Karen Donnelly


Karen Donnelly

  • J.D., University of Missouri-Kansas City, 2010
  • B.A., English Literature, University of Kansas, 2002
  • B.S., Journalism, University of Kansas, 2002
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, District of Colorado
  • U.S. District Court, District of Kansas
  • U.S. District Court, District of Western Missouri
  • Supreme Court of Missouri
  • Supreme Court of Kansas
  • First Amendment
  • Nonprofit & Tax-Exempt Organizations
  • Administrative Law
  • Regulatory & Compliance
  • Corporate Law
  • Government Investigations
  • Appellate Practice & Constitutional Law
  • Town Hall for Donor Privacy (2021), The Nonprofit Alliance.
  • Nonprofit Fundraising, Registration, and Avoiding Regulatory Pitfalls (2020), Not-for-Profit and Governmental Seminar, BKD, University of Kansas Edwards Campus.
  • Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society, KCPA Law Day 2019, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Unrelated Business Income Taxation (2018), National Business Institute, Overland Park, Kansas.
  • Donor Privacy under Attack by California Attorney General, Best Lawyers, (February 2017).
  • Intellectual Property and the Social Venture/Non-Profit: registration, protection, and enforcement of trademarks, and how to protect IP in licensing, corporate sponsorships, fundraising agreements, and grant writing agreements (2016), University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law, Social Entrepreneurship.
  • Financing the Social Venture: Crowdfunding, registration, and regulatory issues (2015), University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law, Social Entrepreneurship.
  • Good Governance: Has the IRS Usurped the Business Judgment of Tax Exempt Organizations in the Name of Transparency and Accountability?, 79 UMKC L. Rev. 163 (Fall 2010).

Karen’s practice focuses on First Amendment litigation and regulatory law in the areas of charitable, political, and religious speech. She regularly represents nonprofit and commercial entities engaged in charitable fundraising in public policy matters, civil rights litigation, and appellate practice in federal and state courts. Karen also oversees federal trademark litigation, state attorney general investigations, multi-state investigations, Federal Trade Commission investigations, congressional investigations or inquiries, and IRS examinations through appeals.

In 2023, Karen argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in a First Amendment case involving a statutory ban on charitable fundraising. Karen currently has two First Amendment challenges to municipal ordinances pending before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 2022 and 2023, Karen obtained wins in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on behalf of nonprofit clients soliciting charitable contributions in Texas.

In 2021, Karen coordinated and filed an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta on behalf of The Nonprofit Alliance (TNPA), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and 123 nonprofit organizations across the ideological spectrum in support of the petitioners. Our brief contributed to a victory for the entire philanthropic sector. The Supreme Court facially invalidated California’s mandatory disclosure of major donors as a condition of soliciting charitable contributions in the State.

In 2019 and 2020, Karen successfully represented nonprofit and commercial organizations in federal trademark matters in federal district court and before the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

In 2018, Karen argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in a case involving administrative law and First Amendment claims in the charitable speech context.

Karen also counsels on the formation, organization, structuring and qualification of tax-exempt organizations. She advises clients on nonprofit governance issues, corporate law, regulatory compliance, tax-exempt organizations law, and constitutional law.

She has also worked in the areas of direct marketing and nonprofit fundraising in Washington, D.C.

Karen is the President of the Kansas City Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society. She also serves on the Board of Kansas City-based Nonprofit Connect and the Association of Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City. Karen is an advisor to the Government Affairs Committee of The Nonprofit Alliance based in Washington, D.C. and Chair of the St. Anthony’s Pastoral Council, Lector, and Pre-Cana Minister. In her spare time, she enjoys travel, running, and spending time with her family.