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What are the steps to start a non-profit (From the video)?

  1. Decide on a name, mission, vision, services that we will be providing, whether we are a membership organization or non-membership organization
  2. Register the name of your non-profit with the IRS:
    8. Put our non-profit name into the search tool. Reserve it. The name is not our yet. They will send us an inquiry letter. We need to publish our non-profit's name, and let the IRS know, they will send you another letter to let your know what the whole process actually is. Until they say that the name is actually granted to us, that name is not ours yet. Once we receive the final confirmation of that name, we will need to publish our non-profit's name in 3 different papers. Just publish it in 3 different counties
  3. Article of incorporation: Use the Noah's book. Before sending in our article of incorporation, we need to create our by-laws first. When we send in our article of incorporation, we will need to send in our cover letter as well. That cover letter is $30 and we need to get the certified copy back. The cover letter is also in the Noah's resource book, and it is a plug-in situation where we just plug-in our information. We need to send this to our secretary of state in the state that we file our corporation. Before we send this in, we will want to create our by-laws, and tackle our tax exemption 1023ez
  4. By-laws:
    1. Who will be on our board so we need to have all of their contact information. We need to know our purpose, our mission statement, type of corporation. We need to have our regular meeting scheduled, and our annual meeting scheduled. We need to decide on how regular we want to meet, and when those meeting dates will be. The meeting schedule is just just a rough outline. If things don't work out, we can reschedule later. We also need to decide on what our fiscal calender year will be.
  5. Register for an EIN (Employer Identification Number). When we apply for grants, etc, they will need this employer identification number, and our tax exempt number. Go to and look up the SS-4 form, fill them out, make a copy for yourself so that we can have them in our corporate record book. We will probably want to use an online service to manage our corporate record book.
  6. The 1023EZ form: This is where we need to pay the most attention because this is where most people mess up.
  7. Create the packet for IRS. Need to have a certified copy of the article of incorporation
  8. The 990EZ form. The IRS will send you a letter. Make sure that the IRS calls you a non-profit, not a foundation. They will let you know if you need to file the 990EZ form every year. We can file this form online, and they will send you a postcard.

What are the things that we need to know before starting a non-profit?

  1. Know yourself
    1. What are your values? What do you believe in?
    2. What are your limits / circumstances?
    3. How much time, money and sacrifice are you going to put in?
  2. Why is this important to you?
  3. Not everybody will understand your vision. Expect that other people will question your idea, or your ability.
  4. There is no new idea under the sun. Is your idea original / authentic? Your idea may not be new, but how you execute it may make a different outcome.
  5. Collaboration is necessary. Be willing to collaborate with other individuals / entities. Be willing to spend some of your own money as well.
  6. It takes a village. It takes people of different skill sets. To run a ship, it takes a captain, but it also take sailors. No one can do it all. Not only are other people going to help take some of the workload off your shoulders, but they will also bring ideas and experience to complement your own.
  7. Know the landscape.
    1. Study the field. Who are the keys people, who are the key influencers? Who should you know? Who are the movers and shakers in this fields? What are the issues going on in this field? What are existing solutions? What are the existing legislation regarding this field? What are existing programs that we can take advantage of?
  8. Should it be a for-profit? Should it be a non-profit? Should it be for-profit plus a non-profit arm? Should it be a social enterprise? Non-profits face a lot of scrutiny from the government / IRS. Different type of business entity offer different advantages / disadvantages. What is the best business entity for your organization?
  9. All you need is one YES from a key player / influencer. Never give up.
  10. It is a commitment.

What are the advices for naming your non-profit?

  1. Should be easy to remember
  2. Should be easy to say and spell
  3. Should illustrate the organization purpose or function
  4. Should avoid cultural or other negative condentation or potential acronym (how may people negatively shorten your name)

How to write the “What We Do” statement?

We help “(community that you serve)” by doing “(activities)” so that “(outcome)”

What are the main steps in starting a non-profit?

  1. Research. Before starting a nonprofit, it is critical to examine the need for another nonprofit. This section will help you ask the right questions before embarking on this process.
  2. Key Questions to Ask Before Getting Started. Once you have done research and determined that a new nonprofit organization is necessary, then think like a reporter and ask these six basic questions.
  3. State Forms. Laws and regulations on starting a nonprofit organization vary from state to state. In this section, we provide a brief general primer to help get you started.
  4. Federal Filings: Find links to the federal forms you will need to file to start your nonprofit.
  5. Heavy Lifting: In addition to federal filings, you will need to complete some state paperwork and establish plans, policies, and procedures for your new organization.

