How do I start a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with step-by-step instructions?
Here is one way to start a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the USA.Nonprofit organizations generally must have a board of directors. Find three other people who have knowledge, skills, and abilities that can help the organization and are willing to serve on the board of directors to oversee the organization.Hold the first official meeting of your organizationu2019s board of directors. Elect a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. The president will lead the organization and organize meetings. The vice president leads when the president is unavailable. The treasurer is in charge of overseeing the finances of the organization, preparing financial reports, and making sure all returns are filed promptly with governmental agencies. The secretary keeps important documents and records minutes of meetings. Determine the organizationu2019s mission, vision, and methods of fundraising. Determine who will accept mail on the organizationu2019s behalf (registered agent). Determine what resources (financial and otherwise) the organization needs to fulfill its mission. Prepare the organizationu2019s first yearu2019s budget.Formally incorporate the organization. It is virtually always best to incorporate in the state in which the organization primarily operates. For example, to incorporate in Virginia, you could complete a Form SCC819 (Articles of Incorporation) to incorporate, and send it to the Virginia State Corporation Commission with a $70 filing fee. https://www.scc.virginia.gov/pub...After preparing the Articles of Incorporation, have a formal vote to adopt the Articles of Incorporation. (Keep in mind that most states use the term u201cnon-stock corporationu201d instead of nonprofit organization)Write the organizationu2019s bylaws. Bylaws detail how the organization operates. Bylaws generally include the name of the organization, the mission of the organization, the officers that the organization will have, the duties of each officer, how officers are elected, how long officers serve, whether there will be members of the organization and membership dues to be paid by members, when meetings will be held, how meetings will be conducted, how the organizationu2019s finances will be managed, what fiscal year the organization will use, how often financial reports will be prepared and presented, how the bylaws may be amended, indemnification of officers, whether the officers will be compensated for their work, whether the organization may have any paid employees, a conflict of interest policy, a nondiscrimination policy, what happens if an officer resigns, and what happens if the organization ceases to exist. After writing the bylaws, have a formal vote to adopt the bylaws. (Keep in mind that, many nonprofit organizations are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations so that donorsu2023 contributions are tax-deductible. If this applies to your organization, then the IRS requires certain language in the organizationu2019s bylaws regarding the organizationu2019s purpose and provisions upon its dissolution. See Part III in IRS Form 1023 for more information. https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/...)When the state writes back to you to say the organization is officially organized, decide which bank the organization will have a bank account, and open a corporate checking account there. The bank will ask to see the letter of incorporation from the state and the secretaryu2019s minutes from the meeting when officers were elected.Forty states require a nonprofit organization to apply to solicit charitable contributions from its residents. For example, Virginia requires an organization to register with Form 102 along with a $100 initial filing fee. There is also an annual renewal and filing fee of between $30 and $325 per year thereafter. http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/pd... Alternatively, certain organizations can file a Form 100 instead with a $10 filing fee. http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/pd... (The ten states that do not require this type of registration are Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas (in most cases), Vermont, and Wyoming.) When the state approves the organizationu2019s charitable solicitation registration, the organization can begin asking individuals, corporations, and other nonprofit organizations located in that state for charitable contributions.Generally, within 27 months of formation, the organization should apply for 501(c)(3) recognition from the Internal Revenue Service using either Form 1023 ( https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/...https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/...) or Form 1023-EZ ( https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/...https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/...). Very small organizations need not apply, but almost all other organizations should. The filing fee is $600 for most organizations; organizations who file a Form 1023-EZ are eligible to pay $275 instead. The Internal Revenue Service often takes six to nine months to process and approve the application, but sometimes it can take as little as four weeks. Sometimes the IRS will ask for further information. When the IRS sends a letter recognizing the organizationu2019s 501(c)(3) status, do a little dance, and keep the letter in a safe place. Also keep a copy of the Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ that was filed. Some donors may want to see them, an organization is required to show it to a person to requests to see it. Determination of the organizationu2019s 501(c)(3) status is typically made retroactive to the organizationu2019s date of formation.File a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-PF, or 990-N with the IRS every year, within four months fifteen days of the end of the organizationu2019s fiscal year. Keep copies of previously filed forms in case a member of the public asks to see them. https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/...https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/...(Alternatively, if your organization wants to file as a different type of nonprofit, it may want to file a Form 1024 with the IRS instead. A few types of nonprofit organizations can self-designate itself tax-exempt under certain circumstances, but it is important to look carefully into this if the organization wants to go this route. Keep in mind that donations to organizations that do not have 501(c)(3) status are almost never tax-deductible to the donor. https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/...https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/...)Good luck!