Start Your New York Nonprofit

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How to Start a Nonprofit in New York

Welcome to our New York 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 92,000 nonprofit organizations in New York 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 York. 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 York Department of State - Division of Corporations, State Records and Uniform Commercial Code
    Name search
    Suffix:

    "Shall, unless the corporation is formed for charitable or religious purposes, or for purposes for which the approval of the commissioner of social services or the public health and health planning council is required, or is a bar association, contain the word 'corporation', 'incorporated', or 'limited' or an abbreviation of one of such words" NY NPC § 301

  2. Choose a New York nonprofit corporation structure

    New York offers two types of nonprofit corporations:

    Religious corporations New York religious corporations are recognized as a special type of corporation under the Religious Corporations Law. These corporations are created to enable their members to meet for divine worship or other religious observances will be filed.
    Non-religious corporations All other non-profit corporations are filed under the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law. NY NPC Law § 201 provides for four different types of New York non-profit corporation classifications:
    Type A Non-business purposes: civic, patriotic, political, social, fraternal, athletic, agricultural, horticultural, animal husbandry, and for a professional, commercial, industrial, trade or service association.
    Type B Non-business purposes: charitable, educational, religious, scientific, literary, cultural or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
    Type C A nonprofit formed for public or quasi-public purposes (those usually performed by a business corporation)
    Type D Other purposes.
    Multiple Types If the corporation is formed for both Type A and Type B purposes, the corporation is classified as Type B. If any of the purposes for which a corporation is formed would be characterized as Type C, the corporation is classified as Type C even if other purposes of the corporation might be appropriately characterized as Type A or Type B corporate purposes.
  3. 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 York director requirements:
    • Number: minimum 3
    • Qualifications: 18 years of age (some exceptions). No residency requirement. No membership requirement.
    • Term: 1 year
    • Quorum: majority
    • Committee: minimum 3 directors
    New York officer requirements:
    • A president, one or more vice-presidents, a secretary and a treasurer.
    • Term: 1 year
    • Two or more offices may be held by the same individual, except for president and secretary.
  4. 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 York registered agent office is located in Albany, NY. We offer registered agent service independently or as part of our nonprofit formation packages.

  5. Obtain NY Agency Approval

    If the purpose of your nonprofit corporation matches any of those listed below, obtain written consent from the matching New York State agency. You will need to attach the consent to your Certificate of Incorporation (NY NPC §404).

    Purpose NY Agency
    404(a): Formation of a trade or business association. Office of the Attorney General - Antitrust Bureau
    http://www.oag.state.ny.us/
    404(b): Day care, adoption, foster care and domestic violence, neglected or dependent children, programs for the elderly, and solicitation of funds for such purposes. Office of Children and Family Services
    http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us
    404(b): Establishment or operation of any aged care accommodation; adult care facility; enriched housing programs; residences for adults or the solicitation of contributions for any such purpose. Department of Health - Division of Legal Affairs
    http://www.health.ny.gov/
    404(d): General educational purposes including purposes for which a corporation might be chartered by the Board of Regents. ($10.00 fee paid by check or money order.) NYS Department of Education - Office of Counsel
    http://www.nysed.gov
    404(o), (p), (t): Establishment or maintenance of medical corporations or health facilities (under Articles 44 or 28 of the Public Health Law), or solicitation of funds for such purposes. NYS Department of Health - Division of Legal Affairs
    http://www.health.state.ny.us
    404(q): Establishment or operation of a facility requiring licensing by Division of Mental Health or solicitation of funds for such purpose. NYS Office of Mental Health - Bureau of Inspection and Certification
    https://www.omh.ny.gov/
    404(q): Establishment or operation of a facility requiring licensing by Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities or soliciting funds for such a purpose. NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities - Office of Counsel
    http://www.opwdd.ny.gov
    404(u), (v): Establishment or operation of a facility requiring licensing by Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services or soliciting funds for such purposes. Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services
    http://www.oasas.ny.gov
  6. 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 York Department of State - Division of Corporations, State Records and Uniform Commercial Code
    Form:

    Certificate of Incorporation

    Instructions:

    Not-for-Profit Incorporation Guide

    Filing method:

    Mail, fax, or in-person.

    State fee:

    $75 + optional $25-150 expedite fee

    Turnaround:

    ~14 business days. Within 24 hours for $25 expedite fee. On the same day for $75 expedite fee. Within 2 hours of receipt for $150 expedite fee.

