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We have formed a group and picked a name and are meeting with the officials advocating for capacity building at our local animal shelter. Do we need to form a legal entity like a non-profit or can we can continue as a group of people just doing stuff?

            Thank you for writing to us at the Community Tool Box, and please excuse our unforeseen delay in responding to your question.
            It’s excellent that you and your group would like to improve operations at your local animal shelter. Under normal circumstances, there’s no legal requirement that you form a legal entity. But that leads to a different question: Would you be better off doing so? In other words, forming a legal entity might not be necessary, but it might (or might not) be desirable.
            Forming a legal entity can create certain tax advantages for your group.  It can sometimes give your group more community credibility.  And it enables you to apply for federal tax-exempt status, which may be helpful if at some point your group wants to apply for grants.  (Note that not all nonprofits are tax-exempt; that requires a separate application process.)
            The details of how a group like yours would form a legal entity are usually handled on the state level, usually by the Secretary of State’s office in your state’s government. That’s often the best place to find out what your state’s requirements and procedures are, as well as to get some advice that’s particular to your situation.  The officials you are meeting with, depending on who they are, may be able to advise you as well.
             “Just doing stuff” can be excellent, and may certainly be sufficient in itself for you.  Becoming a legal entity might give you some added advantages. Once you’ve learned more, then you’ll likely be better able to make decisions that seem best for you now.  
            Thanks again for being in touch, and all best wishes for success as your work proceeds.

Question Date: د., 04/10/2023