Peri H. Pakroo, author of Starting & Building a Nonprofit, has some suggestions for what legal structures you should use for what agreements.
Where a handshake is probably ok:
- Scheduling a community leader to speak to your group
- Assigning volunteers to help set up and dismantle an event
- Arranging for a local business to donate free coffee and donuts for your board meetings.
Put a contract in writing, using a template or your own draft:
- Hiring a consultant to do almost anything, such as revamping your website.
- Renting a venue for an event
- Hiring a caterer for your annual dinner
Put a contract in writing, but consider getting assistance from a lawyer or other professional:
- Purchasing another business or nonprofit.
- Holding a major event such as a film festival or a trade show with many sponsors and participants
- Buying real estate.
You can find many contract templates on the Internet. You can use them even if they are intended for a for-profit business. One source is Nolo Publishing.