Whether a nonprofit is in its early stages of formation, or navigating day-to-day governance issues, it can be difficult to comply with state regulations without the advice of an attorney. But with limited budgets, how many small charities can actually afford legal help?
Fortunately, the New York State Attorney General's Office and the New York State Bar Association have launched a new project to address this predicament. Charity Corps will match up nonprofits with volunteer attorneys for pro bono legal counsel on such varied issues as board governance, compliance with tax laws, executive compensation, adherence with fundraising regulations, and fiduciary duties.
The program will not cover referrals or litigation. During its upcoming pilot year in 2012, Charity Corps will be overseen by a Leadership Committee comprised of experienced attorneys around the state. In addition to providing free legal advice for eligible nonprofits, Charity Corps will also post listings of legal and board training sessions offered by groups such as the President's Committee on Access to Justice, and the Pro Bono Coordinators Network.
To be eligible for free legal help, you must be a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization, and you must be able to demonstrate that you are unable to afford legal counsel. While the program has plans for expansion in future years, Charity Corps can only accept 50 nonprofits to its program for 2012. If your organization is interested in participating, the application form is available on the New York State Bar Association's web site. Note that the deadline is approaching soon: all applications must be submitted no later than December 31, 2011.
Read the New York State Bar Association's press release for more information about this initiative.
Foundation Center-New York