Legal Basics for Nonprofit Websites

By Cheryl R. Olson, CPA, CGMA and
Co Author Paul L. Havel, Intellectual Property Team Leader, Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP

(This article was originally published on 2/1/2016 by NetRaising | a web consultancy. It was updated on 7/29/2020 to reflect the latest guidance and information.)

You’ve created the perfect website. You’ve spent countless hours with website designers and consultants. You’ve spent weeks writing and rewriting content, perfecting your message, choosing the right graphics, and making sure your website tells your story.

But what about that legal mumbo jumbo every website seems to have?

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Top Six Tax Risks for Your Nonprofit Website

This article was originally published in NetRaising.

Your website may inadvertently cause tax risks to your organization. A website communicates an organization’s mission, programs, and events to donors, volunteers, and the community. That is a valuable service. However, it can also communicate taxable unrelated business activities, prohibited or limited activities, and noncompliance with tax rules. Knowing basic guidelines gives individuals responsible for the website the ability to recognize potential risks and bring them to the attention of management. Management can then take appropriate action. Even if management is very savvy, the webmaster may be the first to notice when something changes,

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Permissible (and Impermissible) Political Acts by Not-for-Profit Employees

Working for a not-for-profit organization puts mission and meaning front and center for employees every day. However, there can be limiters associated with working at a not-for-profit. A charitable not-for-profit is prohibited from intervening in any political campaign, an act known as electioneering. What does this mean for the not-for-profit’s employees? Can they break free from their identify as an employee of the organization and express political opinions and positions without endangering the organization and subjecting it to penalties?

The straightforward answer is, yes. But nothing is ever simple. In 2007, the IRS published useful examples in Revenue Ruling 2007-41 of proper and improper political actions.

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Five Tips to Improve Your GuideStar (Candid) Profile

In this current environment, it’s common to hear about the importance of transparency. Keeping your own website updated with current information is important, but you also have some control over what the public learns about your organization through other websites, such as GuideStar. GuideStar gathers, organizes, and distributes information about nonprofit organizations in the United States. Users, almost 7 million unique annual visitors, can get instant access to more than 1.8 million tax-exempt organizations, which includes thousands of faith-based nonprofits not required to file an IRS Form 990.

(An important note: GuideStar and Foundation Center have joined together and will operate as a single new nonprofit organization called Candid.

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