Start Your Georgia Nonprofit

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How to Start a Nonprofit in Georgia

Welcome to our Georgia Nonprofit Startup Guide! If you’re passionate about helping others and have an idea to serve your community, starting a nonprofit is a great way to turn your vision into a reality. There are many different types of nonprofits - religious, educational, human service oriented, animal welfare, and more. What all nonprofits have in common is a focus on helping others and benefiting their community. You are genuinely committed to these goals so you are already well on your way!

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there were over 57,000 nonprofit organizations in Georgia in 2012. Before you start a new nonprofit, make sure you have identified an unmet need in your community and know that there are not any existing organizations serving your cause. If another organization exists, consider working together, as that may be a better way to make an impact in your community and use existing resources.

When you are ready to start your nonprofit, plan to incorporate and apply for 501(c)(3) status, as these are important steps to fully achieve your goals. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, you will be able to apply for grants and accept donations, be exempt from federal corporate income tax, and limit the liability of your organization’s officers and directors. Most importantly, you will gain credibility and legitimacy for your cause, instilling the public with confidence in your organization.

This guide will walk you through the basic steps to start your nonprofit in Georgia. Let’s get started!

  1. Name Your Organization

    Your organization’s name establishes its brand and is also important for incorporating with the state. The legal name of your nonprofit corporation may not conflict with any other organization registered in the state. Make sure the name is available and meets state requirements.

    Name Search: Georgia Secretary of State
    Name search

    Must contain the word "corporation," "incorporated," "company," or "limited," or the abbreviation "Corp.," "Inc.," "Co.," or "Ltd.," or words or abbreviations of like import in a language other than English. 
    O.C.G.A. §14-3-401

  2. Recruit Incorporators and Initial Directors

    The incorporator is the person who signs the Articles of Incorporation for your nonprofit. You will need at least one, but can have more than one. Directors make up the governing body of your nonprofit corporation and are stakeholders in your organization’s purpose and success. You’ll want to identify three, unrelated individuals to meet IRS requirements. You will also want to be aware of any age or residency requirements.

    Georgia director requirements:
    • Number: minimum 1
    • Qualifications: Natural person 18 years of age or older. No residency requirement. No membership requirement.
    • Term: 1 year
    • Quorum: majority
    • Committee: minimum 1 director
    Georgia officer requirements:
    • Defined in articles or bylaws. One officer prepares minutes of the directors' and members' meetings and authenticates records of the corporation.
    • Two or more offices may be held by the same individual.
  3. Appoint a Registered Agent

    A registered agent is responsible for receiving legal notices on behalf of your organization. The appointed registered agent must be physically located in the state and maintain an office that is open during regular business hours. As a nationwide registered agent, our service is designed to receive your legal documents and provide secure access to those documents through your online account. Our local Georgia registered agent office is located in Atlanta, GA. We offer registered agent service independently or as part of our nonprofit formation packages.

  4. Prepare and File Articles of Incorporation

    Your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation officially mark the creation of your organization. They document where and when the organization was formed and capture other information necessary to verify its existence. While requirements for language vary from state-to-state, there are some basic provisions that the IRS will look for when you apply for 501(c)(3) exemption. It is important to customize the articles for your organization and make sure you meet the state and IRS requirements. Meeting these requirements from the start will help avoid having to make amendments later or risk getting your 501(c)(3) application rejected. Some states will also require you to publish your articles of incorporation, so be mindful of any deadlines and publishing instructions.

    Agency:Georgia Secretary of State

    Application - Certificate of Authority for Profit or Nonprofit Corporation (CD 236)

    Filing Method:

    Mail, in-person or online.

    Agency Fee:



    ~5-12 business days


    Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) - Title 14: Corporations, Partnerships, and Associations - Chapter 3: Nonprofit Corporations


    To file by mail submit GA Data Transmittal Form 227, the original and one copy of the articles, and $100 filing fee.

