Mission Guardian Program
A legal subscription service for nonprofit organizations.
Add a lawyer to your team and safeguard your mission.
What is it?
The Mission Guardian Program is an innovative legal subscription service. NCR staff and Birken Law developed this pilot program for neighborhood associations and cultural organizations to provide better access to high-quality basic legal services.
Who can be a member?
All neighborhood organizations and cultural organizations have already been enrolled in the program (Woohoo!). Schedule your kick-off meeting to activate your membership.
What are subscription legal services?
Subscription Legal Services is a new way to think about and receive legal support. Running a neighborhood organization is no easy task. The staff, board and members are passionate about the mission, but, like all nonprofits, everyone is trying to “do more with less.”
Now as Mission Guardian members, you have an attorney by your side. We become part of your extended executive team, helping the organization stay on target, avoid risk and plan ahead. A great team is vital for success as a nonprofit – now neighborhoods have it. This program offers services in a new and proactive way that promotes nonprofit sustainability and gives transparency in pricing.
Out with the old, in with the new. Now neighborhoods can…
✓ Easily call for advice when things come up
✓ Stop worrying about making decisions in a vacuum
✓ Show donors and funders that the organization cares about doing things right
✓ Feel secure and protected
✓ Rely on a strategic partner who helps you advance the mission
✓ Finally, budget for the organization’s legal spend
Why this model?
After years of in-house experience and private practice, one thing is clear – nonprofits reduce their legal problems when they have access to expert advice early in the process – before expensive issues arise. But many nonprofits don’t have the access they need.
Most nonprofits fit into one of these stories…
- They hesitate to pick up the phone to ask a lawyer questions. They know every minute on the phone is billable time, and wonder – is it worth the bill? They may only call when there’s a big scary mess brewing. That’s the most expensive way to do business. As Mission Guardian members, neighborhoods never have that worry – they get 2 consultations with us every month.
- The organization can’t effectively budget for its legal spend because you don’t know what it will be or where it will come from. Mission Guardian solves that problem. You have a clear sense of what the costs are – no more guesstimating.
- The ED or Board Chair cobbles together a patchwork of lawyers who might donate an hour of work here or there. This results in inconsistent results because nobody has the full story and nobody is an expert. No longer. We’ll get to know the organization and the players in the picture.
- The nonprofit has a lawyer on the board and looks to them for advice. This is the equivalent of asking your heart surgeon to do brain surgery! Both are smart professionals, but you just wouldn’t do that, so why ask your board member to guess about nonprofit law? Mission Guardian ensures you never put your board at risk.
How it works:
The City of Minneapolis has enrolled each neighborhood association and cultural organization in the Mission Guardian program. Each member nonprofit now has access to a whole host of benefits, all included with the subscription covered by the city.
As a member, you can schedule two mini-consult phone calls each month (valued at $80 apiece) to discuss any legal questions or concerns you have. No more waiting until something becomes a problem – now you can get answers early and often!
You’ll also have exclusive access to an online member portal website. In the member portal is an ever-expanding library of resources like template contracts, useful forms, policies, procedures, training videos, frequently asked questions, and more. These are documents you can download and use again and again.
And when you use one of our sample forms, we’ll be happy to provide a complimentary review of the work and provide any feedback or guidance.
Plus, when the nonprofit needs additional legal services, you can purchase all legal services from a flat fee menu. Unlike traditional hourly billing, you’ll know up front what every project will cost, before you get started. (Project costs are pre-approved as eligible expenses to CPP grants.)
What we provide:
Fresh eyes & big picture perspective. We'll help you with critical advice, so you feel safer.
Every new question gets answered. Every mini consult is worth $80, and neighborhoods get two per month included in their membership.
Access to content you need. Don’t use Google to search for an example, then hope it works for you. We can give you what you need, when you need it. We'll even review your work after you fill in a form we provide.
Transparent pricing. When a consult leads to legal work, all the projects you purchase are flat fee based. You always know exactly what it will cost – no surprises.
Member badge that inspires donor confidence. Add our badge to your website and tell donors “this nonprofit cares about doing things right.”
