Wednesday, May 20, 2015

After Two Years Of Worrying, I Just Did It

In March of 2013 I agree with Cyril that Veterans and Friends of Puget Sound needed to get its 501c3 exemption done. I had heard that the process was long and difficult and that getting help was essential, but we did not have much money - that's why we needed the exemption, so that people could contribute.

Also we needed to do business licensing and all that.

I went to LegalZoom.com and filled out a lot of forms, thinking they would take care of it all. There was a little back-and-forth, and then documents started to appear. Also money went away, about $750.

At some point, I thought that the application had gone to the IRS. In retrospect, I was too trusting. I don't think LegalZoom was deceptive, and I am responsible if I did not read everything all the way through, but I was pretty busy and long story short my LegalZoom 501c3 forms were just sitting on their computers doing nothing.

And I thought that the were sitting in an "In" box at the IRS.

Over the course of two years, my memory grows that it is taken care of. Life is chaos, between Larry dying, Kris telling me I should move out of my home, mother dying, and so much more. I am still serving veterans but I let things slide, including a wise scepticism about the progress of paperwork, and careful reading of forms - something I do for others, but not always for myself.

A few days ago, as we are really rolling on our funding for the Healing Garden, a Founding Member asked about the 501c3 status. They had investigated and could not find anything on the IRS database about us. I made the calls, waited on hold, and learned the IRS had nothing either. I called LegalZoom, waited on hold and hour or more, and learned that the application was still sitting around doing nothing.

Naturally I immediately told LegalZoom to tell me what was needed to get it going. I them called the other Board members to talk it over. When disaster strikes and it's all on your head, the first thing to do is to keep people informed - that's the only way they can trust you and the only way they can help get it fixed.

I supplied LegalZoom with all the information they wanted. They promised to work on it as fast as they could and I thought I heard them say they could send me something right away. Meanwhile the Board members set up a meeting with a friendly CPA who assured us that things were not all bad so long as we were honest and fixed the problem right away (...and also file the taxes asap - we don't have liability since we had no income but the corporation could be dissolved if we don't get it done.)

Back at home I called LegalZoom again to check on getting it done soonest, and learnd that would  be 7-10 days. I asked for them to send me what they had, and that was worthless (they seemed surprised at the idea of sending it by email, but complied.)

I did not want to have an involved explanation on Friday. I asked for help from a lawyer friend - not for him to do it, but for him to recommend someone who might advise. He put me in touch with a very helpful person, we talked, she gave me pointers (and a sample Conflicts Policy) and then I sat down with the 31-page form.

I'm not saying it was easy, but it was not hard.

For one thing, it's a lot of bits and pieces. Each bit and each piece is do-able, so it seems just to be a question of taking one bite and then another.

For another thing, roughly half of the 31 pages is irrelevant - it's schedules that don't apply.

Obviously, I had allowed myself to be frightened unnecessarily.

I did my best, checked it over, and emailed a draft to other Board members. I will meet with them, talk it over, and send it in.

Had I pushed past my worry two years ago, this would all have been done. I can't go back and change things, but I can take a lesson from this.

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