  5. Publish Incorporation

    Georgia requires new domestic nonprofit corporations to publish notice of incorporation no later than the next business day after filing articles of incorporation.
  6. File Initial Report

    After filing articles of incorporation, you must file an initial report.

    Agency:Georgia Secretary of State

    Initial Annual Registration

    Filing Method:

    Mail or Online

    Agency Fee:



    Within 90 days of incorporation.


    O.C.G.A. § 14-3-1622

  7. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

    This unique, nine-digit number is assigned by the IRS to identify your nonprofit. All types of nonprofits will apply for an EIN, not only those that hire employees. You will use your EIN to open a bank account, apply for 501(c)(3) status, and submit 990 returns to the IRS.

    Agency:Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

    IRS Form SS-4

    Filing Method:

    Mail, phone, fax, or online.

    IRS fee:



    Immediately online or by phone. 4 business days by fax. 4-5 weeks by mail.


    The IRS website is only available during certain hours. Print your EIN before closing your session. For additional guidance, see IRS Pub 1635: Understanding Your EIN.

  8. Store Nonprofit Records

    As you launch your nonprofit, you will receive a number of official documents. Organizing these documents in one place will save you headaches down the road. You will soon have numerous items to keep in your records including your EIN letter, bylaws, meeting minutes, 501(c)(3) determination letter, and more.

    A preview of our Records Manager software

    A great way to maintain necessary documentation is Records Manager, our software for storing records securely, tracking directors and officers, and getting notified of meetings.

  9. Establish Initial Governing Documents and Policies

    Your bylaws are the governing document for your nonprofit. They serve as your organization’s operating manual and should be consistent with your articles of incorporation and the law. When your Board of Directors meets for the first time, you’ll review and ratify the bylaws and they will be a roadmap for governance from there.

    At the same time, you’ll also want to create and adopt a conflict of interest policy. A conflict of interest is when someone in a key position in your nonprofit has competing interests and is making choices that could benefit themselves to the harm of the organization. Personal interests should be set aside and organizational interests prioritized. If a conflict of interest does arise, it should be disclosed immediately.

    Your application to the IRS for 501(c)(3) exemption will require that both the bylaws and the conflict of interest policy are approved and adopted. Once they’ve been adopted, safely store them in your Nonprofit Records Kit.

  10. Hold Organizational Meeting of the Board of Directors

    The initial organizational meeting of your Board of Directors will be incredibly productive. At this meeting you will approve the bylaws, adopt the conflict of interest policy, elect directors, appoint officers, and approve resolutions such as opening the organization’s bank account. Important decisions are being made so be sure to record them in the meeting minutes.

  11. Get Georgia State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

    Georgia offers a consolidated state tax registration application.

    Submit to: Georgia Department of Revenue
    Filing Method: Online
    Fee: $0
  12. Apply for 501(c)

    Applying for 501(c) tax exemption can feel like the most daunting step in bringing your nonprofit dream into reality, but obtaining tax exemption comes with many benefits. You will be able to apply for grants and grow your fundraising success in addition to being exempt from IRS income tax. 501(c) is the chapter of the Internal Revenue Code that regulates nonprofit organizations. Like others, you may be most familiar with 501(c)(3) nonprofits, including charities and foundations. 501(c)(3) nonprofits apply using Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ. Review the criteria for each application and make sure you meet the eligibility requirements set out by the IRS. Other types of nonprofits, including 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6)s, apply using Form 1024. After reviewing and approving your application, the IRS will return a Determination Letter officially recognizing your exemption.

    Completing the federal application for tax exemption is significantly easier with the assistance and support of a professional. Find someone with the expertise to ensure the correct application is being used and is completed accurately. A well-prepared application takes time, over 100 hours by IRS estimates, so put yourself on the path to success by finding a specialist to walk alongside you in the journey - from start to tax-exempt finish!

    Agency:Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

    IRS Form 1023IRS Form 1023-EZ, or IRS Form 1024


    IRS Instructions for Form 1023IRS Instructions for Form 1023-EZ, or IRS Instructions for Form 1024.  Also see guidance IRS Pub 557: Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization.

