There are several people who want to learn how to start a nonprofit organization but many of them don’t know the steps it takes. Although nonprofit creation is a service I provide, I still think it is important that founders understand the process that goes into creating a solid nonprofit foundation. This helps them know what to focus on when they call on me to help start their nonprofit.
Below are the 4 basic steps to creating a nonprofit.
1. Define Your Mission
This is the first step in creating or starting a nonprofit. Before you can move forward with any paperwork you must define your mission. Ask yourself what age group will my nonprofit focus on, what services will it provide, and what do I hope to accomplish? You need to ensure you are not duplicating a service that is already being offered in your community. In addition, your mission needs to be unique and different from other nonprofits. Once you have this nailed down, you can proceed to the next step in creating your nonprofit.
2. Pick a Name
Picking a name for your nonprofit is crucial. You need to ensure that it is easy to remember so your supporters will not have trouble finding you. The name may also communicate the purpose of the organization. To ensure the name is not taken check your state’s list of existing nonprofits. You can also double-check with the Department of Commerce to ensure a business hasn’t already trademarked the name you want to use.
3. Select Board Members
The third step in creating a nonprofit is selecting board members. Before you can register your nonprofit with the Secretary of State you must have your founding board of directors and officers selected. This will be needed for your articles of formation or articles of incorporation with the state. Keep in mind that each state has different requirements. For example, in Texas, you need a minimum of 3 board members. This is where a consultant like me can help with the paperwork to ensure a smooth application process.
4. Register With the IRS
To receive nonprofit tax-exempt status, you’ll need to file paperwork with the IRS. Depending on the size of your nonprofit and the projected growth you will file a 1023 or a 1023-EZ application. You can find the requirements at the IRS website under section 501(c)(3). In addition, you will need your finalized bylaws and conflict of interest policy for this step.
While your paperwork is pending get out in the community and let them know about your organization. This will lay the foundation for individual giving. You can also begin to plan your first fundraising event. Once your paperwork is secured you can incorporate social media fundraising campaigns. This will help in raising some of the operational costs that will be needed for your organization.
Whatever your nonprofit purpose, you want to ensure it gets off the ground right. As you grow make sure you seek the help of experts. You can hire a consultant, you can join Facebook groups, and reach out to those who have experience serving on a nonprofit board of directors.
I hope you have learned how to create a nonprofit in this article. If you have any other questions about how to start a nonprofit, let me know in the comments. Sharing is caring, someone might have the same questions as you.
If you need to make sure your nonprofit has a strong foundation beyond what I’ve written above, download the Nonprofit Checklist to keep you on track. I also offer nonprofit creation as a service. Get in touch with me if you need a certified nonprofit consultant by your side to get your nonprofit from a dream to done!
If you are a nonprofit professional and want to learn from me and others join the Nonprofit Professional Exchange Facebook Group.
Author’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.