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Nonprofit and Charitable Organizations Law

The legal structure of nonprofit and charitable organizations is authorized by state law allowing people to come together to either benefit members of an organization (a club, or mutual benefit society) or for some public purpose (such as a hospital, environmental organization or literary society). Nonprofit corporations, despite the name, can make a profit, but the business cannot be designed primarily for profit-making purposes, and the profits must be used for the benefit of the organization or purpose the corporation was created to help. When a nonprofit corporation dissolves, any remaining assets must be distributed to another nonprofit, not to board members. As with for-profit corporations, directors of nonprofit corporations are normally shielded from personal liability for the organization’s debts. Some nonprofit corporations qualify for a federal tax exemption under Sec. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, with the result that contributions to the nonprofit are tax deductible by their donors.

All sorts of groups, from artists and musicians to people active in education, health, and community services wish to operate as nonprofit (or not-for-profit) corporations. Often the reason for doing this is simple — nonprofit status is usually a requirement for obtaining funds from government agencies and private foundations. Obtaining grants, however, is not the only reason to incorporate. Here, we discuss two additional important benefits of forming a nonprofit — tax-exempt status and personal liability protection. We then introduce you to some of the basic rules for setting up and running your nonprofit corporation.