:

Has the organization provided a complete copy of this Form 990 to all members of its governing body before filing the form? Describe in Schedule O the process, if any, used by the organization to review this Form 990.

In asking these questions, the IRS is indicating that careful distributing and reviewing Form 990
prior to filing is optimal. This policy is extremely useful in clarifying the specific process for
distribution and procedure review by the governing body (such as the board of directors). It also
acts as a reminder to nonprofit leaders that Form 990 is coming due!

6. FUNDRAISING

The topic of fundraising gets substantial attention on Form 990; fundraising income and expenses are asked about in Part I, Part IV, Part VIII, Part IX, and Schedules G and M.

Almost every nonprofit needs a fundraising policy, as so many nonprofits engage in some sort of
charitable fundraising. This policy should include provisions for compliance with local, state,
and federal laws, as well as the ethical norms the nonprofit chooses to abide by in fundraising
efforts. Remember that fundraising doesn’t just include solicitation of donations, but also receipt
of donations.

7. GIFT ACCEPTANCE

Gifts and contributions are referenced many times on Form 990: Part I, Part IV, Part V, Part VIII, Part IX, and Schedule M.

While related to the fundraising policy, the gift acceptance policy is different, as it relates to how nonprofits will handle certain types of assets. This policy provides written protocols for nonprofit board members and staff to evaluate proposed non-cash donations. The policy can also grant some much-needed guidance in how to kindly reject donations that can carry extraneous
liabilities and obligations the nonprofit is not readily able to manage.

8. INVESTMENT

One way a board of directors can fulfill their fiduciary responsibility to the nonprofit is through investing assets to further the nonprofit’s goals. But, before investment vehicles are used, the nonprofit should have an investment policy in place to define who is accountable for the investment decisions. The policy should also offer guidance on activities of growing/protecting
the investments, earning interest, and maintaining access to cash if necessary.

Beyond the specifics of investments, this policy can also govern financial management decisions regarding situations like accepting charitable gifts of securities.

The policy should be written to give the nonprofit’s management personnel the authority to make investment decisions, as well as preserve the board’s oversight ability.

Many nonprofits hire a professional financial advisor or investment manager to implement investments and offer advice. This person’s role can be accounted for in the investment policy. Form 990 does not ask if a nonprofit has a specific investment policy, but it does refer to investments in multiple places throughout the form, and there is an obvious need.

9. PUBLIC DISCLOSURE

Found on Form 990 Part VI, Section C, Lines 18-20.

Speaking broadly, nonprofits exist to serve the public in some way or another, and some nonprofit documents must be made available to the public upon request. Other documents can be kept entirely internal. This policy should overview (1) what documents the nonprofit must disclose, and (2) to what extent does it want to make other non-required documents and
information available to the public.

Form 990 specifically asks the filing nonprofit to report if certain documents are made available to the public, such as governing documents (like the bylaws), financial statements, and the conflict of interest policy. Additionally, Form 990 asks for the name, address, and phone number of the individual(s) who possesses the financial “books” and records of the nonprofit.

10. WHISTLEBLOWER

Found on Form 990 Part VI, Section B, Line 13. 

Nonprofits, along with all organizations, are prohibited from retaliating against employees who call out, draw attention to, or “blow the whistle” against employer practices. A whistleblower policy should set a process for complaints to be addressed and include protection for whistleblowers. Ultimately this policy can help insulate your nonprofit from the risk of state and
federal law violation and encourage sound, swift responses of investigation and solutions to complaints.

A whistleblower policy encourages staff and volunteers to come forward with credible information on illegal practices or violations of adopted policies of the nonprofit, specifies that the nonprofit will protect the individual from retaliation, and identifies those staff or board members or outside parties to whom such information can be reported.

IV. CONCLUSION

With nonprofits passion should always lead the way, but good policy will guide and protect your efforts. You can have a huge impact by having your favorite nonprofit adopt the ten (10) policies referenced on IRS Form 990.

I’ll draft these ten (10) policies for only $990. Email me right now at:
gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com

####

 

$990 FOR THE TEN POLICIES ON IRS FORM 990

Do you want to show love toward your favorite Iowa nonprofit in February? Of course you do! I have just the thing to help. For the ten (10) policies which appear on IRS Form 990, if you act this month, I’m offering the very special, very reasonable flat fee of $990.

Let me provide further details.

Every year, Iowa nonprofits must complete and file IRS Form 990, essentially the “tax return” for nonprofits. The “long version” of Form 990 expressly refers to ten policies, briefly discussed below. While the IRS says it doesn’t require nonprofits to adopt these ten policies, the IRS is clearly signaling what it considers to be “best practices.”

All Iowa nonprofits should adopt (or revise and update) these critically important policies.

In February, to share the love, I will provide Iowa nonprofits the ten documents for the flat fee of $990 (nine hundred and ninety dollars). The flat fee of $990 includes as many conferences with me as you deem reasonably necessary.

