February 2012 Bar Bulletin
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February 2012 Bar Bulletin

WAACO Report Shows Need for Nonprofit Volunteers

By Jodi Nishioka


Focus Is on Serving Low-Income Communities

Nonprofit organizations are the backbone of low-income communities; yet some of the best nonprofit ideas never come to life.

Incorporation, crafting bylaws and understanding the tax code can be daunting tasks and are usually enough to prevent many nonprofits from materializing. But Washington Attorneys Assisting Community Organizations (WAACO), a 501(c)(3) organization that provides free transactional legal assistance to nonprofits, not only enables innovative nonprofit ideas to emerge, but also helps nonprofits establish long-term stability.

For example, when a group of Kenyan immigrants recently wanted to form a nonprofit to start a rotating collateral pool for small-business entrepreneurs, WAACO found two volunteer attorneys to form the nonprofit and advise on post-formation issues such as navigating the heavily regulated banking industry. The effort was getting ready to kick off in early January.

WAACO has been providing such critical pro bono assistance for several years. Since its inception in 2004, WAACO has served 273 nonprofits, providing $1.9 million worth of legal services and 6,367 attorney hours free of charge. However, WAACO has been concerned for some time that it is not adequately reaching the many nonprofits statewide that serve low-income communities, including such nonprofits throughout King County.

WAACO has just completed a report on this issue, "The Legal Needs of Nonprofits Serving Low Income Communities." In this report, WAACO surveyed low-income nonprofits from five regions across the state. Significantly, WAACO found that 92% of nonprofit organizations that serve low-income communities have significant, unmet transactional legal needs.

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