Creating Nonprofit Chapters and Affiliates


Successful nonprofits looking for ways to make their programs more widely available often look to grow by creating chapters and affiliates in other geographic areas. Nonprofit organizations that are organized geographically into chapters that share a name, trademarks and mission are frequently referred to as “federated organizations.” These entities take an amazing variety of legal forms with some being tightly controlled and hierarchical and others being more loosely affiliated and autonomous. Historically, many federated organizations have grown on an ad hoc basis with little thought to how the chapters are linked or what their legal relationship to the founding organization will be. Often, the founding organization finds itself in the position of policing valuable trademarks and servicemarks to uphold the organization’s reputation and goodwill, essential commodities for any organization that is funded by donations from the public.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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