The ten policies which appear on IRS Form 990 include (in alphabetical order):

1. Compensation — formalizes the process of determining compensation that is reasonable and not excessive, while also rewarding enough to attract and retain the best possible management and staff

2. Conflict of Interest — assists the organization in avoiding financial or other material benefits flowing to individuals in positions of authority in the nonprofit, and protects it against charges of impropriety involving officers, directors, employees, volunteers, and other stakeholders

3. Document Retention and Destruction — defines what types of documents should be retained, duration of storage, and how documents should be filed/stored for tax, business, and other regulatory purposes

4. Fiscal — specifically addresses guidelines for making financial decisions, reporting the financial status of the organization, managing funds, and developing financial goals

5. Form 990 Review — governs the process for distributing IRS Form 990 to the Board of Directors for review and approval, and identifies any areas that need particular scrutiny

6. Fundraising — guides compliance with local, state, and federal laws, and defines the organization’s own fundraising criteria

7. Gift Acceptance — evaluates non-cash gifts, such as identifying non-cash gifts which could and should be accepted and under what circumstances, and offers guidance on how to decline gifts with liabilities and obligations the organization is not able to
sufficiently manage

8. Investment — determines accountability for investment decisions, offers guidance on growing and protecting investments, and governs overall financial management decisions

9. Public Disclosure — establishes which organizational documents (other than those required by law) will be made publicly available

10. Whistleblower — sets a formal process for grievances (including protection) to encourage sound and swift responses to complaints, and to protect the organization from knowingly (or unknowingly) violating state and/or federal laws

Again, I’ll draft these ten policies for Iowa nonprofits for a flat fee of $990.

Of course, I must always reserve the right to decline representation of any person or entity, for any reason (or even no reason).

If your favorite Iowa nonprofit wants to talk about this super special sale, please email me:
gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com

I look forward to hearing from you. Much love to all Iowa nonprofits!

####

 

ABOUT THE NFL PLAYOFFS, I CAN PREDICT ONE THING
WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY:

ALL IOWA NONPROFITS CAN LEARN AN IMPORTANT
LESSON!

For the twelve formidable teams who made the playoffs, it’s the culmination of incredibly hard work towards a singular goal. It’s been a grueling schedule with tons of variables from pre-season training camp to the regular season kick-off to the playoffs.

This weekend has a packed schedule, starting off strong on Saturday, with the Cleveland Browns playing the Houston Texans and the Miami Dolphins clashing with the Kansas City Chiefs.

On Sunday, football fans cheer on the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Buffalo Bills, the Green Bay Packers play the Dallas Cowboys, and the Los Angeles Rams take on the Detroit Lions.

The final wild card game is Monday night, when the Philadelphia Eagles play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I won’t be missing out on these games, and your favorite Iowa nonprofit shouldn’t miss out on my current exclusive offer: a flat fee of $990 for the ten (10) policies referenced on IRS Form 990. 

WHY 10 POLICIES?

With absolute certainty, I can predict one thing about this weekend’s Big Games. That is, each team will have proper equipment, including helmets, cleats, shoulder pads, knee pads, gloves, mouth guards, and so on. And the referees, too, will be sure to have zebra shirts, whistles, yellow flags, and chain markers.

For a nonprofit to operate without having proper policies and procedures in place, is like playing professional football without any equipment! The Form 990 signals these policies provide a playbook for good governance, transparency, and accountability.

Without certain policies in place, a nonprofit cannot run properly. You can’t pass, let alone score, without plans. Board members, officers, staff, donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders need a playbook to ensure they’re scoring and not fumbling. Give your stars the protection they need, and the tools they require, to be a winning team.

WHERE TO START?

From working with a wide range of nonprofit clients, I’ve learned that many want proper policies and procedures in place, but like a rookie football player confronted with new play schemes, are simply stymied about where to start. That’s where an attorney well-versed in nonprofit law (me) can come in.

Nonprofits generally are required to fill out an annual form, IRS Form 990, which is the “tax return” for nonprofits.

IRS Form 990 is unique in that it not only asks about financial information, but many of its questions directly ask about policies and procedures. There are at least ten (10) major policies referenced on IRS Form 990.

SPECIAL OFFER!

I offer to draft or redraft the ten (10) policies which appear on IRS Form 990 for just $990 for any Iowa nonprofit. This includes consultations and a full review round(s) to make sure the policies and procedures fit the needs and operations of your particular nonprofit.

Adopting the policies will ultimately save your nonprofit organization time, energy, and resources, and you can feel great about having a set of high-quality documents to both guide internal operations and present to the public.

ALL NONPROFITS NEED THESE 10 POLICIES

Whether a nonprofit is large or small, new or decades-old, or has a narrow or multi-faceted mission, all nonprofits should have these policies in place.

Yes, these policies are asked about on Form 990, but even if a tax-exempt organization is not required to submit a variation of the 990, the benefits are still immense. In general, having policies in place provides a framework and the expectations for an organization’s executives, employees, volunteers, and board members. Such policies can also be referenced if/when issues arise.

Another major reason to have proper policies and procedures in place is that they provide a foundation for soliciting, accepting, and facilitating charitable donations.

Additionally, investing in strongly written, organization-specific policies is a practice in preparation in case of an audit. (The IRS audits tax-exempt organizations, just as it audits companies and individuals).

POLICY HIGHLIGHT

Among the major policies and procedures included in my special 10 for 990 offer are the following: (You can also download my free guide with more extensive information and explanations regarding these policies and procedures.)

COMPENSATION

The IRS recommends a three-step process for determining appropriate compensation: conduct a review of compensation at (1) similarly-sized peer organizations, (2) in the same or similar geographic location, (3) with comparable positions.

In the private sector, salaries and bonuses can be essentially unlimited. Not so for nonprofits! Federal and state law requires nonprofits to pay salaries which are reasonable.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

A conflict of interest policy should do two important things: (1) require board members with a conflict (or a potential conflict) to disclose it, and (2) exclude individual board members from voting on matters in which there is a conflict.

If consistently adhered to, this policy can inspire internal and external stakeholder confidence in the organization, as well as prevent potential violations of federal and state laws.

DOCUMENT RETENTION AND DESTRUCTION

The document retention policy should specify what types of documents should be retained, how they should be filed, and for what duration. This policy should also outline proper deletion/destruction techniques.

