Start Your West Virginia Nonprofit

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How to Start a Nonprofit in West Virginia

Welcome to our West Virginia 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 9,000 nonprofit organizations in West Virginia 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 West Virginia. 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: West Virginia Secretary of State - Business and Licensing Division
    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 another language. 
    West Virginia Code §31E-4-401

  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.

    West Virginia director requirements:
    • Number: minimum 3
    • Qualifications: None. No residency requirement. No membership requirement.
    • Term: until successor selected and qualified
    • Quorum: majority
    • Committee: minimum 2 directors
    West Virginia officer requirements:
    • Defined in bylaws or board resolution. One officer prepares minutes of the directors' and members' meetings and authenticates records.
    • 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 West Virginia registered agent office is located in Hinton, WV. 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:West Virginia Secretary of State - Business and Licensing Division

    Form CD-1NP: Articles of Incorporation With Nonprofit IRS Attachment

    Filing Method:

    Mail or online

    Agency Fee:



    ~1-2 business days mail or online.


    West Virginia Code - Chapter 31E: West Virginia Nonprofit Corporation Act

    • The incorporation fee is waived for veteran-owned organizations.
    • File the original and one copy that will be returned to you.
  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.

    Fact Checked:8/28/19
  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 West Virginia State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

    West Virginia offers a consolidated state tax registration application for new businesses.

    Submit to: West Virginia State Tax Department
    Form: Form WV/BUS-APP: West Virginia Office of Business Registration (form begins on page 7)
    Filing Method: Mail or online
    Fee: $0 (Nonprofits are exempt from the $30 state fee.)
  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.

    Fact Checked:8/28/19

    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:West Virginia State Tax Department

    Any corporation exempt from federal income tax is also exempt from West Virginia Corporation Net Income Tax and Business Franchise Tax. Nevertheless, a tax exempt organization's annual West Virginia Corporation Net Income/Business Franchise Tax Return is due on or before the 15th day of the fifth month after the close of the taxable year.

    Fact Checked:10/19/16

    To file to obtain Sales & Use Tax Exemption:

    Agency:West Virginia State Tax Department

    Form F0003: Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Certificate of Exemption


    Agency Fee:



    West Virginia uses a multi-state form that is not actually submitted with the West Virginia State Tax Department. West Virginia nonprofits should complete the form and display to sellers, but out-of-state nonprofits are generally allowed to use exemption certificates from another state. The form is rather complex, and not accepted in all states. Be sure to read the instructions carefully.

    Fact Checked:7/20/18
  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.

    West Virginia Registration of Charitable Organization

    Agency:West Virginia Secretary of State - Charitable Organizations Division

    West Virginia Code §29-19-1 through 29-19-6

    Foreign Qualification is Prerequisite:No
    Registered Agent (Special Agency) Required?No
    Fact Checked:1/16/19

    One-Time Exemption Registration

    Exemption Eligible Organizations:
    • Educational institutions, the curriculums of which in whole or in part are registered or approved by the state board of education, either directly or by acceptance of accreditation by an accrediting body recognized by the state board of education; and any auxiliary associations, foundations and support groups which are directly responsible to any such educational institutions
    • Persons requesting contributions for the relief of any individual specified by name at the time of the solicitation when all of the contributions collected without any deductions whatsoever are turned over to the named beneficiary for his or her use
    • Hospitals and licensed nursing homes which are nonprofit and charitable
    • Organizations which solicit only within the membership of the organization by the members thereof: Provided, That the term "membership" shall not include those persons who are granted a membership upon making a contribution as the result of solicitation
    • Churches, synagogues, associations or conventions of churches, religious orders or religious organizations that are an integral part of a church which qualifies as tax exempt under the provisions of 26 U.S.C. §501(c)(3) and which qualifies as being exempt from filing an annual return under the provisions of 26 U.S.C. §6033
    • Any person, firm, corporation or organization that sponsors a single fund-raising event for the benefit of a named charitable organization where all or part of the funds collected are donated to the named charitable organization: Provided, that the named charitable organization receiving the funds is registered pursuant to this article, reports each of these donations individually, and certifies that no funds were withheld by the organization that solicited the funds
    • Any charitable organization that does not employ a professional solicitor or
      fund-raiser an does not intend to solicit and receive and does not actually raise or receive contributions from the public in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars during a calendar year

    WVC § 29-19-6


    To claim an exemption, submit a letter that explains why the organization is eligible for exemption including supporting documentation.

    Fact Checked:1/16/20

    Initial Registration


    Registration of Charitable Organization

    Filing Method:


    Agency Fee:

    $15 if the organization raised less than $1M and $50 if the organization raised more than $1M.

    • Note the list of attachments that first-time registrants must attach to the application. This includes disclosing contracts with professional fundraisers.
    • The CFO and another authorized officer. Signatures must be notarized.
    • Some West Virginia counties and municipalities may require charities that solicit in-person to register prior to fundraising.
    Fact Checked:2/22/17

    Registration Renewal


    Registration of Charitable Organization

    Filing Method:


    Agency Fee:

    $15 if the organization raised less than $1M and $50 if the organization raised more than $1M.


    Renewal is due annually by the anniverary of your initial registration.


    There is a late fee of $25 for each month that passes after the due date.

    • Remember to attach the annual financial report.
    • The CFO and and another authorized officer. Signatures must be notarized.
    Fact Checked:2/22/17

    Change of Fiscal Year

    Agency Fee:



    1-2 business days


    Email the state to inform them of the change.

    Fact Checked:12/7/18

    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.

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 West Virginia 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 West Virginia nonprofit.

  • Form CD-1NP: West Virginia Articles of Incorporation with Non-Profit IRS Attachment
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Obtain an EIN
  • IRS Form 1023: 501(c) Tax Exempt Application
  • IRS Determination Letter
  • Form WV/BUS-APP: West Virginia Office of Business Registration
  • Form F0003: Certificate of Exemption
  • URS Charitable Registration, if applicable
  • Form CHR-1: West Virginia Registration Statement of Charitable Organizations, if not exempt

  • Incorporation: $25
  • 501(c): $275 or $600 IRS fee
  • West Virginia charitable registration: $15-50 ($0 if exempt)

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