Obtaining Records Through FOIA As A Non-Profit

Today, I’m going to talk about the special needs of nonprofit organizations, often called 501c3 organizations or not for profit organizations. You can think about in your community how many different organizations are out there that are in that category. They’re not in business to make money. They’re not in business to make a profit. But typically, they have a very important mission that they’re trying to accomplish. Maybe they’re trying to help people who have cancer. Maybe they’re trying to protect the environment. Maybe they’re trying to make America a less unequal society. Maybe they have a role in some way in our community or in our country to do something worthwhile.
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Our law firm has represented a large number of nonprofits who have varying types of missions, but we like to inform them that they have that special relationship with the Freedom of Information Act that other people don’t have. What am I talking about? Well, when a nonprofit that has, say a mission of protecting the environment, when they go about their work of making a request for records or do their administrative appeal when they get to the judicial review stage, they’re in that special category where we can do a fee shift for them. We can represent them without it costing them the attorney fees, and we only receive our attorney fees when we win.


An example would be one of our clients, Debbie Coffey, who is an advocate for wild horses. These are the wild horses that live on the beaches of Virginia and Maryland or more commonly in the wild spaces in the American West. She’s dedicated her life to trying to protect these wild horses. She’s made a lot of requests. We’ve represented her on judicial reviews, and she’s raised the money for the costs, roughly $500 for a judicial review. All of our time has been paid by the people who denied her the records that she needs to promote the protection of wild horses.