    Filing Method:


    Agency Fee:

    $275 for organizations filing Form 1023-EZ and $600 for organizations filing Form 1023.


    1023-EZ average: <1 month. 1023 average: 3-6 months.

    Tax-Exempt in 2 Weeks!

    Download the case study of how our client, Reform It Now, obtained 501(c)(3) tax exemption in only two weeks using the new IRS Form 1023-EZ!

    From filing the 1023EZ on August 1st to receipt of the determination letter on August 14th is, in my humble opinion, simply breathtaking and I dare say, ONLY Harbor Compliance could have achieved that.
    Dr. Bob A.Reform It Now, Inc.
  13. Report Beneficial Ownership Information to FinCEN

    As of January 1, 2024, millions of entities in the US need to report beneficial ownership information (BOI) to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) as part of the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA). Nonprofits without 501(c) tax exemption formed before that date must submit BOI before January 1, 2025, while those formed after must submit it within 30 days of formation. Once 501(c) tax exemption is granted, the organization may claim an exemption from BOI reporting requirements via an update filing to FinCEN. Our BOI reporting service completes the initial filing and provides support for updating your information going forward. We will:

    1. Submit your beneficial ownership filings to FinCEN
    2. Handle initial filing, updates, and changes as needed
    3. Ensure compliance with BOI reporting requirements for $149 per year

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  14. Apply for State Tax Exemption(s)

    With your IRS Determination Letter in hand, make sure you familiarize yourself with your state’s requirements for recognizing your nonprofit’s tax-exempt status. This is an area where requirements vary state-by-state. Many states issue their own tax-exempt certificate that can be used for sales and use tax purposes, but it may require application and periodic renewal.

    To file to obtain exemption from state income tax:

    Agency:Georgia Department of Revenue

    Simply attach your IRS Determination Letter and Letter of Incorporation to your tax returns.

    To file to obtain exemption from state sales tax:

    Agency:Georgia Department of Revenue

    Georgia currently does not provide a general sales or use tax exemption. A few exemptions exist for nursing homes, hospices, hospitals, and other organizations, and you can contact the Georgia Department of Revenue for a full list.

  15. Register for Charitable Solicitation (Fundraising)

    This is another area where laws differ from state to state, but most states require any nonprofit soliciting donations to register to do so on an annual basis. This means registering in the state prior to soliciting any resident of that state. Registering in your home state is essential, but you may also need to register other states depending on the scope of your organization.

    Georgia Charitable Organization Registration

    Agency:Georgia Secretary of State - Charities Division

    Georgia Code Ann. § 43-17-1

    Foreign Qualification is Prerequisite:No
    Exam Required?Not Set
    Registered Agent (Special Agency) Required?No

    One-Time Exemption Registration

    Exemption Eligible Organizations:
    • Educational institutions and those organizations, foundations, associations, corporations, charities, and agencies operated, supervised, or controlled by or in connection with a nonprofit educational institution, provided that those entities qualify for exemption under IRC 501(c)
    • Business, professional, and trade associations and federations which do not solicit members or funds from the general public
    • Fraternal, civic, benevolent, patriotic, and social organizations, when solicitation of contributions is carried on by persons without any form of compensation and which solicitation is confined to their membership
    • Appeals for individuals provided that 100% of proceeds are turned over to the named beneficiary and that if the contributions collected exceed $5,000, the person requesting contributions shall file a written accounting of funds with the Secretary of State
    • Any charitable organization which does not have any agreement with a paid solicitor and whose total revenue from contributions has been less than $25,000 for both the immediately preceding and current calendar years
    • Any local or state-wide organization of hunters, fishermen, and target shooters which has been recognized as an organization described in Section 501(c)(3) or Section 501(c)(4) of the IRC
    • Any volunteer fire department or rescue service operating in conjunction with a city or county government in this state and which has received less than $25,000 in both the immediately preceding and current calendar years
    • Religious organizations
    • Political parties, candidates for federal or state office, and political action committees required to file financial information with federal or state elections commissions
    • Local community and state-wide organizations affiliated with or acting on behalf of a registered or exempt state-wide or national parent organization by contract or agreement
    • National charitable organizations having a Georgia affiliate registered under this chapter need not register separately with the Secretary of State; provided, however, that all records of such national organizations which relate to charitable solicitations or charitable contributions shall be subject to such reasonable periodic, special, or other examinations by the Secretary of State
    Filing Method:

