My name is Meg Keiser and I am a senior at Whitman. I am a sociology major with Spanish and psychology minors. This summer I am interning for Legal for Good in Minneapolis, Minnesota alongside my supervisor Jenn and occasionally her trusty bulldog Luna. Legal for Good is a nonprofit law firm that–you guessed it!–helps nonprofit organizations with all of their legal needs. These needs range from entity formation for starting new organizations, dissolving nonprofit organizations that no longer wish to exist, advising organizations on best practices, assisting with the tax exemption process with the IRS, and even responding to crises in the nonprofit world–who else would you call if you had a board member or volunteer spend charitable funds improperly?
The bulk of the work I do at the law firm revolves around entity formation and helping with the process of starting new nonprofit organizations. One of the main takeaways I have learned in this internship is that many people have good intentions and the passion to start charitable organizations, but most need assistance with the more complex aspects of operating a nonprofit. The firm’s clients often come in with the dream of creating and operating a nonprofit, but have no idea where to begin. Between finding a board of directors, dealing with the IRS, and filing with the Secretary of State, the process can quickly become stressful and intimidating. This is a common sentiment among clients, but luckily my supervisor is the resident expert on all things nonprofit, and I have slowly but surely begun to pick up on some of her tricks of the trade.
The first step to becoming a part of nonprofit-land involves an intake at the firm. At this initial consultation, we can gather key information to continue the process, get to know the face behind the new organization, and see the vision for the organization. From here, we must create organizational documents: Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. In the words of my supervisor, Articles of Incorporation are like the Declaration of Independence for nonprofits. They say who you are, what you can do, what you can’t do, and other things of that nature. Bylaws are an internal document that helps guide nonprofits in their day to day operations, especially when they are first starting out. These documents are crucial for the operations of the organization, as well as the next step of applying for 501(c)(3) status, which allows these types of organizations to be free from income taxes. Once these documents and applications are in order, a nonprofit can also apply for sales tax and property tax exemption. In order to better serve the community and uphold their charitable missions, nonprofits must try and keep the costs as low as possible!
In addition to helping me solidify my interest in the legal profession, the internship has been a lot of fun. Although I am helping with the arguably “non-fun” part of starting and operating a nonprofit, I find the work quite gratifying. I have loved hearing from passionate people in my community who want to do good, and helping put their ducks in a row so that they can pursue their wildest nonprofit dreams!
Experiences like First Name’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez