Nonprofit Startup Guide

This page was last fact-checked September 17, 2013.

If you’re looking to start a nonprofit, you’re in the right place. This guide will help you choose a nonprofit structure, file formation documents, register for taxes, and register for fundraising.


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Below is an overview of the process.

The first step in starting a nonprofit is exploring the types of structures available. Choose a legal structure and your desired 501(c) tax exemption. It is important to decide your target 501(c) tax exemption before you form your nonprofit because you must often add provisions to satisfy IRS requirements.

Next, create nonprofit organizational documents. File articles of incorporation with your state government to create your corporation. Approval finalizes your organization’s name. Then create your bylaws. Hold your organizational meeting to elect directors, appoint officers, and adopt the bylaws.

You must obtain tax identification numbers for federal and state taxation. You need to obtain an EIN from the IRS. Some states provide a consolidated registration for all state tax accounts and IDs, while others require you to apply for each state tax account required.

You’ve probably heard about applying for 501(c) federal income tax exemption. This is the most difficult step of setting up a nonprofit. We'll help you navigate this time-consuming and expensive process.

Did you know there are also a variety of state and local tax exemptions for nonprofits? Our state-by-state guides provide the information you need.

Finally, before soliciting funds or hiring solicitors, you must often complete charitable solicitation registration in each state where you will raise funds. It is a common misconception to think that all charitable contributions are tax-deductible, but that is not the case; you may need to obtain a determination letter from the IRS.



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