FINANCIAL POLICIES & PROCEDURES

This specifically addresses guidelines for making financial decisions, reporting the financial status of the organization, managing funds, and developing financial goals. The financial management policies and procedures should also outline the budgeting process, investment reporting, what accounts may be maintained by the nonprofit, and when scheduled auditing will take place.

FORM 990 REVIEW

Form 990 asks about . . . . Form 990! That’s about as meta as the IRS gets. Specifically, this policy covers how Form 990 was prepared and how it was approved. A written policy is incredibly useful in clarifying a specific process for distribution and procedure review by the board of directors.

FUNDRAISING

This one may seem obvious, but almost every nonprofit needs a fundraising policy, as almost all nonprofits engage in some sort of charitable fundraising. Your organization is no exception! This policy should include provisions for compliance with local, state, and federal laws, as well as the ethical norms the organization chooses to abide by in fundraising efforts.

GIFT ACCEPTANCE

If well-written and applied across the organization, the policy can help the organization to kindly reject a non-cash gift that can carry extraneous liabilities and obligations the organization is not readily able to manage.

INVESTMENT

Before investments are made on behalf of the organization, there should be a sound investment policy in place to define who is accountable for investment decisions. The policy should also offer guidance on activities of growing/protecting the investments, earning interest, and maintaining access to cash if necessary.

PUBLIC DISCLOSURE

Form 990 specifically asks the filing organization to report if certain documents are made available to the public, such as governing documents (like the bylaws), conflict of interest policy, and financial statements. Additionally, the form asks for the name, address, and phone number of the individual(s) who possesses the financial “books” and records of the organization.

WHISTLEBLOWER

A familiar sight on a football field are referees blowing whistles. But what happens, or should happen, when an employer “blows the whistle” on a nonprofit employer’s practices.

Nonprofits, along with all corporations, are prohibited by the federal government from retaliating against employees who call out, draw attention to, or “blow the whistle” against the employer’s practices. This policy outlines the steps an organization will take to investigate allegations and protect whistleblowers.

KEEPING UP-TO-DATE

If you already have some (or all) of the above-listed policies in place, seriously consider the last time they were updated. How has the organization changed since they were written? Have changes to state and federal laws impacted these policies at all? It may be high time for a new set of policies that fits your organization.

START WITH WHY

The mission of Gordon Fischer Law Firm is to promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa. I want to help every Iowa nonprofit be legally compliant. It’s like how the coach wants to do everything they can to help their team win on the field. The 10 policies, a part of this promotion, will save you time, and resources and you can feel good about having a set of high-quality policies to guide internal operations and present to the public.

TEN (10) POLICIES FOR JUST $990

Again, for now, I’m offering these 10 policies—including needed consultations—for the low flat fee of only $990. Contact me anytime at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com.

I look forward to discussing your needs and how we can set up your favorite Iowa nonprofit for Super Bowl-level success.

####

I CAN PREDICT ONE THING FOR CERTAIN: ALL IOWA NONPROFITS CAN LEARN A VERY IMPORTANT LESSON!

For two formidable teams (Washington Huskies versus Michigan Wolverines in the College Football National Championship), it’s the culmination of a season. It’s been a grueling schedule with tons of variables from pre-season training camp to the regular season kick-off to the playoffs.

With absolute certainty however, I can predict one thing about tonight’s Big Game. That is, each team will have proper equipment, including helmets, cleats, shoulder pads, knee pads, gloves, mouth guards, and so on. And the referees, too, will be sure to have zebra shirts, whistles, yellow flags, and chain markers.

For a nonprofit to operate without having proper policies and procedures in place, is like playing the Big Game without any of the aforementioned equipment!

Without certain policies in place, a nonprofit simply cannot run properly. Without the right apparatus in place, there can be no expectations. Board members, officers, staff, donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders must work to ensure they’re scoring and not fumbling. Give your stars the protection they need, and the tools they require, to be a winning team.

WHERE TO START?

From working with a wide range of nonprofit clients, I’ve learned that many want proper policies and procedures, but they are simply stymied or confused on where to start. That’s where an attorney well-versed in nonprofit law can come in.

Many nonprofits have to fill out an annual form, IRS Form 990. Form 990 is unique in that it not only asks about financial information but also many of its questions directly ask about policies and procedures. There are at least 10 major policies asked about on Form 990.

SPECIAL OFFER!

I offer 10 major policies and procedures nonprofits definitely need for a flat fee of $990. This includes consultations and a full review round to make sure the policies and procedures fit the needs and operations of your particular nonprofit. Adopting the policies explained in this guide will ultimately save your nonprofit organization time and resources, and you can feel great about having a set of high-quality documents to guide internal operations, and present to the public.

ALL NONPROFITS NEED THESE 10 POLICIES

Whether a nonprofit is large or small, new or decades-old, or has a narrow or multi-faceted mission, all nonprofits should have these policies in place.

Yes, these policies are asked about on Form 990, but even if a tax-exempt organization is not required to submit a variation of the 990, the benefits are still immense. In general, having policies in place provides a framework and the expectations for an organization’s executives, employees, volunteers, and board members. Such policies can also be referenced if/when issues arise.

Another major reason to have proper policies and procedures in place is that they provide a foundation for soliciting, accepting, and facilitating charitable donations.

Additionally, investing in strongly written, organization-specific policies is a practice in preparation in case of an audit. (The IRS audits tax-exempt organizations, just as it audits companies and individuals).

POLICY HIGHLIGHT

Among the major policies and procedures included in my special 10 for 990 offer are the following:
(You can also download my free guide with more extensive information and explanations regarding these policies and procedures.)