What is the first step in starting a non-profit?

Research. Before starting a non-profit, work on your business first. Do whatever it is that you are passionate about. Make sure that is what you absolutely want to do. When you start a non-profit, you will have out-of-pocket expense, and you have other obligations. Determine if your non-profit organization is really necessary. Before starting out, you will need to identify and quantify the need for your specific organization, to research whether there are other groups already engaged in the same or similar work, and to ensure that starting a new nonprofit is the right solution. Is there a demonstrated need in my community for a new nonprofit to address? Just as you would do if you were starting a small business, you will need to define the "demand" and "market" for the services your nonprofit would provide.

What are the 6 basic questions to ask yourself before starting a non-profit?

  1. WHO? Who will be involved? Just as it takes "takes a village to raise a child," it takes much more than a solo founder to keep a nonprofit alive. Having lots of people willing to help launch a nonprofit - as board members, volunteers, etc. - can signal broad community support and a better chance of success. In addition, many states have requirements for how many board members your nonprofit will need.
  2. WHAT? What do you need to do?
    1. Determine feasibility - Consider the economic climate and funding needs for the organization
    2. Continue to develop your detailed business plan, considering all aspects of the proposed plan: mission, organizational structure, 3-year budget, marketing plan, and resource development/fundraising.
    3. Consider potential community partnerships, and the skills needed for volunteer and paid staff.
  3. WHEN? When should you file paperwork? There are three steps which involving quite a bit of paperwork followed by ongoing reporting on an annual basis:
    1. Step 1: Incorporating at the state level (completing the state forms required to create a nonprofit corporation)
    2. Step 2: Securing your tax exempt status from the federal government (Applying for "tax-exempt status" with the IRS)
    3. Step 3: Filing for tax-exempt recognition at the state and local levels (which you can only do AFTER the IRS issues a "Determination Letter" of your organization's tax-exempt status)
  4. WHERE? Where can you get quality assistance? For help filling out and filing the mountain of papers at the state and federal levels, make sure you turn to true experts, not just friends who are free. Your next door neighbor just won an award for her skills as a lawyer, yet being "Prosecutor of the Year" doesn't mean she is qualified to give you advice on nonprofit law. Traditionally, law schools have not offered courses on nonprofit law, meaning most lawyers don't have training unless they have chosen to specialize to some degree in this area of practice (known as the "law of tax-exempt organizations"). Seek help from an attorney or accountant who has direct experience working with nonprofits. You may want to consider contacting your state bar association to see if it maintains a listing of lawyers by specialization, and if so, search for those who specialize in tax-exempt organizations or nonprofit law. Your state association of nonprofits of nonprofits may offer educational workshops on starting a nonprofit or be able to connect you with local experts who can assist.
  5. WHY? Why is a new organization the only way to accomplish the mission? There are over a million charitable nonprofits operating in the United States — each needs a board of directors, funding to operate, and volunteers/employees to keep its activities going. Is starting a new organization necessary? The answer to this question will be the core of your efforts to recruit board members, staff, volunteers, and donors.
  6. HOW? How do you create and sustain a nonprofit organization? This may be the most important question and the answer depends on your business plan. If the organization can achieve its mission in less than three years, it would likely be better as a program housed at an exisiting organization. (Read about the option of fiscal sponsorship, sustainable and sound management practices, and strategic and business planning for nonprofits.)
  7. Before you create a new nonprofit, have you explored whether there is another nonprofit with a similar mission that might be willing to serve as a fiscal sponsor for your organization/program during its start-up phase?
  8. Do I have a solid business plan for my organization? To be successful, a nonprofit needs more than just people passionate about programs. It also needs an infrastructure strong enough to support those programs over time. Accordingly, invest quality time up front to develop a detailed business plan. Such a plan will provide the structured discipline to think through the critically important operational issues. Moreover, once the business plan exists, excerpts can be pulled from it to insert into the federal Form 1023 application for tax-exempt status and in fundraising efforts.
  9. What are the costs to start my organization? Starting a nonprofit will take significant time, effort, and funds. Harbor Compliance has created a helpful chart to illustrate the costs of the necessary filings in each state, along with the anticipated amount of time to complete that paperwork. Beyond those fixed costs will be the costs to get your nonprofit off the ground. What are the infrastructure costs that will be necessary for your nonprofit to deliver services? Will you need office space? What supplies will be necessary? In some cases, special permits or certifications will be necessary to provide certain services. It may be beneficial to consult with a local attorney to get a clear picture of the requirements in your area.
  10. Where will I get not only start-up funding, but also operational funding to continue thereafter? Realtors stress "location, location, location." Founders of nonprofits have another mantra: "funding, funding, funding." Given the ever-growing competition for limited resources (board members are in short supply in some regions; dollars are increasingly scarce), make sure you have a realistic picture not only of what it will cost in time and dollars to create a nonprofit, but also how you will manage the day-to-day activities, and continue to attract revenue into the future. Sustainability may be the most difficult challenge your nonprofit will face.
  11. Can my nonprofit demonstrate its impact? In order to be sustainable, you will need to demonstrate to funders that your organization is making an impact and is worth continuing to invest in. To do that, you will need to measure and demonstrate your impact. It is important to plan for how you are going to measure impact, so that these measurement systems can be in place from the beginning. If you are not sure how to demonstrate the impact your organization is having, it will be difficult to sustain your organization and you may want to consider alternate options.
  12. Is this the right solution for my community? Once you incorporate at the state level and secure tax-exempt status from the federal level, then the real heavy-lifting begins: both internal (such as recruiting and orienting a great board, hiring and managing talented staff, finding and equipping an office, setting up financial structures, etc.) and external (such as registering with the state before you can fundraise, launching your fundraising program, securing any required licenses or permits, making withholding tax deposits, and so much more). Plus, given the heightened scrutiny of nonprofits, you will need to have an ethics and accountability program in place (including policies regarding conflicts of interests, compensation, travel, whistleblower protection, and more). In many cases, there may be better options to accomplish your goal of making a difference. If your research found other nonprofits already working on the issue you want to address, rather than starting another organization and creating even more competition for limited funding, you may want to find a way to work with that already-existing organization. You can donate to the organization, assist that group as a volunteer, join their staff, inquire about opportunities to be part of their Board of Directors, work with them to establish a new or expanded program to reach the people you are hoping to serve, or to investigate the possibility of that organization serving as a fiscal sponsor.

