Mary Tovella Dowling, Esq.


Mary Tovella Dowling is a passionate advocate for her clients, across various industries and sectors.

Ms. Dowling chairs the firm’s Estate Planning Practice Area and she co-chairs the firm’s Nonprofit Practice Area.

Ms. Dowling holds a B.S., cum laude, in Business Management from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, and a J.D., cum laude, from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Using her unique background that couples a strong understanding of business with her legal skills, Ms. Dowling is able to combine her areas of expertise to help her clients create, manage, and maintain successful business pursuits across various sectors.

Ms. Dowling represents a wide variety of public charities, private foundations, and other nonprofit organizations, including museums, religious and faith-based organizations, social welfare organizations, sports-based organizations, business leagues, educational institutions and social clubs. Her practice focuses on providing full-service representation and outside general counsel services advising on a full range of nonprofit and tax-exempt legal issues with an emphasis on federal, state and local tax laws, including entity formation, applications for federal and state exemption, unrelated business income planning, compliance with public support tests, property tax exemption, nonprofit corporate governance, contracts, joint ventures and corporate compliance.

In addition to her representation of exempt organizations, Ms. Dowling represents social enterprises and other corporate clients on various transactions including business formation, contracts, mergers and acquisitions, dissolutions, joint ventures, and corporate compliance.

Teaching Engagements


  • California Bar
  • Arizona Bar

Speaking Engagements

University of San Diego Nonprofit Governance Symposium (January 2020)

“Responding to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Embracing Alternative Funding Structures to Create Long Term Sustainability”

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, representing the most significant tax code overhaul in over three decades, has had significant effects on US taxpayers, including nonprofit organizations. With the effect of the Act resulting in a stark reduction of donor dollars, traditional fundraising methods are proving inadequate to maintain a sustainable sector. This session will analyze how nonprofits are being pushed out of the comfort zone of traditional fundraising models and forced to think outside of the box to adopt non-traditional revenue streams to ensure a sustainable future. This session will further explore various legal vehicles available, such as joint ventures, social enterprises, cause-related marketing and other strategic alliances, and address how to navigate the legal obstacles that each one may present.

“When Things Go Awry – Handling Rogue Board Members and Board Disputes”

Once an organization has its Board of Directors in place, it is smooth sailing from there, right? Not always! In this session, we will address Board governance conflicts and disputes, and how to effectively and efficiently address them while maintaining a healthy and compliant organization.  This workshop will analyze how to spot potential disputes, conflicts of interest, or rogue activity before they escalate, deescalating hostile situations prior to litigation and understanding the paths a dispute could take, including the basics of litigation.

University of San Diego Nonprofit Governance Symposium (January 2017; January 2019):

“Do It Right From the Get Go – Legal Compliance Considerations”

Workshop leader and speaker at the annual Nonprofit Governance Symposium at the University of San Diego. This workshop outlined annual compliance requirements for nonprofit organizations as to IRS, Franchise Tax Board, and Attorney General filings. The workshop was intended to provide guidance to help nonprofit entrepreneurs ensure proper maintenance of tax-exempt status by providing an overview on how to reduce overall legal risks and liabilities commonly faced by nonprofit organizations. This workshop also discussed employment issues surrounding staff, volunteers and independent contractors, the necessity of internal policies and insurance coverage, common provisions that should be included in every contract, as well as, licensing and permitting requirements.

Events with Benefits Podcast (January 25, 2017)

“Fundraising Legal Considerations”

Primary guest on nationally syndicated podcast designed to supply nonprofit staff, volunteers, event planners and more with cutting-edge event fundraising insights. Discussion of potential legal obstacles to fundraising and donor solicitations by nonprofit organizations.

San Diego AMA Cause Conference (May 19, 2016):

“Cause Marketing: Taking Advantage of the Halo Effect

Keynote speaking engagement at the national conference addressing the full spectrum of cause-related marketing opportunities available to businesses, as well as a discussion of how to turn corporate charitable giving into a co-marketing opportunity. Discussion of the importance of preparing for and navigating the legal obstacles to achieve cause-marketing compliance for socially conscious enterprises. Overview of various cause-related marketing vehicles for nonprofit/for-profit strategic ventures.

This Week in Marketing by wsRadio (March 29, 2016):

“Marketing With a Purpose”

Primary guest on the nationally syndicated radio program for discussion and interview related to legal obstacles facing socially conscious enterprises employing cause-marketing strategies. Discussion of the value of strategic partnerships and various cause-related marketing platforms for socially conscious entrepreneurs.

San Diego County Bar Association: CLE(August 31, 2016):

“Nuts and Bolts: How to Set Up a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization”

Primary presenter at Continuing Legal Education Event sponsored by the San Diego County Bar Association to provide practicing attorneys with an overview of the legal requirements for obtaining tax-exempt status for clients. The presentation included discussion of the entity formation process, necessary applications and filing requirement for federal and state recognition of tax-exemption, key considerations for legal practitioners to obtain and maintain tax-exempt status for clients, recent changes to California and federal nonprofit law.

Southern California Youth Rugby Annual Conference (September 18, 2016):

“How to Keep Your Sports-Based Nonprofit Organization Compliant”

Primary presenter at the regional conference of youth rugby organizations in Southern California. This presentation outlined state and federal tax-exempt compliance requirements and other considerations specific to sports-based nonprofits organizations. The presentation included an in-depth discussion of legal distinction between membership organizations and non-membership organizations in the context of sports-based nonprofits.