COMPENSATION

The IRS recommends a three-step process for determining appropriate compensation: conduct a review of compensation at (1) similarly-sized peer organizations, (2) in the same or similar geographic location, (3) with comparable positions.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

A conflict of interest policy should do two important things: (1) require board members with a conflict (or a potential conflict) to disclose it, and (2) exclude individual board members from voting on matters in which there is a conflict.

If consistently adhered to, this policy can inspire internal and external stakeholder confidence in the organization, as well as prevent potential violations of federal and state laws.

DOCUMENT RETENTION AND DESTRUCTION

The document retention policy should specify what types of documents should be retained, how they should be filed, and for what duration. This policy should also outline proper deletion/destruction techniques.

FINANCIAL POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

This specifically addresses guidelines for making financial decisions, reporting the financial status of the organization, managing funds, and developing financial goals. The financial management policies and procedures should also outline the budgeting process, investment reporting, what accounts may be maintained by the nonprofit, and when scheduled auditing will take place.

FORM 990 REVIEW

Form 990 asks about . . . . Form 990! That’s about as meta as the IRS gets. Specifically, this policy covers how Form 990 was prepared and how it was approved. A written policy is incredibly useful in clarifying a specific process for distribution and procedure review by the board of directors.

FUNDRAISING

This one may seem obvious, but almost every nonprofit needs a fundraising policy, as almost all nonprofits engage in some sort of charitable fundraising. Your organization is no exception! This policy should include provisions for compliance with local, state, and federal laws, as well as the ethical norms the organization chooses to abide by in fundraising efforts.

GIFT ACCEPTANCE

If well-written and applied across the organization, the policy can help the organization to kindly reject a non-cash gift that can carry extraneous liabilities and obligations the organization is not readily able to manage.

INVESTMENT

Before investments are made on behalf of the organization, there should be a sound investment policy in place to define who is accountable for investment decisions. The policy should also offer guidance on activities of growing/protecting the investments, earning interest, and maintaining access to cash if necessary.

PUBLIC DISCLOSURE

Form 990 specifically asks the filing organization to report if certain documents are made available to the public, such as governing documents (like the bylaws), conflict of interest policy, and financial statements. Additionally, the form asks for the name, address, and phone number of the individual(s) who possesses the financial “books” and records of the organization.

WHISTLEBLOWER

Nonprofits, along with all corporations, are prohibited by the federal government from retaliating against employees who call out, draw attention to, or “blow the whistle” against the employer’s practices. This policy outlines the steps an organization will take to investigate allegations and protect whistleblowers.

KEEPING UP-TO-DATE

If you already have some (or all) of the above-listed policies in place, seriously consider the last time they were updated. How has the organization changed since they were written? Have changes to state and federal laws impacted these policies at all? It may be high time for a new set of policies that fits your organization.

WHY 10 FOR 990

The mission of Gordon Fischer Law Firm is to promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa, and to that point, I want to help every Iowa nonprofit be legally compliant. It’s like how the coach wants to do everything they can to help their team win on the field. The 10 policies a part of this promotion will save you time, and resources and you can feel good about having a set of high-quality policies to guide internal operations and present to the public.

Again, for now, I’m offering these 10 policies—including needed consultations—for the low flat fee of only $990. Contact me anytime at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com. I look forward to discussing your tax-exempt organization’s needs and how we can set you up for compliance
success to be nonprofit champions!

####

$990 FOR THE TEN POLICIES ON FORM 990

Every year, Iowa nonprofits must complete and file IRS Form 990, essentially the “tax return” for nonprofits. The “long version” of Form 990 expressly refers to ten (10) policies, briefly discussed below. While the IRS says it doesn’t require nonprofits to adopt these ten policies, the IRS is clearly signaling what it considers to be “best practices.”

All Iowa nonprofits should adopt (or revise and update) these critically important policies.

I provide Iowa nonprofits with the ten documents for the flat fee of $990 (nine hundred and ninety dollars). The flat fee of $990 includes as many conferences with me as you deem reasonably necessary.

The ten policies which appear on IRS Form 990 include (in alphabetical order):

  1. Compensation — formalizes the process of determining compensation that is reasonable and not excessive, while also rewarding enough to attract and retain the best possible management and staff
  2. Conflict of Interest — assists the organization in avoiding financial or other material benefits flowing to individuals in positions of authority in the nonprofit, and protects it against charges of impropriety involving officers, directors, employees, volunteers, and other stakeholders
  3. Document Retention and Destruction — defines what types of documents should be retained, duration of storage, and how documents should be filed/stored for tax, business, and other regulatory purposes
  4. Fiscal — specifically addresses guidelines for making financial decisions, reporting the financial status of the organization, managing funds, and developing financial goals. This policy should also outline the budgeting process, reporting on investments, what accounts may be maintained by the nonprofit, and when scheduled auditing will take place
  5. Form 990 Review — governs the process for distributing IRS Form 990 to the Board of Directors for review and approval, and identifies any areas that need particular scrutiny
  6. Fundraising — guides compliance with local, state, and federal laws, and defines the organization’s own fundraising criteria
  7. Gift Acceptance — evaluates non-cash gifts, such as identifying non-cash gifts which could and should be accepted and under what circumstances, and offers guidance on how to decline gifts with liabilities and obligations the organization is not able to sufficiently manage
  8. Investment — determines accountability for investment decisions, offers guidance on growing and protecting investments, and governs overall financial management decisions
  9. Public Disclosure — establishes which organizational documents (other than those required by law) will be made publicly available
  10. Whistleblower — sets a formal process for grievances (including protection) to encourage sound and swift responses to complaints, and to protect the organization from knowingly (or unknowingly) violating state and/or federal laws

I have a longer discussion of these ten policies here.

