SSP Hacks for Non-Profit Legal Structure & Obligations

This section has 5 hacks in it.
“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Because of tax and liability benefits, many SSPs choose to become non-profit organizations. This section outlines many of the legal and fiscal obligations of non-profits and contains practical tips for becoming a non-profit community-based organization. This is not legal advice; every situation is unique so please consult with a lawyer as part of starting a non-profit, even if it is just to have them check your paperwork.

Tips for Becoming a Recognized Community Based Organization

The IRS is generous about what is considered a “charitable or educational organization” for 501(c)3 status, so most organizations not designed to generate profit for the founders or officers are eligible. To get non-profit status, an organization must follow a series of steps and file paperwork with both their state tax authority and the Internal Revenue Service, including articles of incorporation and bylaws.

Legal Requirement:
Board of Directors

Nonprofits must maintain a board of directors whose officers have the legal duties to: Uphold the mission, hire and provide oversight for the Executive Director/CEO, attend board meetings and keep minutes, oversee agency finances…

Legal Requirement:

Non-profit employees are subject to all the same state and federal rights and responsibilities as other employees including regulations about: Wages and hours, workplace safety and health, collective organizing and bargaining…

Legal Requirement:

Many SSPs operate on a shoestring budget; still, it is important to have several types of insurance. Insurance protects your organization, and some funding sources require proof of insurance.

Legal Requirement:

Though most SSPs are exempt from paying taxes, they are still required to file. For federal taxes, SSPs with gross receipts under $50,000 must file a simple postcard. States also exempt nonprofit organizations from income tax, but still require nonprofits to file.

More Resources

Don’t reinvent the wheel
During our development Harm Reduction Hacks have collected together a large number of resources from around the web you can find these in our resource folder in Google Docs. We are also always looking for more so help us by suggesting any resources we may have missed.
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External Resources

Collected from around the web
There are a number of external resources that contributed to the development of Harm Reduction Hacks. Here are a selection relating to this section:


The hacks on this site are shared with you under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence. This allows you (with attribution) to adapt content for your own use, although we do ask you to then also allow others to have equal access to anything you develop. More details of this licence can be found on the Creative Commons website.


We do not claim that this is an exhaustive set of strategies, shortcuts, or tips for running an SSP. What we do suggest is that Harm Reduction Hacks offers down-to-earth, practical information for being a better leader, starting and running an SSP, and providing syringe access services. We feel we can say this with confidence because the Hacks are based on interviews with, and the experiences of, literally generations of people who have been doing harm reduction work.

Please note that nothing in this guide should be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney local to your area to ensure your program is in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations that apply to your situation. 

Harm Reduction Hacks site design and implimentation by Nigel Brunsdon

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