Download the State Law Legal Checklist and identify action items for your organization. 

Legal Checklist: State Law




  1. The Articles of Incorporation are the document that creates the corporation. The Articles need to meet both state requirements for a nonprofit corporation as well as federal tax law requirements to qualify as a 501(c)(3).
  2. Bylaws refers to the document that sets out the rules of operation for your organization.
  3. Board members have a set of legal obligations owed to the nonprofit corporation, called fiduciary duties, which include Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty, Duty of Obedience, and with the new Washington Nonprofit Corporation Act, a duty to share relevant information.
  4. A nonprofit board keeps records so the organization can report to funders, government agencies, or the community about decisions and actions made.
  5. While a tax-exempt organization generally does not pay federal taxes, the nonprofit is responsible for applicate state taxes.

Here are some questions to think about...

  • Do you know where your organization’s key documents are stored, and are the documents accessible to officers and board members?
  • Does your organization have a Document Retention Policy? If yes, do you know what records should be kept and for how long? If not yet, does your organization have a clear recordkeeping system in place?

Next steps...

  • Review the Stay Up-to-Date with the Secretary of State diagram. Be sure to check which type of organization you are and remember you may qualify as both. Fill in your organization’s key dates – incorporation date and accounting year end date. Nonprofit corporation reporting is based on your incorporation date, while charitable organization renewal is based on your accounting year end.

Venn Diagram explaining nonprofit and charitable organization requirements with the Washington Secretary of State

Stay Up-to-Date with the Secretary of State Diagram

Stay Up-to-Date with the Secretary of State Venn Diagram for nonprofit corporations and charities

Find an audio description of the diagram here



Chapter Materials

Let’s Go Legal Guide

Start by downloading the Let's Go Legal guide that includes checklists, activities, and reflection questions. As ...
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