10 Legal Tips in 30 Minutes to Get 2017 Ready

Watch a recording of our livestream on Grantspace (The Foundation Center) for a list of 10 tips and ideas to get yourself ready for 2017. Michele and I discussed year-end filing requirements, the importance of charitable registrations, required steps before awarding an executive director with a year-end bonus, elections and bylaws compliance, development of next year’s board calendar, and other items to consider before the year ends.


  1. Check off your checklist of filings you have to complete in 2016 and have a checklist for 2017. Annual Filing Requirements for Nonprofits (National Council of Nonprofits); Exempt Organization Annual Filing Requirements Overview (IRS).
  2. Register as a charitable organization in any applicable states (not necessarily just the state in which you are based). The Charleston Principles: Guidelines on Charitable Solicitations Using the Internet (NASCO); The Unified Registration Statement.
  3. Approve executive bonuses in a lawful manner, consistent with applicable laws regarding reasonable (total) compensation and charitable trust. Charitable Trust Doctrine.
  4. Approve executive compensation (including any changes to executive compensation) in a lawful manner (consider using the rebuttable presumption of reasonableness procedures if paying close to market value). Executive Compensation – The Legal Issues.
  5. Review the purpose statements in your Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws and make sure they are consistent with each other, your mission statement, and your activities.
  6. Review and comply with your election procedures for directors and officers.
  7. Review or consider adopting governance policies, including those referenced in the Form 990. Good Governance Policies for Nonprofits (National Council of Nonprofits); Form 990 Policies – Is it better to check “yes” or “no”? Form 990 Policy Series (Public Counsel).
  8. [Private foundation] Ensure you have made or will make your required annual distributions (and understand what counts as a qualifying distribution).
  9. Review the past year’s financials and the coming year’s budget; train board and management staff on how to read, interpret, and use the financials; determine whether a financial audit will be necessary or warranted. Tools & Resources | Financial Management  (National Council of Nonprofits); Financial Management (Grantspace); Nonprofit Finance 101 (Nonprofit Finance Fund).
  10. Develop a board calendar for the upcoming year. Nonprofit Board Meetings – Calendar of Agenda Items.