How to get started
The organization is already enrolled, so now all that's left is getting you set up to use your account! First, you'll schedule a kick-off meeting with Meghan. She'll get your file started with the firm, give you a tour of the member portal, and answer any of your questions. Then we're ready to get to work!
First impressions of Mission Guardian…
“Now nonprofits can protect themselves – it’s like insurance.”
– S.G., Administrator
“Incredible. This I can budget for. No surprise bills. It will professionalize us.”
– M.W., Executive Director
“I don’t know what we’re going to need. Now I don’t have to – I can focus on fundraising and know we’ve got the basics covered – it’s a no-brainer.”
– Matt, Board Member
“I'd love being able to pick up the phone without worrying about getting a bill for one question.”
– Brian, New Nonprofit Founder
“The member badge is awesome – it'll give us credibility when we are reaching new donors that are big for us.”
– Outreach Ministry Founder
“This is so valuable, I’ve always been worried, what if I messed something up? Now I don’t have to worry. And it'll show my board I’m getting the help I need.”
– C.P., Executive Director
“Its so important to have an attorney that knows you on your side as a nonprofit.”
– J., Senior Pastor / Church Founder
“It'll give me great peace of mind as a decision maker on the board.”
– Co-op Board Member
Minneapolis Member Frequently Asked Questions
What’s a scheduled mini consult and how does it work?
Mini consults are a 15 minute phone call to answer a quick question or assessment of any issue. I solve dozens of issues every month in fifteen minutes or less. Now you can vet issues and not worry about the cost. We make it easy to schedule. Simply choose any time that works best from you from the open appointments available using Acuity Scheduling.
How many mini consults does each Minneapolis Member get?
Minneapolis Members get two per month. Use them for whatever questions you have. We recommend using them for new issues. The mini consults expire at the end of the month and do not carry over or accrue. Our goal is to help you get the advice you need early to head off expensive messes later. Each mini consult is valued at $80 but included for members. Mini consults are 15-minute calls and must be scheduled in advance.
How do I get access to the library of forms and policies?
Members log into our secure member portal at www.missionguardian.com. In the portal you’ll find the forms that match your subscription level. You can download any of these forms through the checkout process. Get what you need, 24/7 – no need to wait for us.
What’s included in the free forms and policies?
We have a bank of forms and documents for each subscription level. The forms in the library are what our clients commonly need and often requires little to no attorney review. Examples are things like conflict of interest policies, participant waivers, photo releases, independent contractor agreements, community garden agreements, grant subawards, confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements, board meeting agendas, minutes or simple resolutions, etc.
What if I want you to review a form we fill out?
Sure thing. If you are using a Mission Guardian Member form we will review your completed document at no charge. If you’re doing something wrong, we’ll let you know.
What if I want you to customize a form document just for us?
No problem, we’re happy to help! Simply refer to our flat fee menu of services and purchase a ‘customize any MG form’ product. We’ll fix it right up for you. When it’s complete you’ll receive the customized document in Word format.
What’s on the menu of flat fee services?
Our menu of flat fee services includes things like custom document creation, mergers, dissolution, lease review, document review, contract negotiation, application for sales tax exemption, bylaws revision, amended articles of incorporation, property tax exemption application, etc.
Do memberships expire?
Minneapolis Members are part of a pilot project for subscription legal services through 12/31/2019. The City of Minneapolis and Birken Law Office may decide to discontinue the pilot project at any time in their sole discretion. Members are always welcome to upgrade their membership through their own funding if desired.
What if I cancel my membership?
If membership is not working for you anymore you can cancel at any time. You will still be a client of Birken Law, but, you will lose your access to the member portal and your licenses to use the member badge and forms will terminate at that time. All perks of membership will terminate including any included services (i.e. risk assessment, review of filled forms, etc.) All flat fee work will be completed as ordered, regardless of membership status. Cancelling a membership does not mean you’re not a client of the firm. You can still work with Birken Law Office the “old fashioned” way – no worries!
How does the website member badge work?
As long as you are a member of the Mission Guardian program Birken Law Office grants you a license to put a Mission Guardian Member badge on your website. This shows donors and funders that you care about the health and safety of your nonprofit resources. We provide you with the embed code and you (or your web developer) simply install it on any page of your website.