Legal & Regulatory


Key California regulations

A summary of key California regulations about raffles:


Top 10 Ways to Get Investigated by a State Regulator

Nonprofit board members need to understand the regulatory environment in which their organizations operate. State attorneys general have the power to bring a nonprofit to justice if it is not in compliance with state laws. How can you avoid these top ten legal risks? BoardSource has compiled this resource to help you do just that. 


Changing an Organization’s Name, Mission, Programs and Services, or Governing Rules

Is your organization thinking about changing its name, mission, programs and services, or governing rules?


Reinstatement of Good Standing with Corporate and Tax Regulatory Agencies for California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporations
Help maintaining or reinstating your status with the state and IRS

Staying in good standing with the state of California and the IRS is an ongoing process.  This free publication from Public Counsel, Guide for Reinstatement of Good Standing with Corporate and Tax Regulatory Agencies for California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporations both outlines what you need to do to be compliant, and offers guidance if your organization has lost its corporate and/or tax exempt status.   Download a copy here.


Who Regulates Charitable Nonprofits?

Many people assume that the IRS has primary jurisdiction over tax-exempt charitable nonprofits. Yet state governments play a much more active role in regulating nonprofits on almost everything, from their creation to dissolution and multiple life-cycle events in between. State laws govern a wide variety of activities, such as how a nonprofit changes its name, amends its bylaws, elects its board members, and pays its employees.


Nonprofit Compliance Checklist 2016
Everything you need to know, all in one place

Have you ever wished for a better way to keep track of your nonprofit’s compliance responsibilities every year? You’re not alone. That’s why CalNonprofits has compiled this handy comprehensive checklist to help nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations — charities — keep up-to-date with annual filing requirements. All in one place, with links to the resources you need if you have questions.


New California Regulation Poses Threat to Nonprofits Not Properly Registered

Effective as of January 1, 2016, new regulations related to administrative enforcement of violations of the Supervision of Trustees and Fundraisers for Charitable Purposes Act go into effect.


California Attorney General’s Guide for Charities
Practical information & answers to questions

The Attorney General’s Guide for Charities is intended to help volunteers and others who serve as directors, officers or fundraisers for nonprofit charitable organizations. It provides practical information and answers to questions frequently asked about charities. In addition, the Guide summarizes some of the more important California laws affecting the creation and operation of nonprofit charitable corporations.


Gift Acceptance Policies

Should your nonprofit accept every gift that comes its way? It’s hard to say ‘no thank you!’ to donors, but sometimes…that’s the more prudent path.

There some kinds of gifts (think horses, houses, and hospitals, as just 3 examples) that your nonprofit simply may not want to – or should not – accept. Some gifts may result in more hassle and expense than benefit to the organization. This is where a well-considered “gift acceptance policy” can be a help.


Anatomy of a Fundraiser
A Legal Guide for Charitable Fundraising In California

Fundraising is a crucial part of sustaining a nonprofit organization, but the process of raising money raises myriad legal issues which, if unaddressed, can subject a nonprofit to legal liability and impact an organization’s tax exemption as well as donors’ ability to get the benefit of a tax deduction.


Charitable Solicitation Registration
Tips when fundraising in multiple states

Your nonprofit may be aware of its obligation to register for fundraising purposes in its own state (38 states and the District of Columbia currently have this requirement), but did you know that if your nonprofit is asking for donations from potential donors in other states the nonprofit may be required to register in those other states as well? Here’s why charitable solicitation registration in multiple states may be in your nonprofit’s future, if it’s not already part of your nonprofit’s annual filing routine.

First and foremost, we live in a mobile society. People move.


California nonprofit status verificiation letter

Do you need to verify that you are a California tax-exempt organization?  Using either your organization’s name or it’s state ID number, you can now generate an automatic letter from the California Franchise Tax Board. The “Entity Status Letter” states that you are exempt from state taxes and in good standing with the Franchise Tax Board (if you are).  Click here to get your letter.