    Email to


    Georgia Code Ann. § 43-17-9


    To claim an exemption, send the following information to

    • Name of organization
    • Physical and mailing address
    • Phone number
    • Contact person
    • Email person
    • Which rule the organization is claiming for their exemption

    Initial Registration


    Form C-100: Charitable Organization Registration

    Filing Method:

    Mail or online.

    Agency Fee:



    4-6 weeks

    • Only the Affidavit of Applicant must be notarized. Notarization is not required on the Execution Page nor the Control Persons page.
    • Some Georgia counties and municipalities may require charities that solicit in-person to register prior to fundraising.
    Before you Apply:

    Domestic Applicants:

    • Check the available exemptions to see if your charity is eligible for exemption from the full registration requirement.
    • If your charity meets the audit threshold, obtain an audited financial report to submit with your registration application.
    • Look through the list of required attachments and make sure that you have each required document in hand before starting the registration application.

    Foreign Applicants:

    • Check the available exemptions to see if your charity is eligible for exemption from the full registration requirement.
    • If your charity meets the audit threshold, obtain an audited financial report to submit with your registration application.
    • Look through the list of required attachments and make sure that you have each required document in hand before starting the registration application.
    • If you will foreign qualify in Georgia, obtain a certificate of good standing from your home state to submit during the foreign qualification process. The certificate cannot be more than 90 days old when filing foreign qualification documents.
    How to Apply:

    Domestic Applicants:

    1. File formation documents with the Georgia Secretary of State - Corporations Division.
    2. Submit a completed Charitable Organization Registration form and all required attachments to the Georgia Professional Licensing Boards and Securities Division.

    Foreign Applicants:

    1. Determine whether or not your charity will need to foreign qualify based on your activity in Georgia. If not required, skip to number 3.
    2. File foreign qualification documents with the Georgia Secretary of State - Corporations Division.
    3. Submit a completed Charitable Organization Registration form and all required attachments to the Georgia Professional Licensing Boards and Securities Division.
    Required Attachments:
    • IRS form 990
    • Either audited financials, reviewed financials, or a financial statement depending on contributions received during the previous fiscal year (If no funds have been received or collected, attach a signed statement to that effect).
    • IRS determination letter
    • List of officers and directors
    • Control person addendum and 10-year employment history for each control person

    Registration Renewal


    Charitable Organization Renewal

    Filing Method:

    Mail or online.

    Agency Fee:


    • Biennially by the registration anniversary date. If you registered on January 15, 2020, your registration is due by January 15, 2022.
    • Renewals may be filed up to 90 days prior to the expiration date.
    Due Date Extension:

    Due dates can be extended by submitting the renewal form, renewal fee, and a letter that specifies the reason the financial statements cannot be filed and a date when such financial statements will be completed and filed.

    Notarize:Not required

    A renewal notice will be sent in the mail in the month prior to the expiration month. The notice should be returned with all required attachments and the renewal fee.

    Required Attachments:
    • IRS form 990
    • Audited financials (if applicable)
    • Paid solicitor information (if applicable)
    • Citizenship affidavit

    Contract Filing

    Filing Method:

    Contracts can be emailed to

    Agency Fee:



    1-2 business days.


    Charities that contract with a commercial co-venturer for a charitable sales promotion should submit a copy of the contract within 30 days of the contract being signed.