    Law:

    NY Code - Not-For-Profit Corporation

    Notes:
    • If faxing, use the Credit Card Authorization form.
    • The NY Division of Corporations accepts check, money order or credit card.
    • When a Certificate of Incorporation is accepted for filing by the Department of State, the organization’s corporate existence begins. The Department of State will issue an official filing receipt that contains the filing date, which is also the date of incorporation
  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)
    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.

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

  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 New York State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

    New York does NOT offer a consolidated state tax registration application. Register for individual tax accounts that apply.

    Guidance: Pub 20: New York State Tax Guide for New Businesses
    Submit to: NYS Department of Taxation and Finance
    http://www.tax.ny.gov/"

    If your organization conducts activities in New York City, register for city taxes with the The City of New York Finance Commissioner.

  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)
    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.

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    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!

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    Dr. Bob A.Reform It Now, Inc.
  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:

    Agency:New York State Department of Taxation and Finance
    Form:

    Form CT-247: Application for Exemption from Corporation Franchise Taxes by a Not-for-Profit Organization

    State fee:

    $0

    Notes:

    Certain not-for-profit and religious corporations are exempt from the New York State corporation franchise tax. You must file Form CT-247 to apply for exemption.

    To file to obtain Sales Tax Exemption:

    Local name:Sales Tax Exemption
    Agency:New York State Department of Taxation and Finance
    Form:

    Form ST-119.2: Application for an Exempt Organization Certificate

    Instructions:

    Instructions for Form ST-119.2 and NYS Dept. of Taxation and Finance - Sales tax exempt organizations

    State fee:

    $0

    Nonprofits can apply for exemption from NYS property taxes through the Office of Real Property Tax Service.

    Overseen by: NYS Department of Taxation and Finance
    http://www.tax.ny.gov/"
    Guidance: Exemption Administration Manual - Nonprofit Organizations (Mandatory Class) and Exemption Administration Manual - Nonprofit Organizations (Permissive Class)
    Form: Property tax exemption forms listing. Start with RP-420-a-Org, RP-420-a/b-Use, or RP-420-a/b-Vlg (see Guidance for choosing the correct form) and attach supplemental forms as required.
    Filing Method: Mail
    Fee: $0

    Nonprofits in New York City may apply for property tax exemption with the New York City Department of Finance..

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

    About This License

    Agency:New York Attorney General - Charities Bureau
    Law:

    New York Executive Law, Article 7a, §§ 171-a to 177, Not-For-Profit Corporation Law § 101 et seq.

    Two NY statutes separately require charitable registration:

    • Article 7-A of the Executive Law (Article 7-A) requires registration of charitable and other nonprofit organizations that solicit contributions from New York State (including residents, foundations, corporations, government agencies and other entities).
    • EPTL: Section 8-1.4 of the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) requires registration of charitable organizations that are incorporated, are formed or otherwise conduct activity in New York State.

    To file in New York:

    Form:

    Form CHAR410: Registration Statement for Charitable Organizations

    Instructions:

    Instructions for Forms CHAR410, CHAR410-A, CHAR410-R and Schedule E

    Filing method:

    Mail

    State fee:

    $25, payable to "NYS Department of Law"  ($0 if exempt)

    Notes:
    • File initial registration or exemption.
    • Note the list of attachments required.
    • The president and CFO / treasurer must sign. Signatures need not be notarized.
    • Some New York 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.

  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.


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 York 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 New York nonprofit.


Paperwork
  • New York Agency Approval of Purpose, if required
  • Form DOS1511-f-l: New York Not-for-Profit Certificate of Incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Apply for EIN
  • IRS Form 1023: Application for 501(c)(3) Exemption
  • IRS Determination Letter
  • NYS Tax Registration, if required
  • NYC Tax Registration, if required
  • Form CT-247: Application for Exemption from Corporation Franchise Taxes by a Not-for-Profit Organization
  • Form ST-119.2: Application for an Exempt Organization Certificate
  • NYS Property tax exemption form(s)
  • NYC Property tax exemption, if required
  • Form CHAR 410: Registration Statement for Charitable Organizations

Cost
  • Incorporation: $75 + optional $25-150 expedite fee
  • 501(c): $275 or $600 IRS fee
  • NYS charitable registration: $25 to solicit contributions ($0 if exempt)

Time
  • Incorporation: ~14 business days. Within 24 hours for $25 expedite fee. On the same day for $75 expedite fee. Within 2 hours of receipt for $150 expedite fee.
  • 501(c): 2 weeks to 3 months

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