Obtaining 501(c)(3) legal help can be of great assistance if you do not know what steps need to be taken to get your group recognized as an official non-profit. Many individuals and groups find the application process to be very challenging, and using a lawyer to help you either get started to complete the entire process can be a wonderful investment.
Why Use 501(c)(3) Legal Help
You may find yourself asking, why do I need a lawyer? Many charity-driven organizations feel frustrated and overwhelmed at the possibility, because many are already barely making ends meet financially, and adding in attorney fees can seem impossible. However, it is definitely a worthwhile investment. The IRS approves roughly between 53-87% of all 501(c)(3) applications it receives from individuals who do not use legal counsel. While this statistic can be considered fairly positive in outcome, the application process is very lengthy. In other words, it would be quite a disappointment if you end up falling outside of this percentage and receive a rejection. Using a lawyer can help ensure this does not happen.
An attorney is much more familiar with the legal jargon and application steps necessary to complete a successful 501(c)(3) application. They also do not have as personal of an investment as you do, which removes any nerves, raw emotion, or rushed paperwork out of the equation. Finally, as lawyer can also just serve as a mentor to get you through the process - providing advice and loopholes for you when you feel stuck on the application, and you can just pay them for their advice rather than for completing the entire thing. Many groups who have successfully completed and were granted 501(c)(3) status will tell you that the help and guidance of a lawyer is invaluable.
When You Can't Afford a Lawyer
When you cannot afford a lawyer, which many small start-up charities cannot, you still have a few options. First and foremost, check with your local legal offices to see if any of their partners are looking for pro bono work. For both professional and personal integrity, many lawyers set a certain amount of hours aside each year to work pro bono, which means they work at a reduced rate or for no charge. If you are able to find one of these attorneys, then you're in luck - your application will be completed, or else you will have great advice, for little or no cost to your group.
You can also go through a website such as Legal Zoom, which does everything online and can save you time and money. With documents created and completed within 48 hours, you can take advantage of their quick turn around and expert business practices, while also saving yourself a bundle of cash in some instances. This is especially helpful if you are embarking on a non-profit status for the very first time and have no idea where to even start beyond getting ahold of the application form.
Finally, you can strike out on your own and enroll in a 501(c)(3) application course, which are often offered in populated areas through recreation centers, community colleges, and government programs. While it will not give you the same advantage of legal counsel, it can help you learn what to be aware of on the application, and prevent you from making common mistakes.
Nothing can beat out having 501(c)(3) legal help when you need it most - outside of the non-profit application process, you may want to build a relationship with a trusted lawyer to be there for other instances, be it financial troubles, an unhappy associate or beneficiary who threatens a lawsuit, or any other legal matter that may arise when dealing with the public and not having the background to instantly know your rights and the appropriate steps of action to take.