Mission Guardian

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. Birken Law Office clients who become members have an attorney by their side – vital for success as a nonprofit. This program offers services in a new and proactive way that promotes sustainability.

Who is it for?

Only nonprofit clients of Birken Law Office may apply to become members. The program has three levels to ensure each member gets services that are right for your organization’s stage.

Why this model?

After years of in-house experience and private practice, one thing is clear – nonprofits save money and avoid expensive mistakes when they have consistent access to experienced legal advice. But, many nonprofits have a difficult time getting their legal needs met.

The reasons for this vary but I bet one of these will sound familiar to you….
    • Your 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 Board Chair or Executive Director usually has to cobble together a patchwork of lawyers who might donate an hour of work here or there. The result is happenstance. No single lawyer ever really knows your organization. When you become a member, we get to know you and understand the whole picture.

 

    • Maybe, the lawyer who happens to sit on your board is the only resource. This puts your board member / lawyer in a professionally awkward spot. You wouldn’t ask a heart surgeon to do brain surgery, so why ask your board member to guess about nonprofit law? Mission Guardian ensures you never put your board or staff at risk.
    • Do you hesitate to pick up the phone to ask your lawyer questions? Even my own clients admit to this! You know every minute on the phone is billable time, and wonder – is it worth the bill? So you don’t call and then I hear about the issue after it’s already a big expensive mess. As a Mission Guardian member you can call for every new issue – never worry.

 

Out with the old, in with the new. Now you can…

Easily call for advice when things come up
Stop worrying about making decisions in a vacuum
Feel secure in knowing you’re protecting the business
Have a strategic partner who helps you advance your mission
Finally, budget for the organization’s legal spend

Mission Guardian provides all this and more!

How it works:

You pay a recurring monthly fee that covers a suite of benefits to fit your organization’s size and budget.

As part of your membership dues, you get scheduled mini consults for all new issues (worth $80 every time you schedule). Schedule as many of these as you need.

All members have exclusive access to an online members website. In the member portal you’ll find 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 fill out and use over and over again. Hiring a lawyer to create these resources just for you would cost more than $10,000 in billable hours – as a member you get access to this amazing resource for one low monthly fee.

Whenever you use one of our sample forms, we’ll be happy to provide a complimentary review of your work and provide any feedback or guidance (worth between $100 and $250 – every time!).

Plus, when you do need additional legal services, as a member, you get access to purchase all legal services from a flat fee menu. Unlike traditional hourly billing, you know up front what every project will cost.

table describes difference between subscription and hourly

 

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. This feature alone pays for the subscription! Schedule as many as you need.

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.

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.

MissionGuardianMember badge that inspires donor confidence. Add our badge to your website and tell donors “this nonprofit cares about doing things right.”


Membership Packages

 

Applicants to the Mission Guardian program are matched to the membership package that is the best fit for the organization’s needs. You must be a client in order to join.

New Organization Member

Designed for brand new nonprofits. This membership walks you through becoming a nonprofit organization. Lay a solid foundation and show funders and donors you’re an organization they can rely on.

Includes:
Scheduled 15 min consults for questions or issues
Access to forms and policies you need in year one
Complimentary review of any forms you fill out
Menu of flat fee startup services
Membership badge for your website
We file your first two IRS 990-N forms for you
Twice monthly tips just for founders

Under a traditional hourly fee structure this would cost a new nonprofit more than $6,400!

See Pricing Info


Growing Member

When you move beyond the startup phase, this membership is the just-right fit. Nonprofits as businesses have more in common legally with a Fortune 500 corporation than a lemonade stand. Get the guidance you need to protect the mission in an affordable package.

Includes:
Scheduled 15 min consults for questions or issues
Access to full library of forms and policies you need
Complimentary review of any forms you fill out
Menu of flat fee legal services
Membership badge for your website
Monthly online ‘healthy nonprofit homework’
Complimentary updates to Secretary of State registration

Using traditional hourly billing this package could cost more than $9,700 in a year

See Pricing Info


Established Member

Experienced organizations know they need to stay in close contact with counsel to stay on top of issues.  Keep your organization stable and growth minded with this package. Relax – you’ve handled the due diligence. We’ll help you stay focused on sustainability and mission delivery with this high touch package.

Includes:
Scheduled 15 min consults for questions or issues
Access to full library of forms and policies
Complimentary review of any forms you fill out
Menu of flat fee legal services
Membership badge for your website
Attendance at one board meeting annually
Annual comprehensive risk assessment
Risk assessment results report & board report
Monthly check-ins to stay current with you
✓ Executive / Board meeting packets

For a high-touch package like this, using hourly billing, a nonprofit would spend over $13,500

See Pricing Info


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


Frequently Asked Questions

What’s a scheduled mini consult and how does it work?