Again, I’ll draft these ten policies for Iowa nonprofits for a flat fee of $990.

Of course, I must always reserve the right to decline representation of any person or entity, for any reason (or even no reason).

If your favorite Iowa nonprofit wants to talk about this super special sale, please email me:
gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

####

 

I. INTRODUCTION

Happy New Year! A great way to start 2024 for Iowa nonprofits? Adopt the ten (10) policies referenced on IRS Form 990, as discussed fully below.

II. IRS FORM 990

Every nonprofit, every year, must complete and file a version of Form 990, which the IRS calls its “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax.” The “long” version of Form 990 asks about many financial matters – donations, money on hand, non-cash assets, breakdown of expenses, and so on.

Form 990 goes even further however, and asks nonprofits if they have certain policies in place. In fact, there are ten (10) specific policies that the IRS asks about on Form 990.

To be clear, the IRS does not mandate adopting these ten (10) policies. But the IRS, at least to me, is signaling what policies nonprofits should have in place. Again, my read of Form 990 is that the IRS is showing nonprofits what it considers to be “best practices.”

III. REASONS FOR THESE TEN (10) POLICIES AND THEIR BENEFITS

One might ask, if these policies are not absolutely required, why have them?

Generally, these ten (10) policies provide substantial benefits, including, but hardly limited to:

  • Enhanced confidence of donors and other stakeholders
  • Consistent framework for decision making
  • Increased compliance with federal, state, and local laws
  • Reduced risk to the nonprofit and its management and governing board

The existence of policies doesn’t mean compliance is always assured of course, but having policies in place provides a framework and sets expectations for a nonprofit’s board members, employees, donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders. Such policies can be referenced if (when) issues arise.

Another major reason to invest in adopting these policies is because the IRS audits tax-exempt nonprofits, just as it audits companies and individuals. Having certain policies in place will only serve to benefit the nonprofit should it happen to be audited. Also, proper policies provide a foundation for soliciting, accepting, and facilitating charitable donations.

Last, but not least, Form 990 is made accessible to the public, meaning it can be used as a public relations tool if filled out diligently. Major donors can and often do review a nonprofit’s Form 990 to ensure the nonprofit is compliant, putting charitable donations to good use, and continuing to operate in alignment with its overall mission.

IV. WHAT POLICIES ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

The IRS made a major revision to Form 990 in 2008. The old version focused largely on financial data. Now, Form 990 reports extensive information on operations such as board governance, fundraising, non-cash assets, and more. Let’s cover all ten (10) policies the IRS asks nonprofits to report on in its Form 990. I’ll discuss each policy in alphabetical order.

1. COMPENSATION

Data related to compensation is reported in multiple sections on Form 990: Part I, Part VI, Part VII, Part IX, and Schedule J.

Competitive compensation is just as important for employees of nonprofits as it is for for-profit employees. Having a policy that objectively establishes salary ranges for positions, updated job descriptions, relevant salary administration, and performance management establishes equality and equity in compensation practices. A statement of compensation philosophy and strategy, which explains to current and potential employees and board members how compensation supports the nonprofit’s mission, should be included in the compensation policy.

2. CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Found on Form 990 Part VI, Section B, Line 12 a-c.

A conflict of interest policy should do two important things. First, it should require board members with a conflict (or a potential conflict) to disclose said conflict. Second, it should exclude individual board members from voting on matters in which there is a conflict.

The Form 990 glossary defines a “conflict of interest policy” as follows:

A conflict of interest policy defines conflicts of interest, identifies the classes of individuals within the organization covered by the policy, facilitates disclosure of information that can help identify conflicts of interest, and specifies procedures to be followed in managing conflicts of interest. A conflict of interest arises when a person in a position of authority over an organization, such as an officer, director, manager, or key employee can benefit financially from a decision he or she could make in such capacity, including indirect benefits such as to family members or businesses with which the person is closely associated. For this purpose, a conflict of interest doesn’t include questions involving a person’s competing or respective duties to the organization and to another organization, such as by serving on the boards of both organizations, that don’t involve a material financial interest of, or benefit to, such person.

Form 990 asks whether the nonprofit has a conflict of interest policy, as well as how the nonprofit determines and manages board members who have an actual or perceived conflict of interest. This policy is hugely important, as conflicts of interest that are not successfully and ethically managed can result in sanctions against both the nonprofit and the individual with the conflict(s).

3. DOCUMENT RETENTION AND DESTRUCTION

Found on Form 990 Part VI, Section B, Line 14.

This policy should clarify what types of documents should be retained, how they should be filed, and for what duration. It should also outline proper deletion and or destruction techniques. The document retention and destruction policy (sometimes called, sometimes simply called a “DRD policy”) is useful for a number of reasons. The principal rationale as to why any nonprofit would want to adopt such a policy is that it ensures important documents—financial information, employment records, contracts, information relating to asset ownership, etc.—are stored for a standard period of time for tax, business, and other regulatory purposes. No doubt document retention is incredibly important should litigation or governmental investigation arise.

A strong, clear DRD policy also allows nonprofits to save time, space, and money associated with both hard copy and digital file storage, by determining what is no longer needed and when…it’s like sanctioned spring cleaning!

4. FINANCIAL POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

Different than the investment policy (as discussed below), financial policies specifically address guidelines for making financial decisions, reporting the financial status of the nonprofit, managing funds, and developing financial goals. The financial management policies and procedures should also outline the budgeting process, investment reporting, what accounts may be maintained by the nonprofit, and when scheduled auditing will take place. Form 990 does not make a specific ask about a nonprofit’s financial policies, but this type of policy will serve as an indispensable guide to organizing, collecting, and reporting financial data.

