Start Your Louisiana Nonprofit

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How to Start a Nonprofit in Louisiana

Welcome to our Louisiana 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 17,000 nonprofit organizations in Louisiana 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 Louisiana. 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: Louisiana Secretary of State - Commercial Division
    Name search
    Suffix:

    Shall not contain the words "bank," "banking," "banker," "savings," "trust," "deposit," "insurance," "mutual," "assurance," "indemnity," "casualty," "fiduciary," "homestead," "building and loan," "surety," "security," "guarantee," "cooperative," "state," "parish," "redevelopment corporation," "electric cooperative," or "credit union.". Louisiana RS §204

  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.

    Louisiana director requirements:
    • Number: minimum 3. If there are less than 3 members, the minimum number of directors is equal to the minimum number of members.
    • Qualifications: Natural person. No residency requirement. No membership requirement.
    • Term: default is 1 year, 5 year maximum
    • Quorum: majority
    • Committee: minimum 2 directors
    Louisiana officer requirements:
    • A president, a secretary and a treasurer, and optionally one or more vice presidents.
    • The officer need not be a director.
    • The treasurer may be a corporation.
    • Two or more offices may be held by the same individual, but this person may only sign instruments in one capacity when the signatures of two officers are required.
  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 Louisiana registered agent office is located in Lafayette, LA. 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:Louisiana Secretary of State - Commercial Division
    Form:

    Articles of Incorporation-Louisiana Nonprofit

    Filing method:

    Mail, fax, in-person, or online

    State fee:

    $75 + optional $30-$50 expedite fee

    Turnaround:

    ~1 week. ~24 hours for $30 expedite fee. While-you-wait with in-person filing for $50 expedite fee.

    Law:

    Louisiana Revised Statues (RS) - Title 12: Corporations and Associations - Chapter 2: Nonprofit Corporation Law

    Original Ink Signature:Required
    Notes:

    When filing by mail, include:

    • Articles of incorporation
    • Transmittal Information cover form
    • Registered agent’s affidavit and acknowledgment of acceptance
    • Notarized signature
  5. File With the Recorder of Mortgages

    Within 30 days of filing the Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State’s office, a copy of the Articles of Incorporation certified by the Secretary of State and a copy of the Certificate of Incorporation must be filed with the office of the recorder of mortgages in the parish where the corporation’s registered office is located.

    Law: LRS §12:205
  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)
    Form:

    IRS Form SS-4

    Filing method:

    Mail, phone, fax, or online.

    IRS fee:

    $0

    Turnaround:

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

    Notes:

    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. Consider purchasing a Nonprofit Records Kit that makes it easy to keep track of documents.

  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 Louisiana State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

    Louisiana offers a consolidated state tax registration application.

    Submit to: Louisiana Department of Revenue
    http://www.rev.state.la.us/
    Form: Form R-16019: Application for Louisiana Revenue Account Number
    Filing Method: Mail or online
    Fee: $0
    Turnaround: ~3 business days online or ~4-6 weeks by mail
  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)
    Form:

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

    Instructions:

    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:

    Mail

    State fee:

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

    Turnaround:

    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. 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:Louisiana Department of Revenue
    Notes:

    To obtain exemption from Louisiana corporate income tax, simply submit your IRS Determination Letter to the Louisiana Department of Revenue.

    To file to obtain Sales Tax Exemption:

    Local name:Sales Tax Exemption
    Agency:Louisiana Department of Revenue
    Form:

    Form R-1048: Application for Exemption from Collection of Louisiana Sales Tax at Certain Fund-Raising Activities

    State fee:

    $0

    Notes:

    In general, Louisiana nonprofits are not exempt from sales and use tax. You can request an exemption for a fundraiser. This exemption should be filed at least 2 weeks prior to a fundraising activity.

  13. 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 in essential, but you may also need to register other states depending on the scope of your organization.

    About This License

    Agency:Louisiana Department of Justice - Public Protection Division - Charities
    Exemptions:

    Only nonprofits using professional solicitors will need to register. In addition, Louisiana exempts:

    1. Religious institutions
    2. Educational institutions
    3. Hospitals and volunteer health organizations

    Check the law for the full list of exemptions and exemption criteria. (No filing if exempt.)

    Law:

    Louisiana Revised Statutes Ann. §§ 51:1901-1902; Louisiana Administrative Code, Title 16, Part III, §515

    To file in Louisiana:

    Form:

    Your submission packet should include:

    • URS multi-state registration
    • A copy of all contracts with professional solicitors
    • A copy of the most recent IRS 990
    • A copy of the IRS Determination Letter
    • A copy of the Bylaws
    • A copy of the Articles of Incorporation
    • List of other states in which your organization is registered
    • $25 state fee
    Filing method:

    Mail

    State fee:

    $25

    Notes:
    • Make sure to include all required attachments
    • Include signatures as required in the URS form instructions
    • Some Louisiana counties and municipalities may require charities that solicit in-person to register prior to fundraising.

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

  14. 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.

    Louisiana nonprofits who wish to conduct bingo, raffles, and other charitable gaming must register with the Louisiana Office of Charitable Gaming by filing Form OCG2000: Application to Conduct Charitable Gaming ($75 state fee).


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 Louisiana nonprofit compliance guide to learn more!

Harbor Compliance® proudly partners with the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations to provide insightful resources and compliance solutions to nonprofits in Louisiana.


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Fast Facts

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


Paperwork
  • Form 395: Non-profit Corporation Articles of Incorporation
  • Initial report with recorder of mortgages
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Obtain an EIN
  • IRS Form 1023: 501(c) Tax Exempt Application
  • IRS Determination Letter
  • Form R-16019: Application for Louisiana Revenue Account Number
  • Form R-1048: Application for Exemption from Collection of Louisiana Sales Tax at Certain Fund-Raising Activities
  • URS Charitable Registration, if applicable
  • Louisiana Charitable Registration, if required

Cost
  • Incorporation: $75 + optional $30-$50 expedite fee
  • 501(c): $275 or $600 IRS fee
  • Louisiana Charitable Registration: $25 (no filing if exempt)

Time
  • Incorporation: ~1 week. ~24 hours for $30 expedite fee. While-you-wait with in-person filing for $50 expedite fee.
  • 501(c): 2 weeks to 3 months


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