Does this Employment Law Apply to Nonprofits?
A chart designed to help you quickly identify which employment laws apply to your company, based on the number of employees you have.

Many small nonprofits assume (incorrectly) that Employment Laws don’t apply to them because “we’re too small”, or “we’re a nonprofit”. From the perspective of personnel law, there is no difference between a for-profit and nonprofit company.

Laws such as Lactation Accommodation, School Activities Leave and Domestic Violence Leave are just some of the newer laws and requirements that all employers, regardless of size, must comply with.

This chart, provided by HRtoGo, will show you which laws apply to you, based on the number of employees you have. Please note that the chart is based on laws as of 2014.


Fundraising Compliance Guide
Compliance with State Charitable Solicitation Laws

States oversee solicitation of their citizens. Before your nonprofit seeks donations, it must register in each state where it will be fundraising. Failing to do so can results in fines and other penalties.

44 states and the District of Columbia have charitable solicitation laws. Remember that solicitation occurs when you ask for a contribution (by any medium), regardless of whether or when you receive it.

Compliance with state charitable solicitation law requires:

  • initial registration/licensing (in 40 states + D.C.)
  • annual registration renewal
  • filing annual financial statements
  • including disclosures on donor materials (in 24 states)
  • appointing and maintaining a registered agent (in 4 states)
  • obtaining a certificate of authority (in 6 jurisdictions

The laws, documents, procedures, and costs to obtain the legal authority to fundraise are different in each state. See the information on each states’ requirements.


UBIT: Advertisements vs. Qualified Sponsorship Payments

Unrelated Business Income Tax or UBIT can be a confusing topic.  Here’s an article that helps clarify the distinction between advertisements that trigger UBIT and qualified sponsorship payments that don’t.  Click here to read the article.


IRS Explains How to Reinstate Automatically Revoked Exempt Status

The IRS has issued a new Revenue Procedure (2014-11) outlining four ways for tax-exempt organizations that have lost their exempt status for failing to file required tax returns for three consecutive years to regain their exempt status, with possible retroactive reinstatement. The procedures differ based on the size of the organization, the speed after revocation with which it acts, and whether it has a claim of “reasonable clause” for failure to file its returns.


The Proper Way to Thank Donors
What the IRS requires

IRS Publication 1771 says that for any gift over $250, the giver must have written documentation of the gift. That written documentation, according to the Tax Court, must comply with the requirements outlined in Pub 1771:


Document Retention Policies
What do you need to keep?

Some documents and business records of a nonprofit should be maintained permanently, such as:


The legal forum for social innovators


LawForChange® is a unique legal resource for people and organizations dedicated to improving lives and bringing about positive social change.

You will find information on the following topics with legal information appropriate for California based organizations.


Community Organization Representation Project (CORP)
Pro bono legal services

Pro bono legal services are offered to nonprofits serving low-income communities in Northern California by the Community Organization Representation Project (CORP) at the Volunteer Legal Services Program of the Bar Association of San Francisco.  Visit their website or contact Doan Nguyen at 415.782.9000, ext. 8758 or email so they can evaluate how they may help you address your legal needs.


IRS Tax Information for Charities & Other Non-Profits
Updated website

Stay up-to-date with the IRS.  Bookmark their recently updated webite or select “Charities & Non-Profits” in the “Information For” drop-down menu in the top right corner of the home page.


National Association of State Charity Officials

The National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) is an association of state offices charged with oversight of charitable organizations and charitable solicitation in the United States. The requirements and procedures for forming charitable organizations differ from state to state, as do the registration and filing requirements for organizations that conduct charitable activities or solicit charitable contributions. Consult the US Charity Offices listed on this website for links to state-specific information.


Nonprofit Law Center
Legal information from a nationationally known attorney

The Nonprofit Law Center, is hosted and written by Bruce R. Hopkins. This site provides information on the law as it applies to nonprofit organizations, including developments pertaining to tax-exempt status, charitable giving, and fundraising regulation.


