Reviews of Hopkins' Books
Kirkus Book Review
February 22, 2018
A NONPROFIT LAWYER
Bruce R. Hopkins
A veteran nonprofit lawyer reflects on his career and the fundamentals of his profession.
Hopkins (Starting and Managing a Nonprofit Organization, 2017, etc.) often encounters bewilderment when he informs
people he’s a nonprofit lawyer, and so it makes sense he would write a book explaining what precisely that means. The
author is inarguably an expert on the topic, having practiced law for nearly 50 years, a wealth of experience chronicled in
the portion of the volume devoted to autobiographical remembrance. After a year attending Flint Junior College in Michigan and a stint working in Washington, D.C., he transferred to the University of Michigan, where he majored in political science (he wishes he chose English literature in hindsight). He graduated in 1964 and subsequently earned a degree in law from the George Washington University School of Law in 1967. Hopkins completed a master’s degree in tax law from the same institution and began teaching university courses and ultimately became a professor at the University of Kansas Law School in 2015, finishing a doctorate there.
Dorrance Publishing Company (378 pp.)
His work experience at seven law firms is also cataloged in great detail. But the bulk of the book is devoted to an exhaustive account of the fundamentals of nonprofit tax law and practice—the last section describes the 150 most fundamental elements. The author’s unfailingly lucid study seems designed for someone considering a career as a nonprofit lawyer—it’s unclear who else would benefit from such a comprehensive overview. The volume as a whole is charmingly, if eccentrically eclectic—Hopkins combines a surprisingly candid memoir with an encyclopedic primer on nonprofit law. He expresses himself in a breezy,curmudgeonly style—he bristles at the conflation of lawyer with attorney and the use of “not-for-profit” in place of nonprofit. Most importantly, the author is a natural teacher and a seasoned writer, and as a result, his overview of the subject is likely as good if not better than any other available. He even supplies a thoughtful account of the political philosophy that undergirds the creation of tax exemption.
An impressively thorough introduction to the
basic elements of nonprofit law.
Kirkus Book Review
August 9, 2018
HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL PHILANTHROPIST
Avoiding the Legal Pitfalls
Bruce R. Hopkins
Dorrance Publishing Co. (146 pp.)
$14.00 paperback, $9.00 e-book
A brief primer focuses on the laws governing
Hopkins (The Law of Tax Exempt Organizations, 2015, etc.) has devoted nearly half a century to advising nonprofit, tax-exempt corporations how to negotiate the legal landscape of philanthropy. But in recent years, the author has noticed more individual clients seeking his counsel, and it is that crowd to whom this guide is addressed. Hopkins begins at the elemental level, taking nothing for granted, including a basic definition of the philanthropist as “an individual who contributes large sums of money for charitable purposes.” For someone who wishes to engage in considerable giving, the legal options available are dauntingly complex: One can form a private foundation, create a public charity, start an account called a donor-advised fund, or confect some hybridized version of all three. The author methodically helps readers articulate what precisely they want to accomplish and carefully weigh the options most conducive to the achievement of those goals. For example, if philanthropists insist on creating organizations over which they can assert maximum control, private foundations are probably the wisest vehicles. But if maximizing charitable deductions is one’s principal objective, a public charity likely makes more sense. Hopkins also discusses the possibility of garnering public recognition for charitable giving without the legal burden of institutionalization by virtue of naming gifts. Furthermore, he assesses the various ways all these options can be structured, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each, and includes detailed analyses of illustrative case studies. His book is both remarkably concise and exhaustive—it’s difficult to imagine a more comprehensive introduction to the topic of comparable brevity. Especially considering the dense, intimidatingly technical nature of the subject matter, the author writes in mercifully lucid prose of the kind one would expect from a veteran teacher. In addition, he points out, with a wry charm, the ambiguities and omissions that bedevil the law: “What is the minimum amount that should be contributed in forming a private foundation? No one knows.”
A valuable and thorough resource for aspiring philanthropists.