Nonprofit Formation, Governance, And Compliance
Nonprofit entities utilize many of the same organizational principles as their for-profit counterparts, but there are many restrictions on their operations that can result in penalties or loss of their tax-exempt status. Anyone can start a nonprofit charity or foundation, but utilizing the knowledge and experience of an attorney with a background in this area is essential to avoiding unintended compliance violations.
Ellen Fishbein’s Vienna-based law firm was founded in part to help nonprofit organizations in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Ellen Fishbein has handled a variety of for-profit business and tax matters for companies ranging from small startups to AOL Time Warner. However, her work in the nonprofit sector is equally as diverse. Ellen Fishbein was a longtime member of the Associates Board and the Foundation Board of Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts and served as Chair of the Associates Board as well as co-chair of the annual Wolf Trap Ball. She also served as a member of the board of the Art League at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria and held the positions of Treasurer and Chairman of the Finance Committee. Most recently, she worked for Sterling Foundation Management, LLC, providing valuable advice to private foundations and public charities. Regardless of a client’s mission, Ellen Fishbein is a lawyer who understands the unique challenges nonprofits face and can provide the customized guidance to enable them to flourish.
Starting A Nonprofit
Ellen begins the nonprofit formation process by assisting new entities with two major steps:
- State incorporation: This involves attaining a certificate of organization and drafting of bylaws.
- Obtaining federal tax exemption: Applying for this involves providing information about proposed activities, general information and a budget.
Governance Services Ellen Fishbein Offers
As with the for-profit advice to businesses, proper governance can improve the chances of the new or existing organization becoming a success. These matters include:
- Preparation and review of governance documents, policies and bylaws
- Guidance on legal duties of the board, including fiduciary and ethical issues
- Executive Director counseling
- Guidance in programming
The Importance Of Compliance
The health of a nonprofit organization is measured by its ability to function in a legal and transparent way. It is important to follow the applicable regulations and then adapt as the laws change. The IRS in particular has become increasingly vigilant in enforcing laws for maintaining nonprofit status; thus, it is also increasingly important to work with an attorney who knows the tax laws for properly operating a nonprofit organization.