Start Your Missouri Nonprofit

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How to Start a Nonprofit in Missouri

Welcome to our Missouri 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 39,000 nonprofit organizations in Missouri 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 Missouri. 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: Missouri Secretary of State - Corporations Division
    Name search

    Not required. 
    Missouri Revised Statues §355.146

  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.

    Missouri director requirements:
    • Number: minimum 3
    • Qualifications: Natural persons. No residency requirement. No membership requirement.
    • Term: default is 1 year, 6 year maximum
    • Quorum: majority
    • Committee: minimum 2 directors
    Missouri officer requirements:
    • A chairman or president, or both a chairman and president, a secretary, a treasurer and such other officers as are appointed by the board. 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 Missouri registered agent office is located in Harrisonville, MO. 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:Missouri Secretary of State - Corporations Division

    Articles of Incorporation of a Nonprofit Corporation and Domestic Nonprofit Instruction Sheet (Corp. 52)

    Filing Method:

    Mail or fax

    Agency Fee:



    ~4-7 business days by mail or ~1-3 days by fax


    23 MO Stat. § 355

    Original Ink:Required
    • You must submit original signatures.
    • There is a discounted fee for organizations founded by active duty military.
  5. File Initial Report

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

    Agency:Missouri Secretary of State - Corporations Division

    Find your company record to print your registration report form.

    Filing Method:

    Mail or Online.

    Agency Fee:

    $20 online. $45 mail.


    Within 30 days of registration/authorization.

    While the report is officially due within 30 days of registration, the standard practice of the Secretary of State has been to extend this due date to within 3 months after the end of the month of registration.


    Missouri Statutes § 351.120.1.


    $15 per 30 days late.

    • Anyone with authority may file.
    • Original signatures are not required.
    • You may elect to convert from an annual to a biennial report during any odd-numbered year.
  6. 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


    Applying for an EIN without a SSN/TIN:

    • Online applications are not accepted if an individual does not have a SSN/TIN.
    • Form SS-4 must be completed, signed, and faxed to the IRS, leaving the SSN/TIN field blank or adding the terminology "foreign" to that line item.
    • To follow up on the application, call the IRS and ensure they received the application. 
      • Depending on the agent you speak with, you may be able to obtain the EIN over the phone. The IRS may then fax the EIN documentation back to you.
    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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Get Missouri State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

    Register for state tax id(s) and accounts.

    Submit to: Missouri Department of Revenue
    Form: Missouri Online Business Registration system or Form 2643: Missouri Tax Registration Application
    Filing Method: Online or by mail
    Fee: $0
    Notes: Get your EIN from the IRS before registering.
  11. 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.
  12. 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 by December 31, 2024, 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 includes up to four initial, updated, and corrected reports per year, ensuring the data you report to FinCEN is updated.

  13. 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:

    Not required

    Missouri nonprofits that file IRS Form 990 are exempt from Missouri corporation income tax.

    More information: Missouri Department of Revenue

    To file to obtain Sales Tax Exemption:

    Agency:Missouri Department of Revenue

    Form 1746: Missouri Sales or Use Tax Exemption Application

    Agency Fee:


  14. 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.

    Missouri Charitable Organization Registration

    Agency:Missouri Attorney General - Charities

    Missouri Revised Statutes Title XXVI § 407.450 - § 407.478

    Foreign Qualification is Prerequisite:No
    Registered Agent (Special Agency) Required?No

    One-Time Exemption Registration

    Exemption Eligible Organizations:
    • Religious organizations
    • Educational institutions and their authorized and related foundations
    • Fraternal, benevolent, social, educational, alumni, and historical organizations, and any auxiliaries associated with any of such organizations, when solicitation of contributions is confined to the membership of such organizations or auxiliaries
    • Hospitals and auxiliaries of hospitals, provided all fund-raising activities and solicitations of contributions are carried on by employees of the hospital or members of the auxiliary and not by any professional fund-raiser who is employed as an independent contractor
    • Any solicitation for funds governed by Chapter 130 (campaign finance law)
    • Any organization that has obtained an exemption from the payment of federal income taxes as provided in section 501(c)(3), 501(c)(7) or 501(c)(8) of Title 26, United States Code, as amended, if, in fact, no part of the net earnings of the organization inure to the benefit of any private party or individual associated with such organization
    Filing Method:


    Agency Fee:



    Missouri Revised Statutes Title XXVI §407.456

    Original Ink:Not required
    Notarization Required?:Not required

    There is no application form for exemption, but charities should cite the exemption category and submit supporting documents (e.g. articles of incorporation and IRS determination letter) to receive an exemption.