    The agreement must be signed by an authorized representative of the charitable organization and the commercial coventurer and it must include, at a minimum, the following:

    1. The goods or services to be offered to the public;
    2. The geographic area where, and the starting and final date when, the offering will be made;
    3. The manner in which the charitable organization's name will be used, including the representation to be made to the public as to the actual or estimated dollar amount or percent per unit of goods or services purchased or used that will benefit the charitable organization;
    4. If applicable, the maximum dollar amount that will benefit the charitable organization;
    5. The estimated number of units of goods or services to be sold or used;
    6. A provision for a final accounting on a per unit basis to be given by the commercial coventurer to the charitable organization and the date by which it will be made;
    7. A statement that the charitable sales promotion is subject to the requirements of this chapter; and
    8. The date by when, and the manner in which, the benefit will be conferred on the charitable organization.
    How to Apply:

    The charity must be registered to solicit charitable contributions or otherwise exempt for the contract to be accepted.

    Change of Fiscal Year

    Agency Fee:



    Georgia does not track organization's fiscal years, but attach a cover letter to the renewal explaining the change.



    Charitable Organization Withdrawal Form

    Filing Method:

    Mail or email to

    Agency Fee:



    To close out your registration, submit the withdrawal of charitable organization form.

    To fundraise nationally or online, please see our Fundraising Compliance Guide. Our services manage your initial, renewal, and exemption filings in every state.

  16. Obtain Other Business Licenses & Permits

    Running your nonprofit corporation legally also means securing all applicable licenses and permits. The range of local, state, and federal requirements is wide. Access resources like the Small Business Administration Business License & Permit look-up tool and search by your business type and locality.

    In Georgia, bingos, raffles, and other charitable games are regulated by state, county, and municipal bodies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of our clients incorporate on their own and seek our professional assistance with the next steps. In such cases, we review the existing documentation and make any necessary changes. We’re happy to help at any point. Keep in mind, the earlier you enlist our expertise, the more time you’ll save and the greater success you'll experience in the end!

If you have an existing for-profit entity and are looking to transition to a nonprofit, we are very familiar with this situation and can help! Simply sign up for our professional formation services, and your specialist will review your existing entity and assist with the appropriate next steps.

You are not required to use an attorney. You can set up your nonprofit yourself but doing so requires a great deal of expertise and time. The IRS estimates the 501(c)(3) application takes over 100 hours in research and preparation. Enlisting the help of a professional greatly increases your likelihood of success and saves you time. With our professional formation services, your specialist prepares and files your applications for you with guaranteed approval. Take advantage of our track record of 100% IRS approval and get your nonprofit approved, guaranteed!

You’ve made it! You turned your passion into a legitimate nonprofit corporation exempt under IRS 501(c) and are benefiting your community. That solid foundation on which you built your organization requires ongoing maintenance. Investing in maintaining compliance with all of the government agencies is an ongoing responsibility and commitment needed to ensure your vision continues long into the future. Check out our compliance guide to learn more!

Once you have registered your nonprofit per the steps listed above, you will need to maintain compliance with all of the government agencies. Staying current with the IRS and state requirements is an ongoing responsibility. Continue reading our Georgia nonprofit compliance guide to learn more!

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Fast Facts

Below is an overview of the paperwork, cost, and time to start an Georgia nonprofit.

  • GA Articles of Incorporation
  • GA Data Transmittal Form 227
  • GA Notice of Incorporation
  • GA Initial “Annual” Registration
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Obtain an EIN
  • IRS Form 1023: 501(c) Tax Exempt Application
  • IRS Determination Letter
  • Form 3605: Application for Recognition of Exemption (optional)
  • URS Charitable Registration, if applicable
  • Form C-100: Charitable Organization Registration
  • FinCEN Beneficial Ownership Report

  • GA Articles of Incorporation: $100
  • GA Notice of Incorporation: $40
  • GA Initial “Annual” Registration: $50
  • 501(c): $275 or $600 IRS fee
  • Georgia Charitable registration: $35

  • Incorporation: ~5-12 business days
  • 501(c): 2 weeks to 3 months