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. Members have a nonprofit lawyer by their side – vital for building a strong nonprofit. This full service program is an alternative to traditional hourly billing and promotes nonprofit sustainability.

Who is it for?

Only nonprofit clients of Birken Law Office may apply to join our full service subscription plans. The full service program has three levels to ensure your nonprofit gets the right services for its age and 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 maybe one of these sounds familiar to you….

  • Your organization can’t really budget for legal spending because you never know what it will be or who it will come from. Mission Guardian solves that problem. You have a clear sense of what the costs are – no more guesstimating.
  • You usually have 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 subscriber, we get to know you and understand the whole picture.
  • Maybe, the lawyer who happens to sit on your board is your 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 used to admit to this! You know every minute on the phone is billable time, and you wonder – is it worth the bill? So you just don’t call – until it’s already a big expensive mess. As a Mission Guardian member you can call for every new issue – never worry.

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

• Gain a strategic partner to help advance your mission

• Finally, budget for the organization’s legal spend

Mission Guardian provides all this and more!

What we provide:

We’ll help you with critical advice, so you feel safer.

Every member consult is worth over $115. This feature alone pays for the subscription! Schedule as many as 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 to make sure you're doing things right.

Each project, from incorporation to your IRS application, are purchased are on a flat fee basis. You always know exactly what it will cost – no surprises. Plus, subscribers enjoy a substantial discount on projects vs. non-subscribers.

Add our badge to your website and tell donors “this nonprofit cares about doing things right.”

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 member consults for all new issues (worth over $115 every time you schedule). Schedule as many of these as you need. For example, you could schedule:

  • Just before a board meeting to touch base on issues that might come up in discussion
  • Before signing a contract
  • To get recommendations for what software to use (our advice doesn't have to be legal!)

In the member portal you’ll find an ever-expanding library of apps to generate customized documents. Like template contracts, forms, policies, procedures, and more. Need another contract? Just run the app again, it’s all included in your subscription. Hiring a lawyer to create these customized resources just for you would cost more than $10,000 in billable hours – as a member you get access to all of it for one low monthly fee.

In the portal, search the knowledge base for answers to your questions or document apps. If something is keeping you up at night or on the weekend, it’s probably been a question others have asked too – check the knowledge base to get quick guidance any time, day or night.

Plus, when you need additional services, you simply purchase a project from our flat fee menu. Unlike traditional hourly billing, you know up front what every project will cost AND you enjoy a 10% discount on project costs compared to non-subscribers.

Membership Packages

Applicants to the Mission Guardian program are matched to the membership package that is the best fit for the organization’s needs.

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 new issues
✓ Subscriber discount on flat fee projects
✓ Access to document apps for startups
✓ Searchable educational library
✓ Menu of flat fee startup services
✓ Membership badge for your website
✓ Complimentary 990N filings or reminders

Under a traditional hourly fee structure all this would cost a new nonprofit more than $8,487!

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 new issues
✓ Subscriber discount on flat fee projects
✓ Access to the full library of document apps
✓ Searchable educational library
✓ Full menu of flat fee legal services
✓ Membership badge for your website
✓ Complimentary Secretary of State renewals
✓ Complimentary 990N filings or reminders
✓ Monthly assessments to meet industry standards

Using traditional hourly billing one year of undiscounted service to a growing nonprofit with staff, various programs and real estate issues could cost upwards of $10,738 in a busy year!

Experienced organizations know they need to stay in close contact with counsel to stay on top of issues.  And, often an organization may need to hire several specialists. For instance, nonprofits with national reach; complex legal advocacy issues; or many real estate holdings. You hire specialty lawyers – they are all good at what they do, yet they aren't nonprofit experts and they don't really know your whole organization.

Keeping up with all the threads and providing continuity across cases can be complicated and time consuming for an Executive Director. Even if you can keep track of it all, can you actually spot the nonprofit-specific legal issues when they come up?  Relax – we've got your back. This plan is fractional general counsel. We’ll help you stay focused on your important mission work and satisfy the board their due diligence is handled with this high touch package.

Includes:
✓ Scheduled 15 min consults for new issues
✓ Subscriber discount on flat fee projects
✓ Access to the full library of document apps
✓ Searchable educational library
✓ Full menu of flat fee legal services
✓ Membership badge for your website
✓ Complimentary attendance at one board meeting
✓ Coordination of all outside counsel
✓ Dedicated email inbox
✓ Dedicated counsel
✓ Monthly reporting in

For a high-touch package like this, using hourly billing, would be astronomical. A nonprofit might as well hire a part time lawyer on staff which would cost the organization upwards of $86,000 in salary and benefits (assuming the attorney has less than 8 years of experience).

