I and a few other people have just been elected to the board of a local exotic bird club. The club has been in existence for at least 20 years, mostly as a social organization for people with a common interest in exotic birds (parrots). Over the last few years the focus of the organization has shifted toward bird rescue and adoption. The new, recently elected board is seeking to revamp the club and formalize the charitable organization functions (bird rescue and adoption, public education about pet bird ownership, working with local law enforcement to prevent animal cruelty, etc.) We are working now on incorporating as a 501(c)(3) and while that is a time consuming and documentation-intensive process, we're pretty confident we can prevail on it. What we're finding however the more we dig into things is that nobody has ever done anything official in the club previous to our work -- ie: there was no consideration
for the tax ramifications of the $20.00 annual membership dues we've received (with 50 to 60 members our bank account currently has approximately $4,000 in it) and the club has never been registered with the Charities Bureau.
We're considering changing the name of the club and the by-laws are going to have to be changed as a means of properly reflecting the requirements of the incorporation. One of the other board members has suggested that we just start over from scratch at this point because we're having a very hard time finding ALL the information we want on the history of the club (paperwork) and we're very concerned over other potential gotchas that may arise the more we dig.
So the question: At a high level, based on our lack of backing info and the knowledge that what we DO know isn't exactly "happy news," do you think it's a better bet to try to rebuild what we have or to start over from scratch.
I realize this is more a matter of opinion than a recital of legal fact, but we're looking for some professional guidance as to which strategy has a better chance of being the path of least resistance..