Many people are well-intentioned when starting a nonprofit organization, but do not understand how challenging it can be, so here are some useful tips for how to get started.
Before starting a nonprofit, you’ll need to have what’s called an entity, which is simply a person, partnership, organization, or business that has a legal and separately identifiable existence. Below are instructions for forming one.
Pick A Name For Your Organization
First, you’ll need to pick a name for your organization. This is because every form and application you fill out to create your future nonprofit will require a name. When you are honing in on your name, consider what web domain names are available.
Name Availability And Name Reservation
This step is done at the state level and accomplished through your State’s Secretary of State office. (You can skip this step if you are ready to file your Articles of Incorporation. If you don’t know what Articles of Incorporation are, keep reading.) In many states, it takes just as much time to reserve as it does to file and get the name. Some states offer a name availability check to see if a name is available. Some states offer a name reservation so you can lock in your name, preventing someone else from getting it. Many states also offer a name availability or name reservation online option. Find your corresponding state’s Secretary of State office.
Buy Your Web Domain
Once you have selected a name, you’ll want to purchase a domain name for your future website. While you’re not required to have an online presence for your nonprofit, it is integral to the success of most organizations.
Draft Articles Of Incorporation
You now need to draft your Articles of Incorporation. They typically comprise a one-page document, with many of the paragraphs being the exact text your state wants to see. As each state has different requirements as to what needs to be in your Articles of Incorporation, you’ll want to see a sample specifically for your state.
File Your Articles Of Incorporation
You can take your Articles of Incorporation into your Secretary of State office, or you can mail them in. Turning them in over the counter results in corporate formation very quickly, while mailing them in can sometimes take weeks or months. If you choose to mail in your Articles of Incorporation, you may consider including a cover letter. If you can’t make it to your Secretary of State office and don’t want to wait, you can hire a service to turn them in over the counter for you. This usually costs about $100.
Once you’ve been approved, congratulations! Your organization is now a legal entity with your state. For the next step toward becoming an actual nonprofit, we’ve created a checklist for you to follow.