By Lakshmi Sarma Ramani Charitable organizations around the world serve a critical purpose to
help society, from protecting the environment to feeding the hungry. As organizations
in the United States look for new ways to increase their impact, many seek to do
so by expanding their activities across borders. If your organization is considering
working in other countries, you should not underestimate the complexity of working in
other countries nor should you make assumptions about the applicable laws or legal
structures. Based on my experience advising 501(c)( 3) tax-exempt organizations
expanding across geographies, here are some practical things to consider before you
put boots on the ground. These tips are intended to help organizations as they seek
legal advice in the nonprofit world.
■ ■ Defining charity. Not all countries
have the same legal definition of
what a charitable mission is under
the local legislation. It’s important
to determine whether your initiative
is considered to be charitable
within the appropriate jurisdiction.
■ ■ Privacy is policy. Privacy la ws
vary widely between countries,
and penalties can be substantial.
In-house counsel should be
especially mindful when collecting
personal information in countries
with strict privacy laws.
■ ■ Breaking brand. When entering
a new country, be aware that
intellectual property laws
surrounding your brand may not
apply anymore. Consider registering
your trademark in the host country
to ensure brand protection.
■ ■ Lost in translation. Certain
charitable strategies that are
acceptable in one country may not
be culturally appropriate in other
countries. Spend time finding out
whether your idea will translate
within this new framework to
increase the chances of success.