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Let’s Go Legal

Communities Rise partnered with Washington Nonprofits and the Office of the Secretary of State to create “Let’s Go Legal,” a six-part learning series on nonprofit law.

This fun and engaging resource covers the most important topics related to nonprofit compliance while making nonprofit law more accessible to board and staff members. We can’t wait to take you on a tour of State and Federal Law, Fundraising, Employment Law and Intellectual Property and are excited to provide support for the nonprofits that make our communities better every day. Let’s go!

Let's Go Legal! The right road to compliance and protection. Intellectual Property, State Law, Employment, Fundraising, and Federal Law

What’s Included

“Let’s Go Legal” is a set of resources that includes 6 short videos, a legal curriculum kit to follow, a game to test your knowledge, a nonprofit legal checklist and key documents to reference along the way.

Ready to get started?

Overview: Why Nonprofit Law Matters

Learn about Let’s Go Legal and hear from three lawyers about why nonprofit law matters with regard to your organization.

Part 1: Governance – State Law

We begin with State Law because that is where a nonprofit first registers to become official. The Articles of Incorporation are filed to create the corporation and the board adopts Bylaws and sets out its plan to monitor money and keep records. It stays compliant with state corporation law and other state law requirements, including filing corporation and charity reports every year.


  • Articles of incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • Fiduciary duties
  • Recordkeeping
  • State taxes

Part 2: Governance – Federal Law

Many nonprofit organizations want their revenue to be exempt from federal income taxation and want to be able to accept tax-deductible funds from foundations or individuals. This means they need to apply for special status from the IRS at the Federal Level.  We call such tax exempt status “501(c)(3) tax-exemption” and refer to organizations with this tax-exempt status “501(c)(3) organizations” because those qualities for exemption are described in section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. Tax-exempt organizations must abide by a set of federal tax rules under section 501(c)(3).


  • Charitable purpose
  • Private benefit
  • Lobbying
  • Political campaigns
  • Public documentation

Part 3: Fundraising & Donations

When you accept other people’s money for a charitable purpose, you agree to abide by laws that require that you spend such money on the purposes for which it was intended. These state and federal rules tell us how we need to communicate about money received, how we should account for it, and what kinds of fundraising activities we can conduct.


  • Registration and reporting
  • Written acknowledgement
  • Restricted gifts
  • Fundraising activities

Part 4: Employment Law

People engaged in the work of an organization help it move its mission forward. They also bring with them a whole set of rules that govern how they should be hired, paid, deployed, and treated.


  • Minimum wage and overtime
  • Hiring process
  • Non-employees
  • Payroll
  • Anti-discrimination law

Part 5: Intellectual Property Law

Nonprofits create and communicate ideas that are intangible. It is vital that organizations protect these ideas and the products that share them, from websites, to print materials, to unique research on the issues they are addressing. Likewise, it is important that nonprofits are careful about how they use the ideas of others.


  • Definition
  • Ownership
  • Respect
  • Privacy policy
  • Website/online usage