Mini consults are a quick question or assessment of any new issue. We make it easy to schedule a fifteen minute call to discuss. Simply choose any time that works best from you from the open appointments available using Acuity Scheduling from the member portal.

Are mini consults unlimited?

Yes! Ask as many questions about new issues that you want. Our goal is to help you get the advice you need early to head off expensive messes later. Mini consults are 15 minute calls and are for new issues only.

What’s the best way to use a mini consult?

Any time there is a new issue or question, schedule a consult. Smart clients schedule a consult before every board meeting to review new issues.

How do I get access to the library of forms and policies?

Log into the member portal and check out the ‘Resources’ tab. You can add any of our downloadable resources to your cart and check out to download them. Your prior downloads are also available in your My Account page. Get what you need, 24/7 – no need to wait for us to email you.

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, one time use facility rental agreements, extended term space or facility rental agreements, simple grants, grant subawards, confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements, community garden 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 / Birken Law Office 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, purchase agreements, real estate transaction oversight, property tax exemption application, etc. New Org subscribers have access to a limited menu of startup needs like entity formation, bylaws drafting, application for IRS tax exemption, etc.

Do memberships expire?

Your credit card will be charged every 30 days and subscriptions are month to month. New Organization memberships are good for up to 24 months. We find that is plenty of time for most startups to get beyond this stage of growth. Growing and Established memberships never expire. You can manage your account in the member portal at any time.

What if I cancel my membership?

If membership is not working for you anymore you can cancel at any time. You will lose your access to the member portal and you will lose your licenses to use the member badge and all the forms or resources from the website. All perks of membership will terminate including any included services (i.e. risk assessment, review of filled forms, etc.) Any scheduled services may be paid for on a flat fee non-membership basis – we will contact you if this applies to your cancellation. All flat fee work already ordered at the time of cancellation 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!

When can I schedule a risk assessment?

We find it best for us to get to know the organization a bit prior to a comprehensive assessment. Growing members may purchase a risk assessment at any time from the flat fee menu after 3 months of membership. Established memberships include a risk assessment after 3 months of membership and while the membership is active. Dropped your membership? No worries, current clients of all kinds can request a risk assessment on a flat fee basis from the firm.

When can I schedule a board meeting attendance?

Anytime. New Organization and Growing members may purchase board meeting attendance packages from the flat fee menu at any time. Established members may schedule their included board meeting anytime and may purchase additional attendance packages as needed.

How does the website member badge work?

As long as you are a member of the Mission Guardian program we grant 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.

Will you file our 990?

We file online 990-N (aka: 990 postcards) for our New Organization members in the first 2 years as long as you are a member. Your membership must be active during the period your 990-N is due, and we cannot file 990-Ns for non-members. Members who are private foundations are required to file a 990-PF and nonprofits that earn more than $50,000 in annual revenue must file a 990EZ or full form 990. We do not file those forms, sorry. Membership does not include assistance with 990-PF 990-EZ or full form 990 filings. But we can refer you to a nonprofit specialist CPA to assist you.

What is the annual risk assessment and written report?

Established members will receive an annual comprehensive risk assessment health check. (worth $3,000). What is the process?

1. You complete an interview process which takes about an hour. We’ll ask you about key areas of the nonprofit operations, governance, fundraising, human resources, etc. to get a full picture of the organization. You also provide us with copies of your organizations core documents (articles, bylaws, IRS determination letter, etc.) which we will review.

2. We use the information from your interview to generate a written report identifying areas of risk to the nonprofit that need work. We’ll rank order the areas for improvement showing you where we think you should focus first, second, etc. The report also includes helpful information like, a schedule of important dates to put in your calendar so you can stay on top of annual filings or policy renewals.

3. Then we’ll schedule a strategy call to go over the report with you.

What are the advance board meeting reports and how does that work?

Established members tell us their board meeting schedule. We will provide a board update prior to board meetings. This is a written report on our letterhead for your board meeting packet. The report includes upcoming key dates to remember as well as nonprofit industry current events that may affect your organization. Established Members will find it helpful to schedule a mini consult to review this report prior to the board meeting so they are prepared to field any issues with the board.

What are the monthly online check-ins?

We will check in with you by email to see if there are any new developments your legal team should be aware of (For example, do you anticipate hiring or firing any staff, are you starting a new program? Expanding to a new state? Etc.) If there are any new issues we’ll jump on a scheduled mini consult call to discuss it and talk about next steps. Often members find it just makes sense to schedule a mini consult to do a quick check in by phone, either way we’ve got you covered if you forget.