Nonprofit general counsel: Solve organizational challenges with legal tech

Nonprofit general counsel (GC) wear many hats and must be knowledgeable in numerous areas of law. From the specialized skill set necessary to run a nonprofit to understanding the complex compliance issues surrounding a tax-exempt organization, it is unlikely that a nonprofit’s legal department will have a sufficient number of attorneys who can adequately address all of the needs of the organization.

Fortunately, general counsel can turn to legal tech to simplify their daily work to help assist them in managing challenges and knowledge about the various issues, rules, and regulations with which they need to be familiar.

What are the challenges facing a nonprofit general counsel?

Challenges such as maintaining compliance through a rapidly changing legal landscape, stiff competition for hiring legal talent, and fundraising efforts continue to be obstacles for nonprofits of all sizes. For the nonprofit to appropriately adapt and thrive requires GC to be familiar with a vast amount of information and apply that information efficiently to resolve the organization's issues. 

Talent recruitment and retention 

Like many employers, nonprofit organizations are being confronted with unprecedented turnover in their workforce, also known as the Great Resignation. Previously, nonprofits tended to have loyal employees, but many workers have left their jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic began, citing long hours and low pay as catalysts. 

Nonprofits must know how to pivot and adapt to their employees by offering a hybrid work schedule. A flexible work environment is an attractive feature to potential talent in a post-pandemic world. General counsel feel the effects of this problem because they don’t have much support. A legal department of one can be overwhelming when issues start to arise.

Fundraising and privacy 

Fundraising has always been a challenge for nonprofits, but it has been significantly affected by inflation and financial instability in recent years. With regular household giving in decline, nonprofits need to focus on getting more donations from wealthier households to make up for the deficit.

Helen Respass, a Senior Legal Editor for Practical Law, suggested another reason nonprofits are struggling — donor demographics have shifted to a younger population. “Younger donors now want to give digitally and want to be approached differently, so I think a lot of nonprofits have to be learning new ways to operate their fundraising.”

For GC, donor giving presents concerns over privacy. Nonprofits must follow state laws regarding transparency of donors, but some donors do not want to be named. General counsel have to navigate state requirements and the wishes of donors.

Marketing efforts and secure giving 

Gone are the days of marketing that consisted of a simple brochure in the mail. Digital marketing is now the best way to reach younger generations. To make people aware of their cause, nonprofits need to have a strong social media presence. 

The nonprofit also needs to work with general counsel to show that their organization is trustworthy by providing information about how the donations will be used. Socially conscious investors and donors use environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. Charity watchdogs give people information about nonprofits so potential donors can determine if the organization is reputable. With nonprofit scams on the rise, donors want to know their money is in safe hands.

Time constraints 

With so many fires that need to be put out, it's imperative to accomplish as much as possible in the limited time available. Therefore, nonprofit general counsel want to work efficiently and effectively. Whether focusing on law, business, or the vision for the organization, GC need time-saving tools in order to focus on high-level strategizing that will help the nonprofit grow.

How can nonprofit general counsel improve service delivery?

Legal tech can help improve service delivery for general counsel by providing up-to-date information and automated forms. GC need to comply with changing rules and regulations, and legal technology is the best solution to stay on track. 

Overcome organizational challenges with legal tech 

From the formation of a nonprofit to its operations and governance, to managing employees and volunteers, the legal needs of a nonprofit are many. Legal tech such as a digital nonprofit tool kit help to reduce stress by keeping resources all in one spot. In 2020, 84% of law firm practitioners said the use of legal technology increased efficiency in their organization. Our State of the Legal Market report for 2022 added to these findings, reporting that law firms increased their technology spend by 7.1% in a 12-month period.

With nonprofit work, general counsel need to have knowledge spanning multiple practice areas. Venturing into a field with minimal understanding means time spent learning terms, correct processes, and looking for specific documents. GC can clear up confusion and increase work efficiency with access to comprehensive legal tech.

Get answers quickly in all practice areas

The nonprofit general counsel teams are tasked with having a command of a vast amount of law and information necessary to represent the organization properly. Legal tech simplifies the daily work of GC and provides them with knowledge in a wide variety of practice areas, such as governance, risk management, employment, trademarks, and intellectual property.

GC who use Practical Law by Thomson Reuters have access to over 300 full-time attorney editors. These attorneys regularly create and maintain more than 90,000 resources across 16 major practice areas. This tool also includes state-by-state guides, so general counsel can compare laws across jurisdictions without painstaking research. 

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