Course Description



Limited Enrollment

Charitable organizations and other nonprofit entities play a vital role as the “third sector” in American society alongside government and for-profit businesses. This four-credit course examines the theory and doctrine of the law governing nonprofit entities. It also includes a skills component that introduces students to the practical work of assisting charitable entities navigate the complexities of state and federal law.

The topics examined in the course cover the life cycle of a typical nonprofit: formation, operation and governance, tax exemption and deductibility, fundraising, commercial activities, regulation and accountability, and dissolution. More generally, the course considers the puzzle of why nonprofit organizations exist in the first place, their place in the social, economic, and constitutional order, whether the law should accord them special status, and how all these questions relate to the special role that voluntary activity and philanthropy have played in American history. It also examines important distinctions among the various types of nonprofit organizations, including religious entities, traditional charities, advocacy groups, foundations, and private membership associations.

The skills component of the course will involve students in either the ongoing work of the 501(c)(3) Pro Bono Project, helping fledgling local organizations obtain federal tax-exempt status as charities, or other actual or simulated legal projects. The course will provide opportunities for students to reflect on their practical experiences and connect them to questions and concerns discussed in class.

[Note: Time devoted to a law school Pro Bono Project as part of this course will not be eligible for formal pro bono recognition.]