    Required Attachments:
    • IRS determination letter
    • Articles of Incorporation

    Initial Registration


    Initial Registration Statement

    Filing Method:


    Agency Fee:

    $15, payable to "Merchandising Practices Revolving Fund"


    1 week

    Original Ink:Not required
    Notarization Required?:Required
    • Even if your nonprofit is exempt, you may wish to have it added to the Attorney General's database. 
    • One authorized signature is required and must be notarized.
    • Some Missouri 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.

    Foreign Applicants:

    • Check the available exemptions to see if your charity is eligible for exemption from the full registration requirement.
    • If you will foreign qualify in Missouri, obtain a certificate of good standing from your home state to submit during the foreign qualification process. The certificate cannot be more than 60 days old when filing foreign qualification documents.
    How to Apply:

    Domestic Applicants:

    1. File entity formation documents with the Missouri Secretary of State - Corporations Division.
    2. Submit an Initial Registration Statement to the Missouri Attorney General - Charities Section.

    Foreign Applicants:

    1. Determine whether or not your charity will need to foreign qualify based on your activity in Missouri. If not required, skip to number 3.
    2. File foreign qualification documents with the Missouri Secretary of State - Corporations Division.
    3. Submit an Initial Registration Statement to the Missouri Attorney General - Charities Section.
    Required Attachments:
    • List of officers and directors
    • Articles of Incorporation or Partnership Agreement
    • Name, address, phone number, and interest amount for those owning at least 10% of the organization
    • Name, address, and phone of each governmental agency registered with during the past three years
    • Name, address, and phone of any professional fundraiser who will solicit (if applicable)

    Registration Renewal


    Charitable Organization Annual Report Form

    Filing Method:


    Agency Fee:


    • Annually within 75 days of the end of their fiscal year. So if your fiscal year ends December 31, renewal is due by March 15.
    • There is no official start to the renewal period, so renewals may be submitted as soon as financials become available for the most recently completed fiscal year.
    Due Date Extension:

    Missouri does not grant extensions, however, charities that will not have completed financials available by the due date can file the annual report using estimated figures. Write "estimated" on the form and submit the renewal fee and once financials become available file an updated copy of the annual report with the actual figures (no fee required to file updated financials).

    Original Ink:Not required
    Notarization Required?:Required
    • Some organizations are exempt from filing the annual report, including those raising <$10,000 in contributions during the preceding 12-month period.
    • Charities that do not submit a renewal by the required due date must go through the reinstatement process. 
    Required Attachments:
    • Name, address, and phone of all professional fundraisers used in the past year
    • Name, address, and phone of all professional fundraisers you plan to use in the upcoming fiscal year



    Charitable Organization Registration Reinstatement

    Filing Method:


    Agency Fee:


    Notarization Required?:Required

    Charities suspected of violating the Missouri Charitable Organizations and Solicitations Law are subject to an investigation by the Attorney General. Upon application from the Attorney General, the court can issue the following judgments: 

    • civil penalty of up to $1,000/violation
    • temporary restraining orders
    • preliminary injunctions
    • temporary receivers
    • having funds or accounts sequestered 
    • restitution to restore loss suffered by injured parties

    Charities that violate an injunction or restitution order face fines of up to $5,000/violation. 


    Charities that do not submit a renewal by the required due date must go through the reinstatement process. 

    Change of Fiscal Year

    Filing Method:

    Phone or email to

    Agency Fee:



    Organizations can change their fiscal year by calling or sending an email and informing the Attorney General of the change. The Attorney General will make the change on the registration. No additional paperwork is required. 


    Filing Method:

    Email to

    Agency Fee:



    A charity can withdraw their registration by sending an email to and informing them that the organization no longer solicits donations in the state of Missouri. All annual reports must reflect the last day that solicitations took place in Missouri before a registration can be cancelled. 

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

  15. 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.

    Nonprofits who wish to conduct bingo, raffles, and other charitable games must obtain a license.

    Submit to: Missouri Gaming Commission
    Form: Forms for Charitable Gaming
    Filing Method: Mail
    Fee: varies
    Law: Missouri Charitable Gaming Law
    Notes: Use the application for the games desired.

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 Missouri 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 Missouri nonprofit.

  • Form Corp-52: Articles of Incorporation of a Nonprofit Corporation
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Apply for EIN
  • IRS Form 1023: Application for 501(c)(3) Exemption
  • IRS Determination Letter
  • Missouri Online Business Registration or Form 2643: Missouri Tax Registration Application
  • URS Charitable Registration, if applicable
  • Missouri Charitable Organization - Initial Registration Statement
  • FinCEN Beneficial Ownership Report

  • Incorporation: $25
  • 501(c): $275 or $600 IRS fee
  • Missouri Charitable Registration: $15

  • Incorporation: ~1-7 business days
  • 501(c): 2 weeks to 3 months