For information and resources see our COVID-19 Support Page. If your small business or nonprofit needs COVID-19 related legal or capacity building help, contact us.

How to Apply for Legal Services

Here’s what you need to know about applying to get your nonprofit or community group pro bono (free) legal services.

STEP 1: Determine if your organization’s legal needs align with the services we offer.

Please note our services are intended for organizations registered in Washington state. While we do everything possible to match organizations with volunteer attorneys as quickly as possible, we want to be transparent about timelines. It can take a couple weeks to a couple of months, sometimes longer, to find an attorney if your organization is eligible for our services.

Types of Legal Issues Communities Rise helps with

  • Incorporation and application for tax exemption status under IRS Code sec. 501(c)(3).
  • Nonprofit Governance – Preparing and revising bylaws; creating articles of incorporation; creating conflict of interest policies; creating whistleblower policies, and creating other corporate documents and policies; and advising on good corporate governance.
  • Maintenance and Compliance – Advice on maintaining 501(c)(3) status, including unrelated business income and compliance with lobbying restrictions.
  • Taxes – Advice regarding federal, state, and local taxes.
  • Contracts – Drafting and advising on business contracts.
  • Employment – Preparing, reviewing and revising personnel policies, employment contracts, and confidentiality agreements.
  • Real Estate – Help with property leases and purchase and sale agreements.
  • Intellectual Property – Assistance with registering trademarks, and advising on copyright protection, license agreements, or website-related agreements. However, we do not provide assistance on patent matters.
  • Risk and Liability Assessment – Assistance with risk and liability assessment including waiver and release forms, and general advice on insurance coverage.
  • Federal Tax-Exempt Status – Assistance applying for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

What Communities Rise does not do

  • Litigation Matters – CR does not provide assistance on litigation matters.
  • Individual Claims against Nonprofits – CR does not provide assistance to individuals with their pursuit of claims against nonprofit and community organizations.
  • Legal Matters for Individuals – CR does not provide assistance to individuals in their personal legal matters in areas such as family law, immigration, foreclosure, bankruptcy, etc.
  • Legal Advice Over the Phone – CR is not a “hotline” service. We only provide legal assistance upon receiving a written application. However, we are available to answer questions about the application process over the phone or by email.

STEP 2: Determine if your organization is eligible for services based on our eligibility criteria.

Start-Up Organizations looking for assistance with creating a new nonprofit or getting 501(c)3 status

To be eligible for free legal services, a start-up organization must demonstrate that it:

  • Wishes to be registered in Washington state
  • Has a primarily charitable or community-based purpose, and
  • Is unable to pay for legal fees without significant impairment of program resources, and
  • Seeks legal assistance on a business or organizational matter, but not on any legal issue related to current or expected litigation.
  • Has potential viability by providing:
    • A mission statement,
    • A list of the board of directors,
    • 3-year budget,
    • Business plan that clearly describes the funding plan, program services, and/or activities that the new organization will provide.

Existing Organizations that already have 501(c)3 status

To be eligible for free legal services, an existing organization must demonstrate that it:

  • Is registered in Washington state
  • Has a primarily charitable or community-based purpose, and
  • Is a 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, and
  • Is unable to pay for legal fees without significant impairment of program resources, and
  • Seeks legal assistance on a business or organizational matter, but not on any legal issue related to current or expected litigation.

STEP 3: Before You Apply – Required Documents

Please gather the following in DOC or PDF format before starting the online application process.

Start-Up and Existing Organizations

  • A list of board of directors
  • A three-year budget
  • A business plan

More details on these documents can be found on the Start-Up Application page.

Additional Required Documents for Existing Organizations

Organizations already incorporated in Washington State must provide all the above materials and also additional documentation of:

  • Articles of Incorporation & Certificate of Incorporation from the Secretary of State
  • Bylaws
  • Copies of legal documents related to your particular request for legal assistance (e.g., leases, contracts, correspondence, tax notices, employment handbooks, etc)

STEP 4: Submit an application and pay the nonrefundable fee.

Options for Submitting an Application

  • Online: submit the online form. This option is currently only available for Start-Up Organizations at this time.
  • Mailing a completed application and the $100 non-refundable fee to the address below.
  • Emailing a completed application to contact@communities-rise.org and mailing the non-refundable $100 fee or requesting an invoice via email to pay online (a 3% service fee will be added).

Review & Approval Notifications

Once a completed application and the application fee are received, our screening committee will review the materials and verify eligibility for legal assistance. If your application is approved, you will receive a notice by email.

If your application is approved, Communities Rise will use its best efforts to place the matter as soon as possible. Communities Rise cannot guarantee it will find a volunteer or how long it may take for an attorney to volunteer.