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Nonprofit Legal Resources

Let's face it. Sifting through legal documents and regulations can be difficult for anyone that hasn't spent years mastering the obscure language known as "legalese." Even the smallest legal missteps can have large and lasting implications for any organization.

Fortunately, ensuring that your organization is up-to-code doesn't have to be painful, especially with the legal resources available to nonprofits in our community. For many, Wayfind (formerly Washington Attorneys Assisting Community Organizations, or WAACO) is a first stop for pro bono legal advice and services tailored to the needs of Washington State nonprofits. The two tools listed below are examples of the resources they offer too:

  • Wayfind's Nonprofit Legal Checklist [PDF download] Make this legal checklist a regular part of your board's annual calendar. This tool will help your organization stay on top of legal rules and regulations.
  • Washington Nonprofit Handbook - This recently updated resource addresses many aspects about running a nonprofit in Washington State and includes detailed legal guidance. At the least, take a minute to review the table of contents to see what topics this extensive resource covers.
  • Stay Up-to-Date with the Secretary of State [PDF download] Washington Nonprofits outlines what nonprofits need to do in order to remain "official" with the Office of the Secretary of State.

Additionally, there are excellent attorneys that specialize in nonprofit matters – "approved specialists" – in the Nonprofit Resource Directory. Search for them, along with Wayfind, by choosing "Legal services" under "Legal/Compliance."

If you are developing or revising your organization's bylaws, here are some samples to help you along. Note that you do not have to be a membership organization just because you have a membership program. The distinction had to do with how members would be involved with governance decisions. Most nonprofits are non-membership organizations.