5. FORM 990 REVIEW

Found on Form 990 Part VI, Section B, Line 11.

Form 990 asks the following questions:

Has the organization provided a complete copy of this Form 990 to all members of its governing body before filing the form? Describe in Schedule O the process, if any, used by the organization to review this Form 990.

In asking these questions, the IRS is indicating that careful distributing and reviewing Form 990 prior to filing is optimal. This policy is extremely useful in clarifying the specific process for distribution and procedure review by the governing body (such as the board of directors). It also acts as a reminder to nonprofit leaders that Form 990 is coming due!

6. FUNDRAISING

The topic of fundraising gets substantial attention on Form 990; fundraising income and expenses are asked about in Part I, Part IV, Part VIII, Part IX, and Schedules G and M.

Almost every nonprofit needs a fundraising policy, as so many nonprofits engage in some sort of charitable fundraising. This policy should include provisions for compliance with local, state, and federal laws, as well as the ethical norms the nonprofit chooses to abide by in fundraising efforts. Remember that fundraising doesn’t just include solicitation of donations, but also receipt of donations.

7. GIFT ACCEPTANCE

Gifts and contributions are referenced many times on Form 990: Part I, Part IV, Part V, Part VIII, Part IX, and Schedule M.

While related to the fundraising policy, the gift acceptance policy is different, as it establishes how nonprofits will handle certain types of assets. This policy provides written protocols for nonprofit board members and staff to evaluate proposed non-cash donations. The policy can also grant some much-needed guidance in how to kindly reject donations that can carry extraneous liabilities and obligations the nonprofit is not readily able to manage.

8. INVESTMENT

One way a board of directors can fulfill their fiduciary responsibility to the nonprofit is through investing assets to further the nonprofit’s goals. But, before investment vehicles are used, the nonprofit should have an investment policy in place to define who is accountable for the investment decisions. The policy should also offer guidance on activities of growing/protecting the investments, earning interest, and maintaining access to cash if necessary.

The policy should be written to give the nonprofit’s management personnel the authority to make investment decisions, as well as preserve the board’s oversight ability. Beyond the specifics of investments, this policy can also govern financial management decisions regarding situations like accepting charitable gifts of securities.

Many nonprofits hire a professional financial advisor or investment manager to implement investments and offer advice. This person’s role can be accounted for in the investment policy. Form 990 does not ask if a nonprofit has a specific investment policy, but it does refer to investments in multiple places throughout the form, and there is an obvious need.

9. PUBLIC DISCLOSURE

Found on Form 990 Part VI, Section C, Lines 18-20.

Speaking broadly, nonprofits exist to serve the public in some way or another, and some nonprofit documents must be made available to the public upon request. Other documents can be kept entirely internal. This policy should overview (1) what documents the nonprofit must disclose, and (2) to what extent does it want to make other non-required documents and information available to the public.

Form 990 specifically asks the filing nonprofit to report if certain documents are made available to the public, such as governing documents (like the bylaws), financial statements, and the conflict of interest policy. Additionally, Form 990 asks for the name, address, and phone number of the individual(s) who possesses the financial “books” and records of the nonprofit.

10. WHISTLEBLOWER

Found on Form 990 Part VI, Section B, Line 13. 

Nonprofits, along with all organizations, are prohibited from retaliating against employees who call out, draw attention to, or “blow the whistle” against employer practices. A whistleblower policy should set a process for complaints to be addressed and include protection for whistleblowers. Ultimately this policy can help insulate your nonprofit from the risk of state and federal law violation and encourage sound, swift responses of investigation and solutions to complaints.

A whistleblower policy encourages staff and volunteers to come forward with credible information on illegal practices or violations of adopted policies of the nonprofit, specifies that the nonprofit will protect the individual from retaliation, and identifies those staff or board members or outside parties to whom such information can be reported.

V. CONCLUSION

Iowa nonprofits make such a huge difference all across our state. Nonprofits can make an even larger impact by adopting the ten (10) policies referenced on IRS Form 990.

Questions about the ten (10) policies referenced on IRS Form 990? My email is:
gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com

 

compass journal near macbook

To get the ball rolling in forming a tax-exempt charitable organization there are just two main documents to put in place. Seriously, just two–articles of incorporation and bylaws. Let’s start with exploring the components of what should be in your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation. (We’ll dig into bylaws in another post!)

Articles of Incorporation

Think of articles of incorporation as the constitution of your nonprofit. While articles of incorporation can be fairly short, there are some necessary elements required under both Iowa and federal law to gain and retain that golden tax-exempt status.

woman holding red heart

Legal Requirements in Iowa for a Nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation

Under Iowa law, articles of incorporation for a nonprofit must contain the following:

A corporate name which satisfies two requirements.

First, the corporate name must be distinguishable from any other nonprofit or business authorized to do business in Iowa. In other words, the name must be different and unique from all other names – even if it’s different by just a single letter. For example, no one could incorporate using the name, “Gordon Fischer Law Firm.” But if there were another lawyer with my name, he could legally incorporate simply by naming his business, “Gordon R. Fischer Law Firm,” or “The Gordon Fischer Law Firm.”

The second requirement is that the name does not contain language stating or implying that the corporation is organized for an unlawful purpose. To take an extreme example, “The Nonprofit Association of Heroin Dealers” would not be a proper name (in addition to many other legal issues!).

The address of the corporation’s initial registered office and the name of its initial registered agent at that office.