What Subscribers Say about 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 gives 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 shows 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 gives me great peace of mind as a decision maker on the board.”
– Co-op Board Member

Organizations Who've Subscribed

Proudly providing subscription legal services to Minneapolis neighborhood organizations

Frequently Asked Questions

Great question! When I say ‘we’ what does that mean anyway? We means me (Jess Birken) and our employees and the extended team. That includes my Firm Manager; my Client Success Paralegal, who will manage most of your projects; and, my associate who'll work with you on drafting and problem solving. Our extended team includes a network of experienced attorneys and business professionals – we bring in the help we need to make sure we are as full service as possible.

The business pros help us create our outstanding systems (like the member portal and online automations). They help me keep your costs reasonable so I can offer services that are affordable to large and small nonprofits alike.

The extended network of attorneys are experts in their area, so, for example, if we work on an employee handbook it’s not just me doing that work but I’m being backed up by some of the brightest lawyers in employment law. They work behind the scenes and allow me to offer a comprehensive suite of legal services.

That means you only have to worry about one law firm relationship, one vendor account in your AP process and feel like your strategic partner has a finger on the pulse of life at your organization. And that’s what I love about it – we get to know you and your org and help you stay on track, keeping the mission work moving forward.

Member consults are a quick question or assessment of any new issue. Now you can vet every new issue and not worry about the cost. We make it easy to schedule online. Simply choose any time that works best for you.

Yes! New, Growing and Established members may schedule as many as needed. Our goal is to help you get the advice you need early to head off expensive messes later. Each member consult is valued at over $115 but free for members. Member consults are 15-minute calls and are for new issues only (we’ll let you know if something needs to be a project) we want you to get your money’s worth out of the subscription – use the calls!

Members log into our secure member portal. In the portal you’ll find the forms that match your subscription level. You can ‘purchase’ any of these forms for free through the portal. Get what you need, 24/7 – no need to wait for us to email you.

We have a library of apps which generate documents for you – forms and policies etc. These are customized to your needs as you answer questions in the app. At the end of the questionnaire you get a customized document. The apps you have access to depend on what your subscription level is. These documents are forms, policies or contracts that our clients commonly need. They are drafted by lawyers with nonprofits in mind – so you don’t have to worry if it’s going to work for you, protect your interests, or meet industry standards.

You receive the document in editable MSWord format. Examples of documents you can generate with the apps include:

  • conflict of interest policies
  • participant waivers
  • photo releases
  • independent contractor agreements
  • one time use facility rental agreements
  • extended term space or facility rental agreements
  • grant awards or subawards
  • confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements
  • community garden agreements
  • board meeting agendas, minutes, or resolutions, etc.
  • and so much more!!

If a subscriber asks for something that we don't offer, but we think most subscribers would benefit from it, we'll build it. The list of stuff in the library really grows all the time.

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 revised document in Word format.

Our menu of flat fee services we offer frequently. This 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. New Org subscribers have access to a limited menu of startup needs like entity formation, bylaws drafting, application for IRS tax exemption, etc. If you need something that’s not on our menu, we’ll draw up a scope of work and a price for the work. As a member you get a substantial discount on pricing too!

No. Your membership is month to month. For New Organization members we typically recommend that we reassess your member level when you’ve been a member for 24 months to assess if you’ve transitioned to a growing member activity level. Memberships never expire, they are paid month-to-month and you can cancel at any time. You can manage your account directly in the member portal

If membership is not working for you anymore you can contact us about changing your subscription level or cancel at any time. You will lose your access to the member portal and your licenses to use the member badge and all licenses for use of copyrighted content in the portal will terminate immediately. All perks of membership will terminate including any complimentary services and discounted pricing. Any scheduled project services that were already paid for will be performed of course. All flat fee work will be completed as ordered, regardless of membership status. Cancelling a membership does not mean you’re not eligible to be a client of the firm. You can still work with Birken Law Office the “old fashioned” way – no worries!

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’s resources. The website code is in the member portal and you (or your web developer) simply install it on any page of your website.

We file online 990-N (aka: 990 postcards) for our New Organization members. 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.

When you become a client, you'll sign an engagement agreement as you would with any other law firm. When you become a subscriber, you'll also agree to our subscription site Terms of Use, available at https://missionguardian.com/terms-of-use/.

We're happy to answer them! Please call 612.200.3679 and ask to speak with our New Client Specialist