Ad Alert


'Free' is rarely free.

Nonprofits aren’t exactly known for having lots of cash on hand – the clue’s kind of in the name.

As such, the promise of free legal services for new organizations may be enticing. A reader in just such a situation came across a promising Google ad offering “Free Non-Profit Bylaws,” i.e., the legal document that establishes the internal rules for operating the organization, for their fledgling NGO. Here’s what found when we tried the search:

Looks perfect! But you can probably see where this is going…

After clicking on that ad – and passing an assurance that they’ll get “unlimited updates and copies, for free,” and a testimonial claiming the process was fast and easy – users are redirected to FormSwift, the company actually providing this bylaws-by-Mad Libs service (and the same service our reader had found).

After finally completing the 30-some step process, users are required to make an account in order to save their document. Then, before they can access their new bylaws, they are given a choice:

Apparently, there’s no such thing as a free lunch legal service.

It’s easy to miss the fine print at the bottom of the offer:

Only after clicking this one specific “Choose Plan” link can users find the “free” option – it doesn’t appear as an option at checkout for any of the prominently-shown plans.

The “free” option also requires that users hand over their credit card number so the company can enroll them in an auto-renewing subscription for $39.95 a month before they can access their new bylaws.

( has confirmed that users can print the bylaws using this “free” plan, but only after signing up for the subscription.)

What’s more, the cancellation process for FormSwift (which you can start from the “Account Settings” tab) has confusing confirmation popups, and popups on top of popups.

The bottom line: Always make sure to read the terms of service for any product, especially one claiming to be “free.” reached out to FormSwift for comment. Check back for updates.


You Might Be Interested In