The “registered agent” is a legal name for “contact person”–the person who will be mailed if there’s any sort of problem or issue with the corporation. The “initial registered office” is simply that person’s (the registered agent’s) physical address, like a home address. It cannot be a PO Box; it must be a street address.

Be certain that the registered agent is responsible and involved. There can be obvious, profoundly negative consequences if the Iowa Secretary of State, or a taxing and/or regulatory agency (like the IRS) were to mail to the registered agent, and the registered agent doesn’t see the mail, and/or doesn’t provide the mail to the organization.

The name and address of each incorporator.

The “incorporator” is a legal term meaning the founder(s); the person(s) responsible for starting the nonprofit.

Whether or not the nonprofit will have members.

Unlike a regular corporation, a nonprofit does not have stockholders. (Of course, this is because nonprofits do not issue stock.) Instead, nonprofit can choose to have “members.” A formal “membership” structure often grants members certain basic rights, such as the power to vote for directors and approve a sale or merger. Most nonprofits (especially smaller ones) do not have members, due to the additional paperwork and required formalities. Instead, most nonprofits instead rely on their board of directors. In any case, a nonprofit must formally declare in their articles whether or not it will have members.

Provisions not inconsistent with law regarding the distribution of assets on dissolution.

When a nonprofit dissolves (i.e., terminates), any remaining assets must be distributed to another nonprofit (or government entity for a public purpose). No individual or group can be unduly enriched when a nonprofit ends. And, if you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. Folks contribute to a nonprofit to support its tax-exempt purposes, they wouldn’t want their funds to end up supporting non-charitable purposes.

An incorporator must sign and file the articles of incorporation.

The articles of incorporation must be filed with the Iowa Secretary of State’s office (and the ISOS will check that all the requirements above are met before filing is allowed). Currently, the filing fee is $20.00.

Federal Legal Requirements for a Nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation

Of course, like all organizations, a nonprofit is governed by both state and federal law. Simplifying a bit, the IRS has two major requirements for a nonprofit’s initial governing documents.

  1. The articles of incorporation must limit the nonprofit’s purposes to exempt purposes set forth in Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are “charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.” An explicit reference or citation to 501(c)(3) and one or more exempt purposes is sufficient to meet this requirement.
  2. In addition, an organization’s assets must be permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose. This means that if an organization dissolves, its assets must be distributed for an exempt purpose pursuant to 501(c)(3), or to the federal or state government or a local government entity, for a public purpose.

Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation

No doubt some of you are thinking, hey, we already have articles of incorporation! Sure, we may need better articles, or improved articles, but we do have them.

In such cases, when a nonprofit wants to update or revise current articles, the organization files with the Iowa Secretary of State what is known as “amended and restated articles of incorporation.” These amended and restated articles completely supplant the earlier articles.

If filing amended and restated articles, Iowa law requires a statement in the document to the affect that all the amendments, changes, revisions, etc. are reflected in this new, single document. To meet this requirement, I use this statement:

“I [the incorporator] hereby certify that these Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation consolidate all amendments into this single document.”

So, How Do I Go About Getting Articles of Incorporation

Each organization is unique and it’s smart to enlist someone (like an attorney well-versed in nonprofit law!) to draft a quality, comprehensive set of articles personalized for your nonprofit’s needs, mission, and goals.

Questions? Want to learn more about turning your dream of an organization that makes a significant impact or positive change? Grab my complimentary Nonprofit Formation Guide and then contact GFLF for a free consult!

man typing on macbook

I’ve written a lot about IRS Form 990 on this blog, but all nonprofits organized in Iowa or authorized to business in the state also need to file a Biennial Report with the office of the Iowa Secretary of State. The report is required under Iowa Code §504.1613.

The report is pretty basic and is essentially entity information updates of which the Iowa Secretary of State’s office records. Report requirements vary by state, so I’ve laid out all the basics below!

When is my nonprofit’s Biennial Report due?

Biennial Reports should be submitted between January 1 and April 1 in odd-numbered years (like this one, 2019!). An organization’s first Biennial Report is due on the first odd-numbered year following the calendar year of formation. So, if your nonprofit was formed (meaning you submitted articles of incorporation) in October 2019, the first Biennial Report would be due by April 1, 2021.

Does someone have to sign it? Does it need to be notarized?

Yes; someone with authority in the organization should sign it (such as the president of the board of directors), however, original signatures are not required. Notarization is also not required.

person at conference table

What information is included in the biennial report?

The statute requires the following information be reported. (Note that a nonprofit is still a “corporate” entity, even though we don’t typically refer to nonprofit organizations like corporations.):

  • Name of the corporation
  • State or country under whose law the nonprofit incorporated
  • Address of the corporation’s registered office
  • Name of the corporation’s registered agent at that office in Iowa
  • Consent of any new registered agent, if applicable
  • Address of the corporation’s principal office
  • Names and addresses of the president, secretary, treasurer, and one member of the board of directors
  • Whether or not the corporation has members

The information on the Biennial Report should be related to the two-year period immediately preceding the calendar year in which the report is filed.

Is there a form?

Yes, there is a form you can file online or by mail. You will need both the corporation number and a temporary code to begin the filing process. Each corporation’s registered agent will receive a Biennial Report notice in early January.

Does it cost money?

Unlike the costs for LLCs or for-profit corporations, for nonprofit corporations, the filing fee is $0.

Other Considerations

While you’re thinking about reporting, once you have the Biennial Report submitted turn your attention to Form 990. Do you know which version you can submit? Do you need to adopt any beneficial policies and procedures to boost your filing (and amplify good governance and successful operations in your organization)?

