Online Compendium of NPO Regulations

Online Compendium of Federal and State Regulations for U.S. Nonprofit Organizations

Guide for Contributors



This page provides information for people who are interested in or planning to contribute to the Compendium of NPO Regulations site. Please note that the site maintainer is still in the process of developing reasonable policies for the site to insure its usefulness and longevity. Achieving this will require accommodating the concerns of collaborators. Accordingly, all comments and suggestions regarding these policies are welcome. These policies are not set in stone.

The Goals of the Compendium of NPO Regulations Site

This site may be considered to have three sections, reflecting the three major goals of the site: (1) to provide general information about NPO regulation issues, (2) to summarize the current regulations of applicable jurisdictions, and (3) to keep the public informed about controversies and changes in the current NPO regulatory environment, particularly about how people can help promote positive change.

General Subjects
These pages provide an introduction to several broad classes of regulations associated with nonprofit organizations, such as tax-exempt status and charitable solicitations. As a rule of thumb, people who have read these texts should then be able to visit the jurisdictional regulations part of the site and understand why the material presented there is significant, and distinguish which portions of those pages apply to their own nonprofit organizations and their activities.
State and Other Jurisdictional Regulations
These pages summarize the regulations that specifically address NPOs and their major activities. There is one page for each jurisdiction, which currently is intended to include 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government. Pages for other jurisdictions may be added once this basic set is complete.
The Evolving State of NPO Regulation
These pages, grouped under the subject "Easing the Burden," focus on how NPO regulation is currently changing, being challenged, or is likely to evolve in the near-term. This section of the site does not provide an unbiased report of news, but instead actively advocates minimization and harmonization of NPO regulations, and promotes tools that help to achieve this goal.

None of the sections of this site are intended to or should provide legal or financial advice. They are general, educational, and designed to insure the reader learns to ask the right questions, rather than make the reader believe he or she has found all the answers. The site is not specifically intended to support legal professionals, but instead is written to be suitable also for nonprofit organization administrators who understands their organizations' activities and needs, but aren't clear how the law might apply to those. The site educates NPO administrators by pointing out what issues might arise, indicates the language and thinking used by professionals in this area, and thereby helps to promote a more complete understanding of the professional legal advice that responsible administrators will obtain. The site is, of course, also likely to be useful for legal professionals.

The Style of the Site

A consistent style of appearance is followed throughout the site by all pages created specifically for it. The only exceptions are pages that are essentially reprints of works not created specifically for this site, but which are also provided or reproduced here. The jurisdiction regulations pages are based on a model template.

The site doesn't use particularly fancy layout mechanisms, many graphics (if any), and a common background graphic is used throughout. Tables of contents generally appear at the top of each page, and particularly complex sections of a page will often have their own table of contents at the start of the section. All page headings are Web anchors, so that other pages can link directly to that section within the page, as well as allowing tables of contents to themselves be composed of links to the indicated section. The intention is to have the site be highly functional through good organization and style, without being unattractive.

Who May Contribute

Anyone may submit works for publication here, if those works clearly help achieve the goals of the site. However, it is highly recommended that authors consult in advance with the site administrator (Eric Mercer), to confirm that such submissions are likely to be accepted and posted online at the site.

Contributors do not need to be legal professionals. However, for the jurisdiction regulation pages, lawyers are somewhat preferred only because they are most likely to be intimately familiar with all the subjects presented on the page, and will generally be obtaining timely updates on changes to regulations as a normal part of their professional work. The only impact for non-lawyers is that if a non-lawyer is the page maintainer, and a lawyer operating in that jurisdiction contacts the site administrator and volunteers to help, then the page maintainer will most likely be asked to have the lawyer review the page before it is submitted for online publication. Whether any more involved collaboration is undertaken will generally be up to the current page maintainer.

The three most valuable contributions to the site correspond to its three general goals, and are: 1) jurisdictional regulations pages (one for each jurisdiction), 2) educational pages about a particular topic, and 3) explorations of a specific currently controversial issue. With regard to this last category, the writing need not be objective and without conclusions. Conclusions and specific recommendations for action are in fact particularly valued. However, such pages must present a complete picture, address all strong arguments on both sides of the issue, and include sufficient references to allow readers to evaluate the issue independently and reach their own conclusions. The difference between educational pages and controversial issues papers is that nearly all of the content of educational pages should be widely accepted as true, and disputed issues should comprise only a minor proportion. Rather than try to fully address a controversial issue within an educational page, authors should summarize the controversy in a fairly neutral manner, and consider writing a separate document addressing the controversy specifically.

Licensing of Contributed Works

A publication licensing arrangement is being developed in order to insure that certain works specifically created for this site by authors other than the site administrator may remain available, both to the public which could come to rely on them and for future authors who may wish to contribute derivative works to this site. For instance, it is not expected that when a new person takes over maintaining a state regulations page that the whole page must be re-written from scratch. Instead, the previous page will be used and updated or otherwise adjusted by the new maintainer as he or she sees fit.

In addition, it is acceptable for contributors to obtain paying sponsors for their work, and to include an acknowledgment of that support within the attribution section at the bottom of the page. The form that acknowledgment may take is detailed in the license agreement below. Note that there can be more than one supporter for an author, but the acknowledgment for all supporters of a single author is limited to 25 words and a single graphic. That graphic, however, might be a composite (i.e. the banner could be divided in halves or thirds).

