Getting Your Nonprofit Organization Off The Ground

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If you see a need in your community, whether it's feeding the homeless, funding research on the environment or providing shelter for animals, you may want to consider starting your own nonprofit organization. Here are some steps to get you started.

Find a name for you're not for profit organization and register it. Your state should have a corporations division overseen by the secretary of state. This is where you'll want to call to see if the name you had in mind is taken or available. Some states charge a fee to reserve a corporation name, so be sure to ask how much things cost. Also, be careful that your nonprofit organization's name does not sound too similar to another corporation's name in your state. Names for corporations can be very confusing when they are too similar and legal issues can come up because of it.

Call a meeting to get yourself organized. Most states require that not for profit organizations have at least two board members, so call a meeting with people who also support your cause and appoint board members. This first meeting is also the best time to decide how and when you will build this organization. Decide how you will pay for any necessary costs such as filing fees or legal consulting. Be sure to document or record everything that is discussed in this meeting.

Develop corporate bylaws and a formal mission statement for your nonprofit organization. Websites such as and offer tutorials and information on the web for developing corporate bylaws and filing incorporation documents, or will even help you live for a small fee. Team up with a legal representative for you is not for profit organization. This legal representative is formally known as either an agent for service or agent for process.

Set up a mailing address and contact information for your nonprofit organization. All businesses should have phone, e-mail and mail information attached to them for contact, and not for profit organizations are no exception. Depending on your initial budget, you can either rent office space or just a mail box from either the post office or a mailing center. Be sure to separate your nonprofit organization's telephone number from your own by either getting a landline or a less expensive internet phone service number. Creating a new e-mail address for your nonprofit organization for free with any numbers of web hosting companies is a good idea.

Apply for state and federal Employer Identification Numbers (EIN). You can find the forms you need online at the Internal Revenue Service's website. The form you need is SS-4. Be sure to apply for your EIN before you apply for state incorporation. You may separately apply for a state-issued tax or entity identification number.
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