Don’t hesitate to contact me with questions about any forms and reporting. It can seem like a pain at first, but the more prepared you are and the more knowledge you have, the faster you can get back to work, forwarding your mission.

discussion over table with laptop

Imagine I’m working with a great new client named Daphne. She wants to found a nonprofit organization to assist at-risk youth in her local community and across Iowa. This is a hypothetical memo I would send to Daphne outlining the steps of what it takes to form a nonprofit in the state of Iowa. (Note, if you’re looking to form a 501(c)(3) it’s best work with a qualified attorney for advice and counsel specific to your situation and goals.)

To:                  Daphne Downright – SENT VIA EMAIL
From:             Gordon Fischer (gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com)
Subject:         How to Form a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit
Date:              April 13, 2019

Dear Daphne:

Good afternoon! I very much enjoyed our phone conversation of this morning, where we discussed your intent to begin a nonprofit to assist at-risk youth. Certainly this is an noble mission and I have no doubt that you could make a big impact. I also acknowledge you are very busy and don’t have the time to allocate to dealing with all of the documentation. So, I’m here to take this stress off of your plate!

Let’s recap some details regarding the process for founding a nonprofit organization. These steps will set your public charity up for the best possible success.

Main Steps to a 501(c)(3)

To recap what we talked over, forming a 501(c)(3) involves four steps:

  1. drafting, editing, and filing articles of incorporation;
  2. drafting and editing bylaws, with new board members then voting in favor of the bylaws in a duly authorized meeting;
  3. applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN); and
  4. drafting, reviewing, and editing the IRS non-exempt status application, known as IRS Form 1023, as well as all the supporting materials IRS Form 1023 requires.

By far, the most difficult and time-consuming of the four steps is the IRS Form 1023. You should definitely review the form immediately, so you can gain a sense of the level of detail and involvement it requires.

How much does it cost?

While my regular hourly rate can go up to $300 per hour, I often have agreed with clients to perform all the legal work required to successfully begin a nonprofit for a flat fee of $4,800. I typically bill this over the span of five months, i.e., five easy payments of $980, due on, say, the first of each of the months.

Additionally, as you would expect, this matter will necessitate payment of filing fees to governmental agencies, such as the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office and the IRS. (The Iowa Secretary of State has a $20 filing fee, and the IRS 1023 Form has a $850 or $400 filing fee depending on the amount of gross revenue expectations). Of course, clients are solely responsible for payment of all such governmental fees.

How long does this take?

It usually takes a few months to pull all the paperwork together, including and especially Form 1023. I’ve had, however, ambitious clients who wanted to do it much faster, and I was able to accommodate. The flat fee includes as many conferences with me as you reasonably need for us to complete steps 1-4, above.

Benefits of Nonprofit Formation

Daphne, the benefits of a 501(c)(3) are many and include:

Tax exemption/deduction

Organizations that qualify as public charities under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) are eligible to be completely exempt from payment of corporate income tax. Once exempt from this tax, the nonprofit will usually be exempt from similar state and local taxes.

Even better: if an organization has obtained 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, an individual’s or company’s charitable contributions to this entity are tax-deductible.

Eligibility for public and private grants

Nonprofit organizations can solicit charitable donations from the public. Many foundations and government agencies limit their grants to public charities.

Being able to offer donors income tax charitable deductions for donations, as well as eligibility for public and private grants, are probably the two major reasons folks want to obtain 501(c)(3) status.

Formal structure

A nonprofit organization exists as a legal entity and separate from its founder(s). Incorporation puts the nonprofit’s mission and structure above the personal interests of individuals associated with it.

Limited liability

Under the law, creditors and courts are limited to the assets of the nonprofit organization. The founders, directors, members, and employees are not personally liable for the nonprofit’s debts. There are exceptions. A person cannot use the corporation to shield illegal or irresponsible acts on his/her part. Also, directors have a fiduciary responsibility; if they do not perform their jobs in the nonprofit’s best interests, and the nonprofit is harmed, they can be held liable.

Focus your giving

With charitable giving flowing through a central nonprofit organization, and not through, say, a for-profit business, it’s easier to focus the giving on a singular mission. A for-profit business may be easily pulled away from a charitable mission by the pet causes of lots of different customers, clients, vendors, and employees. A nonprofit should be much less susceptible to such pressure.

Responsibilities of Forming & Managing a  Nonprofit

Of course, there are serious responsibilities that come along with creating and running a nonprofit. These can’t be overstated, and include:

Cost

Creating a nonprofit organization takes time, effort, and money. Plus, keeping a nonprofit on track, compliant, and successful also requires great care.

Paperwork

A nonprofit is required to keep detailed records and submit annual filings to the state and IRS by stated deadlines to keep its active and exempt status. 

Shared control

Although one who creates a nonprofit may want to shape his/her creation, personal control is limited. A nonprofit organization is subject to laws and regulations, including its own articles of incorporation and bylaws. A nonprofit is required to have a Board of Directors, who in turn determine policies. 

Scrutiny by the public

A nonprofit is dedicated to the public interest, therefore its finances are open to public inspection. The public may obtain copies of a nonprofit organization’s state and federal filings to learn about salaries and other expenditures. Nonprofits must be transparent in nearly all their actions and dealings.

Continue the discussion

I hope this information is helpful to you as you begin this journey. It won’t always be easy (although I will attempt to make it as simple as possible for you!), but it will be worthwhile.

I would enjoy the opportunity to be of service to you. Thank you for your time and attention. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me. As I told you this morning, I offer anyone/everyone a free one-hour consultation. Simply reach out to me anytime via my cell, 515-371-6077, or my email, gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com.

Warmest regards,

Gordon Fischer

Gordon Fischer Law Firm, P.C.