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Governing Nonprofit Organizations

Governing Nonprofit Organizations

Federal and State Law and Regulation

Marion R. Fremont-Smith

ISBN 9780674030459

Publication date: 12/15/2008

The nonprofit sector is a vital component of our society and is allowed the greatest freedom to operate. The public understandably assumes that since nonprofit organizations are established to do good, the people who run nonprofits are altruistic, and the laws governing nonprofits have reflected this assumption. But as Marion Fremont-Smith argues, the rules that govern how nonprofits operate are inadequate, and the regulatory mechanisms designed to enforce the rules need improvement.

Despite repeated instances of negligent management, self-interest at the expense of the charity, and outright fraud, nonprofits continue to receive minimal government regulation. In this time of increased demand for corporate accountability, the need to strengthen regulation of nonprofits is obvious. Fremont-Smith addresses this need from a historical, legal, and organizational perspective. She combines summaries and analysis of the substantive legal rules governing the behavior of charitable officers, directors, and trustees with descriptions of the federal and state regulatory schemes designed to enforce these rules. Her unique and exhaustive historical survey of the law of nonprofit organizations provides a foundation for her analysis of the effectiveness of current law and proposals for its improvement.


  • Whether you call it civil society, social capital, or the nonprofit charitable sector, this vital and diverse sector deserves the highest quality of attention by democratic institutions, citizens, and scholars. Marion Fremont-Smith provides the single best resource for understanding the issues raised by government regulation of religions, foundations, social services agencies, hospitals, arts organizations, and other parts of the nonprofit sector. While making a compelling argument in favor of the trend toward federal regulation instead of the patchwork of state supervision and neglect that still exists, the book manifests clarity, erudition, and fairness on every page and should help elevate the study of this crucial part of society.

    —Martha Minow, Harvard Law School, and author of Partners, Not Rivals: Privatization and the Public Good


  • Marion R. Fremont-Smith is Senior Research Fellow, Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. She served as Assistant Attorney General and Director of the Division of Public Charities in Massachusetts, and is a retired partner of Choate, Hall and Stewart.

Book Details

  • 570 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press