Frequently Asked Questions

Thanks for taking the time to contact ICNL. We receive a number of inquiries every day. Since many of these inquiries are of a similar nature, below is a list of the most frequently asked questions for your reference. If your question is not answered here, please feel free to contact one of our offices.

Does ICNL provide legal service to not-for-profits in the United States? Answer
How do I start a non-profit organization in the United States? Answer
What is the difference between "non-profit" and "not-for-profit”? Answer
Is there a “Model Law” available? Answer
Can I use the materials on the website in developing my own programs? Answer

Does ICNL provide legal services to not-for-profits in the United States?

No, ICNL does not provide legal services to not-for-profits in the U.S., nor do we provide legal advice for forming a U.S. non-profit. However, we often work with U.S. organizations (including non-profits) that are active in civil society issues. To find out more about what ICNL does, visit our About Us and Programs pages.

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How do I start a non-profit organization in the United States?

ICNL is a research and education based organization that assists others in writing and developing good practices for non-governmental laws. It does not offer free attorney services, nor does it offer free assistance. However, ICNL does recommend the following excellent sources for information on creating non-profit organizations in the United States:

  • The Non-Profit Handbook
    by Gary M. Grobman
  • How to Form a Non-Profit Corporation
    by Anthony Mancuso
  • The Complete Guide to Nonprofit Corporations: Step-By-Step Guidelines, Procedures and Forms to Maintain a Nonprofit Corporation
    by Ted Nicholas

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What is the difference between "non-profit" and "not-for-profit”?

The term "not-for-profit organization" (NFPO) is used as a broad-based term that encompasses all organizations that are known variously as charities, non-profits, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private voluntary organizations (PVOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), etc. "Not-for-profit" is used in preference to "non-profit" in order to emphasize that a defining criterion is the intention of the organization not to make profits for private gain. It is possible that such an organization will in fact make a profit from time to time, but that is not the principal purpose for which it is organized and operated. Nor is its purpose to distribute any portion of any profit for private gain. The major distinguishing characteristic between not-for-profit and for-profit organizations is that the former are governed by the principle of non-distribution.

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Is there a “Model Law” available?

No. Designing and drafting laws that impact civil society are unique to the needs and culture of a particular country. One size does not fit all— ICNL believes in working with local stakeholders to design the most appropriate and beneficial laws for all parties. However, ICNL has a wealth of materials and handbooks available in our Online Library that provide the foundations and principles necessary to developing appropriate laws and regulations.

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Can I use the materials on the website in developing my own programs?

ICNL’s materials are provided as a resource for all civil society actors; however ICNL maintains a copyright over all corporate materials as well as our organizational name and logo. If you would like to use our publications or cite us and/or any of our materials as an authoritative source, please contact us or see our Terms of Use.

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