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It’s 2021, and we’re still talking about The Statute of Charitable Uses of 1601. This landmark legislation – the “birth of the modern law of philanthropy” – is not a mere historic relic, dusted off from time to time to remind us that our American legal roots hark back to the common law of Tudor England.  Deeply relevant to this day “… some five centuries later and an ocean away….” it is – or certainly should be – center stage in the United States Supreme Court right now in the case that has the nonprofit sector riveted…
“The time is the 1590s” in “England of the first Elizabeth….”  It’s a period of social stress: plague, poverty, inflation, malnutrition, property crimes, riots and – of course – religious upheaval.  According to Professor Emeritus James J. Fishman of the Pace University School of Law, that’s a perfect setting for the birth of the law of modern philanthropy.        A Bit of History … In Encouraging Charity in a Time of Crisis: The Poor Laws and the Statute of Charitable Uses of 1601 (December 5, 2005) SSRN, this distinguished nonprofit law scholar describes how,…
  On June 10th, 2021, the Nonprofit Organizations Committee of the American Bar Association awarded Mary T. Dowling, Esq. the Outstanding Young Lawyer Award. The award recognizes distinguished service by an attorney in the nonprofit sector who is under the age of 35, or who has been in practice for less than 10 years. “Mary serves her nonprofit clients with the expertise of a lifelong practitioner,” says May Harris, CEO at For Purpose Law Group, LLP. “Recognition of Mary’s achievements within the nonprofit sector are only just beginning.” “I am humbled and honored to receive recognition from the ABA,” says…
There aren’t many nonprofit legal issues that turn into epic battles in the United States Supreme Court.  But we’ve got one now.  It’s two lawsuits – actually – consolidated for briefing and oral argument. It took more than seven years for two 501(c)(3)organizations to claw their way up (and back down, temporarily) through the federal-court thicket. The trial judge ruled in their favor twice, but the Ninth Circuit reversed both times; the second was a decisive win for the California Attorney General. In particular, the 3-judge appellate panel rejected the federal district judge’s factual findings as “clearly erroneous” and also…
From time to time, we pass along links to helpful and free-of-charge educational resources for 501(c)(3) organizations.  For instance, in Foundation Law: Free Online Learning (January 10, 2019) we highlighted the Learn Foundation Law site created several years earlier by the legal staff at four major American foundations. There are engaging animated tutorials starring “Maya,” who is a new foundation program officer needing expert help (from a disembodied voice somewhere offscreen) with the complex laws that apply to funders and grantee organizations. To get an idea of the excellence of this series, take a look – for example – at…
Effective and diligent nonprofit directors understand the importance of adopting and regularly reviewing formal written policies and procedures. See Updating Nonprofit Corporate Policies (March 16, 2021). “The purpose of policies is to protect and steer the staff and the board as they fulfill the mission of the organization.” They are best viewed as dynamic documents, adaptable to situations that arise in the life of an organization. The pandemic was the catalyst for almost every organization in America to take a hard look at its core mission and values as well as activities and operations.  Some COVID-19 adjustments may turn out…
How often do “you stumble across an article where you shout ‘yes!’ multiple times when reading it?”  That’s typical of the effusive praise for a recent essay by the “brilliant” president and CEO of BoardSource, Anne Wallestad. Published on March 10, 2021, in the prestigious Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), this provocative discussion is titled The Four Principles of Purpose-Driven Board Leadership. “In the face of increasingly pressing systemic inequities,” Ms. Wallestad begins, “nonprofit boards must change the traditional ways they have worked,” substituting “different and urgent priorities.”  Typically, nonprofit directors focus almost entirely on the survival…
“Big problems require bold solutions.”  That’s how, five years ago, the prestigious MacArthur Foundation introduced its “groundbreaking global competition” named 100&Change.  This unprecedented contest – a grant of $100 million – was open to any organization worldwide, either nonprofit or for-profit. The winner would be the group presenting “… the most measurable and attainable plan to tackle any critical problem facing people, places or the environment. See MacArthur Foundation is offering $100 million to a group that identifies a social problem and can solve it (June 2, 2016) Colby Itkowitz, The Washington Post. In The MacArthur $100-Million Grant Contest
Brilliant French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798-1857) is credited with naming and systematizing the discipline of sociology (“sociologie”) as well as founding the ideology and movement known as positivism (“positivisme”). A prolific writer, he had legions of “English admirers and French disciples.”  Alas, he was decidedly less successful maintaining steady employment, especially in academia. After he was “relieved of all his duties at the École Polytechnique” in 1842, his most devoted followers began a “voluntary subsidy” which they continued until his death in 1857.  But churning out masterworks like his upcoming four-volume Système de politique positive (1851–54) was costly…
Almost two years ago, we told you about a change coming in how exempt organizations will submit their annual Form 990 series returns to the Internal Revenue Service.  Soon – we explained – almost all nonprofits will have to switch from paper to electronic filing. See Mandatory E-Filing For 990s On The Way (June 24, 2019).  For most groups, that time is now.   Many nonprofits around the nation will be e-filing for the first time. Fortunately, help is available on all the particulars:  “who, what, when, how” and “why.” The Internal Revenue Service, which regularly offers online resources and assistance,…