Start Your New Hampshire Nonprofit

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How to Start a Nonprofit in New Hampshire

Welcome to our New Hampshire 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 7,000 nonprofit organizations in New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire. 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: New Hampshire Secretary of State - Corporations Division
    Name search

    Not required. 
    292:3 New Hampshire RSA

  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.

    New Hampshire director requirements:
    • Number: minimum 5 voting members
    • Qualifications: At least 5 voting members who are not of the same immediate family or related by blood or marriage (some exceptions). No residency requirement. No membership requirement.
    • Quorum: majority
    • Committee: minimum 2 directors
    New Hampshire officer requirements:
    • Defined in bylaws or board resolution. 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 New Hampshire registered agent office is located in Nashua, NH. 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:New Hampshire Secretary of State - Corporations Division

    Form NP-1 NH Nonprofit Application


    Corporate Division publication on New Hampshire Nonprofit Corporations

    Filing Method:

    Mail or online.

    Agency Fee:

    $25 state fee + $5 city/town fee = $30 total


    ~10-14 business days


    New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated (RSAs) - Chapter 292: Voluntary Corporations and Associations

    • At least five signatures on the articles are required.
    • Submit signed originals to the state.
    • After filing with the Secretary of State, file a copy with the office of the clerk of the town or city in which the mailing address of the corporation is located ($5 fee).
  5. File Initial Report

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

    Not required

  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

    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 New Hampshire State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

    Although you don't have to register with this Department, you must obtain the appropriate state tax forms to file. There are also licenses that must be obtained if you are a meals, rooms or motor vehicle rental operator, communications services provider, or Tobacco manufacturer, wholesaler or subjobber.

    More information: New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration
  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. 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

    If the IRS Determination Letter grants 501(c) recognition, then your organization is also exempt from New Hampshire corporate income tax (the "New Hampshire Business Profits Tax").

    More information: New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration

    To file to obtain exemption from state sales tax:

    Not required

    New Hampshire does not currently have a state level sales tax.

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

    New Hampshire Charitable Organization Registration

    Agency:New Hampshire Department of Justice- Charitable Trusts Unit

    New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated, Title 1, §7:21 through 7:32b

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

    Automatic Exemption

    Exemption Eligible Organizations:
    • Any religious organization which holds property for charitable or religious purposes or their integrated auxiliaries or conventions or associations of churches
    • Government agencies
    • Colleges and universities funded by or associated with state government

    1 NH Stat § 7:19

    • Religious organizations that are exempt from IRS 990 filing requirements are automatically exempted.
    • Organizations that are not automatically exempted may file a Request for Pre-Registration Review to see if their organization qualifies for exemption.

    Initial Registration


    Form NHCT-11: Application for Registration


    Instructions for NHCT-11, Application for Registration

    Filing Method:

    Mail or online.

    Agency Fee:



    4-6 weeks

    • Any nonprofit organization that 1) will be applying to the IRS to be a 501(c)(3) organization and/or 2) will solicit donations or distribute funds in the state of N.H. and/or 3) is formed for any purpose enumerated in RSA 7:21, II is required to register with and report to the Attorney General, Charitable Trusts Unit.
    • The president and treasurer must sign. Signatures need not be notarized.
    • Upon approval, you will receive a Certificate of Registration.
    • Some New Hampshire 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.
    • Appoint a registered agent to receive legal documents in New Hampshire.
    • 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.
    • Appoint a registered agent to receive legal documents in New Hampshire.
    • 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 New Hampshire, 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 New Hampshire Secretary of State - Corporations Division.
    2. Submit an Application for Registration and all required attachments to the New Hampshire Department of Justice- Charitable Trusts Unit.

    Foreign Applicants:

    1. Determine whether or not your charity will need to foreign qualify based on your activity in New Hampshire. If not required, skip to number 3.
    2. File foreign qualification documents with the New Hampshire Secretary of State - Corporations Division.
    3. Submit an Application for Registration and all required attachments to the New Hampshire Department of Justice- Charitable Trusts Unit.
    Required Attachments:

    • Either a copy of the most recent bank statement or IRS form 990
    • Articles of incorporation
    • Bylaws
    • IRS determination letter
    • List of officers and directors
    • Conflict of interest policy

    Registration Renewal


    Form NHCT-12: Annual Report


    Instructions for NHCT-12, Annual Report

    Filing Method:

    Mail or online.

    Agency Fee:


    • Annually within 4.5 months after the close of your fiscal year. So if your fiscal year ends December 31, renewal is due by May 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:

    Due dates can be extended for 6 months beyond the original due date by submitting an Application for Extension of Time to File Annual Report along with the $75 renewal fee.

    • Note the list attachments required. Large organizations may need to provide audited financial statements.
    • The president and treasurer must sign. Signatured need not be notarized.
    • The state does not provide confirmation.
    Required Attachments:

    • IRS form 990
    • Audited financials (if applicable)
    • List of officers and directors

    Contract Filing


    Form PFR-8: Notice of Contract

    Filing Method:


    Agency Fee:



    1-2 business days.


    A notice of contract must be filed prior to the commencement of every charitable sales promotion.


    The agreement must be signed by an authorized representative of the charitable trust and the commercial co-venturer 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 shall be made.
    3. The manner in which the charitable trust's name shall 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 shall benefit the charitable trust.
    4. If applicable, the maximum dollar amount that shall benefit the charitable trust.
    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 co-venturer to the charitable trust and the date by which it shall be made.
    7. A statement that the charitable sales promotion is subject to the requirements of this subdivision.
    8. The date by, and the manner in which, the benefit shall be conferred on the charitable trust.
    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:



    1-2 business days


    Email to update fiscal year.


    Agency Fee:



    Registration cancellations are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but at a minimum the charity must submit a letter indicating the desire to withdraw and a copy of their final IRS form 990 from their time soliciting in New Hampshire.

    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.

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

    Submit to: New Hampshire Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission
    Form: Forms page
    Fee: Varies based on game
    Law: Laws, Rules, and Guidance page
    See also: IRS Pub 3079: Tax-Exempt Organizations and Gaming

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 New Hampshire nonprofit compliance guide to learn more!

Harbor Compliance® proudly partners with the NH Center for Nonprofits to provide insightful resources and compliance solutions to nonprofits in New Hampshire.

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Fast Facts

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

  • Form NP-1: Articles of Agreement of a New Hampshire Nonprofit Corporation
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Apply for EIN
  • IRS Form 1023: Application for 501(c)(3) Exemption
  • IRS Determination Letter
  • URS Charitable Registration, if applicable
  • Form NHCT-1: Application for Registration

  • Incorporation: $30
  • 501(c): $275 or $600 IRS fee
  • New Hampshire charitable registration: $25

  • Incorporation: ~10-14 business days
  • 501(c): 2 weeks to 3 months
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