Nonprofit Law Blog
Legal information from California attorneys

The Nonprofit Law Blog offers articles and resources from the NEO Law Group, California attorneys specializing in nonprofit law. 


Compliance for California Nonprofits
Reporting requirements for California nonprofit organizations

The Compliance for California Nonprofits website outlines all of the reporting requirements for California nonprofit organizations with links and instructions.

Nonprofit Compliance Checklist 2016 from CalNonprofits will also help you keep track of your nonprofit’s yearly compliance responsibilities.


The Brown Act or Open Meeting Law
Does it apply to nonprofits?

This act only applies to nonprofit organizations in the specific cases outlined in the excerpt quoted below from The Brown Act: Open Meetings for Local Legislative Bodies  2003 California Attorney General’s Office


Public Disclosure
The documents your organization must make available to the public

The Public Law Counsel has prepared this memo outlining federal and California state requirements.  It’s important to know what must be made available and how you must make it available, as well as what isn’t required to be available.

Helpful link

Bankruptcy Information for Nonprofits
From the Public Counsel Law Center

This information sheet from Public Counsel Law Center explores common nonprofit concerns regarding bankruptcy.  It offers a starting point  to evaluate whether bankruptcy can help achieve a more sustainable economic future through a reorganization, or whether the time has come to “close with honor.”

Helpful link

State Charitable Solicitation Statutes
Registration required to raise funds in many states

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have charitable solicitation statutes that generally require nonprofits soliciting contributions and, in most cases, their for-profit fundraising professionals to register prior to soliciting contributions or providing fundraising counsel services.

Helpful link

New IRS Search Tool: Select Check

The IRS recently launched a new online search tool for information about charitable organizations.


Sales and Use Tax Requirements for California Nonprofits

Yes, nonprofits do have to occasionally pay taxes.  The Tax Guide for Nonprofit Organizations will answer your questions about California state taxes that nonprofits must pay.


Tax credit available for health insurance premiums
For nonprofits who meet these criteria

With the President’s signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010, all qualified small employers – both nonprofits and for-profits – can claim a full or partial tax credit when they pay for at least half of the health insurance premiums for their employees.

Helpful link

California Attorney Generals Office
Role and purpose

The Attorney General regulates charities and the professional fundraisers who solicit on their behalf.

Helpful link

IRS educational website for exempt 501(c)(3) organizations

The IRS recently launched a new look and improved navigation for its educational website for exempt organizations, StayExempt.

Is Your GuideStar Report Up To Date?
Helpful link

Is Your GuideStar Report Up To Date?

Watch GuideStar’s video about the new and improved design of their nonprofit reports.  Based on what donors want to see it focuses on impact and transparency to help people who research nonprofits make better, more educated, and more confident decisions.  For an example of this new format, visit GuideStar’s own nonprofit report


Dissolving a Nonprofit Organization

Most tax-exempt organizations that end their operations, either through shutting down, transferring their assets or merging with another tax-exempt organization, must inform the IRS about the details of the action. In California, organizations must also inform the Attorney General’s Office and the Secretary of State. 


Governance Policies & Procedures Samples
Form 990 Policy Series

Developed by group of California based lawyers, the Form 990 Policy Series offers sample policies on a variety of topics including compensation, conflict of interest, investment and more.

Helpful link

How to Read the IRS Form 990

This  version of  How to Read IRS Form 990 is based on the newly redesigned and expanded Form 990 that was first required for 2008 filings.

Helpful link

Is Your Form 990 Due?
e-filing made easy

Whether you are e-filing or mailing a form, National Center for Charitable Statistics Form 990 Online can help make the process smooth.

 Their web site guides you through the schedules and statements; checks the arithmetic; and provides context-specific help to make navigating the Form 990 easy. Your forms can be saved or printed as PDF files, and entries from previous tax filings can be imported into your current tax filing.  FREE for organizations with less than $100,000 in gross receipts.

Helpful link

Database of business license and permit requirements.

Business license and permit requirements vary. Use this helpful database to determine requirements for your specific area. Search nonprofit under business type.