Submission of the contributed page and the associated publication license should be by email. That email will take the form of a message, with the license included within the body of the message, and an attached file that is the contributed Web page. If a page is a collaboration developed cooperatively, the lead maintainer (see below), should provide in the email message the names and contact information of the other contributors.

The current draft of the license agreement between the site administrator and authors who contribute pages specifically for the jurisdiction regulations section is given below. If you have comments or suggestions for improving this license agreement, please send them to the site administrator.

     This is an agreement between ___________ ("Author") and Eric Mercer ("Site Administrator") regarding the attached document (the "Page"), which describes certain __jurisdiction__ laws and regulations of concern to nonprofit organizations, and which is intended for publication to the NPO Regulations Web Site (the "Site") on the Internet, located at <>.
     Site Administrator agrees (1) to publish the Page to the Site, and send Author written notification of this event; (2) that for a term of at least one year after the Page is published to the Site, to include in the published Page, and any published revisions or derivatives of the Page, an Attribution Section at the bottom of the Page, which will include Author's name and contact information, and may at Author's discretion include any or all of (a) a text Web link to Author's personal or professional Web page, (b) a brief (100 words or less) personal or professional statement or biography, (c) an acknowledgment of third-party support that can include up to 25 words and a single graphic not larger than 460x60 pixels, unless there are already more than two such acknowledgments of support associated with the page; (3) that for a term of at least one year after the Page is published to the Site, and at Author's request, also to publish to the Site Author's personal or professional Web page, not exceeding 250 Kbytes of text and graphics in size, which may be updated by Author not more often than weekly, and which includes only content and Web links that in Site Administrator's opinion does not reflect poorly on the professionalism of the Site; (4) that all future copies, revisions and other derivatives of the Page published to the Site that do not include Author's Attribution Section will include attribution in the form of Author's name and current email address and/or phone number as provided by Author.
     Author agrees to give Site Administrator a limited, world-wide, perpetual license to revise the Page in any manner within the conditions of this Agreement, and to publish the Page and any revisions or derivatives to the Site on the Internet in any fashion that makes them available without charge to the public. Author may at any time notify Site Administrator in writing that all or part of Author's Attribution Section on the Page and any revisions or derivatives, or Author's personal or professional Web page on the Site, should be removed, and Site Administrator agrees to comply within ten days of the notice being sent.
     Author indicates acceptance of this Agreement by including a copy of the Agreement with the Page submitted to Site Administrator for publication to the Site. Site Administrator indicates acceptance of this Agreement by publishing the Page to the Site.

Collaborative Works

Submitted pages may be the work of more than one author. In fact, the state regulation pages will likely be the work of several authors over time, as different people take over administration of each page. At any time, one person will always be designated as the lead maintainer of a page. That person has the final say over the contents of the page that is submitted to the site administrator. The site administrator always has the final cut.

Each collaborator on a page must send a written copy of the publication license attached to a copy of the final submitted page (as described above), in order to indicate acceptance of the agreement and to insure that all collaborators have reviewed the final work before it is published online.

For a collaborative work, any arrangements between the collaborators is determined by lead maintainer of the page in consultation with the other collaborators. All contributors will be acknowledged in the Attribution Section of the page unless they specifically request otherwise, and the lead maintainer will be indicated. Otherwise, the specific contribution of each author is generally only noted if an author chooses to include that information in his or her brief personal or professional statement or biography within the Attribution Section.

The lead maintainer of a page should consult with the site administrator in advance if there will be more than three contributing authors for a page, since each of the contributors is entitled to personal Web space according to the publication license, but the Web site doesn't have an unlimited amount of space. In the case of authors with very minor contributions, this might be resolved by omitting the personal Web space right from the publication license for such authors.

A submitted page may include acknowledgments of support as described in the publication license above, with no more than one such acknowledgment included per author. Because acknowledgments are generally maintained on the page for a full year, even if the contributing author has moved on and a new person is maintaining the page, there will occasionally be times when there is more than one acknowledgment of support. Also, if a group of authors contribute to a single submitted page developed in current collaboration, each is typically entitled to an acknowledgment of support on that page. However, in order to avoid too obtrusive a mass of acknowledgments, the limit for any page is three. That total of three includes "lagging" acknowledgments from earlier page maintainers. Accordingly, the lead maintainer of the page must insure that any arrangement between collaborators who receive support for their contribution respects this limit.

Completeness of the Jurisdiction Regulations Pages

It is not required that a jurisdiction regulations page be complete before publication online. However, a page must be at least 50% complete before it will be posted.

The following guidelines should be followed for pages that are incomplete, still in draft form, or which include sections that haven't been updated or verified for a considerable time:

  1. If a section (text between two headings) is not yet written, then the sentence "This section is not yet written." should be inserted there.
  2. If a section is not yet complete or is still a draft, then the sentence, "This section is still only a draft, and is not yet complete." should be inserted at the top of the section, and appear in green.
  3. If a section's veracity hasn't been checked for more than six months, then following sentence (in red) should be inserted at the top of the section: "This veracity of section has not been checked for six months or more."

The veracity of every section in a page should generally be checked before a new version is submitted for online publication. The only reasonable exception might be if the page maintainer has taken over an existing page that includes parts for which the new maintainer lacks suitable expertise to verify.


Main page | Legal basis for regulation | Tax-exempt status | Registration for soliciting | Charitable solicitations | Financial accounting | Other issues | Easing the burden | Glossary | Resources by state

Page maintained by: Eric Mercer <>

Page last updated 04Jan99

Online Compendium of Federal and State Regulations for U.S. Nonprofit Organizations