Erika E. Cole
Ms. Cole has 20 years of experience advising nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations in a broad range of legal matters, including charitable giving, governance, contracts and mergers.
Ms. Cole launched the Church and Faith-Based Organization practice at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston and is one of only a handful of attorneys in the nation who practices exclusively in the area of Church Law. Known as The Church Attorney®, she has dedicated her life to helping churches of all denominations and sizes ensuring that their legal affairs are in order so they can focus on spreading their message, serving their communities, and growing their ministries.
For nearly two decades, Ms. Cole has partnered with ministries to address everything from church planting, new leadership transitions, buying and selling property to succession planning, and helping leadership address the spectrum of governance matters. She created The Church Attorney® Legal Audit System and has also assisted churches and ministries obtain 501(c)(3) tax exempt status with a 100% success rate.
Whether handling an unexpected legal crisis, legal audit or helping churches through the buying, selling and construction of property, Ms. Cole’s philosophy has remained the same: to provide the same level of excellence, diligence and counsel across the board.
When not serving as General Counsel for her clients, Ms. Cole’s activities have included teaching the next generation of lawyers and community leaders as a Professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and Loyola College of Maryland in their MBA Program.
Her calling to support churches and empower leaders propelled her to join a year-long mission in Latin America where she worked with nonprofits, churches and their members to advanced human rights. Upon returning, she started a mission’s ministry at her own church and subsequently participated and oversaw several other mission trips taking missionaries from South Dakota to Namibia.
Memberships & Activities
- Founder and Producer of the Church Compliance Conference
- Editorial Advisory Board for the Christianity Today Church Law & Tax Team
- Appointed to Board of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (2013)
- Appointed to the Panel of Legal Experts for the Commission of Accountability for Religious Organizations (2011)
Presenter: Baptist General Association of Virginia Annual Meeting - Legal Issues in the Church (November 2019)
Presenter: Aronson's Annual Church Conference - Leadership Priorities in a Rapidly Changing Legal Environment (October 2019)
Speaker & Presenter: The Church Compliance Conference by Whiteford, Taylor & Preston (September 2019)
Quoted: "Leadership Transitions: How Churches Navigate Pastoral Change - and Stay Healthy," Barna Report Produced in Partnership with Brotherhood Mutual (2019)
Speaker & Presenter: The Church Compliance Conference by Whiteford, Taylor & Preston (September 2018)
Speaker: i5 Red Leaders Conference (March 2018)
Speaker: Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability Webinar: “Social Media, Church and the Law” (February 2018)
Author: “Succession Plans: Why Your Church Needs One,” Church Law & Tax Update, Christianity Today (March 2017)
Landed on the Top 10 most-read list in 2017 for Church Law & Tax Report of Christianity Today
Author: The Church Attorney’s Guide – Love Offerings (September 2014, Volume 1)
Author: The Church Attorney's Guide – 501(c)(3)
Dwindling membership. Shrinking finances. Reduction of staff. These are some of the immediate results of what often occurs when a nonprofit fails to have a succession plan and its leader makes an abrupt exit. The National Council of Nonprofits warns that “[n]onprofits that are serious about their own sustainability will also be serious about planning for smooth and thoughtful transitions of leadership…”
Erika Cole’s March 2017 article, “Succession Plans: Why Your Church Needs One,” landed on the Top 10 most-read list in 2017 for Church Law & Tax Report (CLTR).
A Giving Statement is a formal written acknowledgement of a donation provided by the charitable organization recipient of the gift. The IRS has made clear that a donor “cannot claim a tax deduction for any single contribution of $250 or more unless the donor obtains a contemporaneous, written acknowledgment of the contribution from the recipient organization.” (IRS Publication 1771). Likewise, tax-exempt charitable organizations are required under the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) to provide written acknowledgements of donations to donors under certain circumstances.
There are only a few rules in Maryland for a legal entity to remain compliant with State requirements. Unfortunately, a variety of reasons including inattentiveness to legal matters, staff turnover and lack of knowledge, yields a high number of non-compliant entities. Though lack of good standing and non-compliance can be rectified, it poses an otherwise unnecessary expense for entities such as churches that often need to count their pennies. And, more importantly, it can cause liability exposure for church leaders personally.
In the wake of the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, the media has been dissecting the response to the crisis – by hospitals, police, emergency transport, concert venue, etc. It is clear that having a plan in place and training on how to execute the plan is vital to an effective response. Recent church shootings make it clear that emergencies do occur in churches. Having a viable response plan in place is critical to the safety and well-being of congregants, visitors and staff and will serve to minimize potential liabilities of the church for failure to appropriately respond.
Please join Erika E. Cole - The Church Attorney® - and Whiteford, Taylor & Preston for The Church Compliance Conference 2018:
Understanding Leadership in an Age of Risk
A Conference for Pastors & Church Leaders
Meet & Greet continental breakfast, breakout sessions, panel discussion, multiple speakers and catered lunch.
Erika E. Cole, The Church Attorney® to Launch Church and Faith-Based Organization Practice at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP
Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP announced today that Erika E. Cole, a preeminent non-profit organization attorney with a significant reputation among churches and faith-based organizations, has joined the firm as a Partner as of July 1, 2017. Mrs. Cole is one of only a handful of attorneys in the U.S. practicing exclusively in the area of church law. Over the course of the past 12 years, she has built a national reputation as The Church Attorney®.