How to Start a Non-Profit Organization

June 26, 20242 min read

A 10 Step Process To Help You Start and Grow Your Organization

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1. Create a Mission Statement:

Define your nonprofit's core purpose, ensuring it aligns with IRS 501(c)(3) requirements, such as charitable, religious, or educational objectives. A clear mission statement will guide your organization's activities and help in grant applications.

2. Select a Compliant Name:

Choose a name that accurately describes your organization and complies with state and IRS naming guidelines. Check for restrictions, such as required terms like "organization" or "foundation" in some states.

3. Conduct Name Research:

Ensure your chosen name is not already in use by checking various databases, including Google, the Trademark database, and state business registries. This step helps avoid potential legal issues and brand confusion.

4. File Incorporation:

Register your nonprofit with your state's Secretary of State by submitting the necessary incorporation documents. Research state-specific requirements and processing times to ensure compliance.

5. Select a Registered Agent:

Choose someone to handle official correspondence, especially if you're incorporating in a different state. The registered agent must have a physical address in the state of incorporation and be available during business hours.

6. File IRS Form 1023:

Apply for tax-exempt status using the appropriate form (1023 or 1023-EZ). The streamlined 1023-EZ is suitable for smaller organizations, while the full 1023 is for larger or more complex nonprofits. Ensure you meet all IRS eligibility criteria.

7. Draft Bylaws:

Create governing documents outlining your nonprofit's operational procedures, including board member roles, voting rights, and decision-making processes. Bylaws provide a framework for consistent and transparent governance.

8. Create a Business Plan:

Develop a comprehensive plan detailing your nonprofit's activities, funding strategies, target audience, and long-term goals. A robust business plan demonstrates your organization's viability and helps attract donors and partners.

9. Build a Website and Branding:

Establish an online presence with essential pages like About Us, Programs, Resources, and Contact. A professional website enhances your credibility and provides a platform for outreach and engagement.

10. Apply for Grants:

Seek funding through government, foundation, and corporate grants to support your mission. Research grant opportunities that align with your organization's objectives and prepare detailed proposals to increase your chances of success.

By following these steps systematically, you can ensure a smoother process in establishing your nonprofit organization. Good luck on your philanthropic journey!


We invite you to attend a free workshop where we discuss the above strategies in more depth and provide you with an opportunity to speak with our attorneys and tax professionals who operate in the world of foundations, day-in and day-out.

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