On July 1, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta (AFPF v. Bonta) that the California Attorney General may no longer collect Schedule B donor information from charities registered to solicit in the state. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that “California’s blanket demand that all charities disclose Schedule Bs to the Attorney General is facially unconstitutional.” Writing the majority opinion for the Court, Chief Justice Roberts reasoned that California’s disclosure requirement violated donors’ freedom of association under the First Amendment and was not narrowly tailored to the important government interest of investigating charitable misconduct. This case represents a resounding victory to charities, and it will undoubtedly shape donor disclosure laws in other states, particularly within the context of charitable solicitation registration.
Starting a Section 501(c)(3) nonprofit can be quite an adventure! What legal steps are required? While the details may vary widely, the concrete steps may be best summarized as follows: (1) form a nonprofit corporation, consistent with Section 501(c)(3) requirements; (2) apply to the IRS for recognition of tax-exempt status; and (3) understand and comply with applicable legal requirements for both state nonprofit status and federal tax-exempt classification. Vision is essential, and so is taking the right steps with the end goal in mind. The following guidance sets forth a roadmap for taking these steps, including numerous references to other Wagenmaker & Oberly blog articles providing additional guidance. Note that these steps apply equally well for other types of tax-exempt nonprofits, such as social clubs and trade associations, except with respect to tax deductibility of charitable contributions and other privileges accorded only to Section 501(c)(3) organizations.
When a conflict develops involving a nonprofit, its leaders, or its programs, one of the first calls is usually to the nonprofit’s lawyer. But when the time comes to call the nonprofit’s attorney, two important questions arise: (1) Who should properly make that call, and (2) On whose behalf is the call being made? These two questions highlight a more foundational and general question: Who or what is the attorney’s client in a conflict involving third parties or internal disputes?