What are the ongoing reporting requirement?

(a) annual filings with state entities (to maintain nonprofit corporation status and to register for fundraising purposes - Read about charitable registration requirements), annual federal reporting to the IRS (IRS Form 990), and submitting any required reports to funders (whether foundations or government) and acknowledging contributions from individual donors.

What are the general steps for incorporating a non-profit?

  1. Reserve/register intended name
  2. File Articles of Incorporation - Some states require supplemental information, such as:
    1. Certificate of Disclosure
    2. Proof of Corporate Name
    3. Filing fees - Be sure to follow the instructions on the forms and include these if applicable.
    4. Extra steps, depending on state: In many states you must publish your of articles of incorporation a certain number of times in a local newspaper, then file proof of publication with a state agency.
  3. Prepare and adopt bylaws
  4. Prepare and adopt a conflict of interests policy
  5. Prepare and adopt compensation policies

What are the requirements for the IRS to grant your tax-exempt status?

For the Internal Revenue Service (the IRS) to recognize an organization's exemption, the organization must be organized as a trust, a corporation, or an association. Is the organization a trust, corporation, or association?

What are the required federal forms?

  1. Form SS-4: Federal Employer Identification Number ("EIN") (needed for IRS, banking, hiring staff etc.)
  2. Form 1023-EZ - For small organizations with gross receipts of $50,000 or less and assets of $250,000 or less (exceptions include churches, schools, and organizations with mailing addresses outside the US).

How long does it take the IRS to grant your non-profit organization the tax-exempt status?

The process of receiving a determination letter from the IRS may take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, and may require submission of additional information to the IRS for them to rule on your application.

What are the state and local government filings?

  1. Before starting operations, review state and local laws to ensure compliance on topics including, but not limited to:
    1. Registering (if necessary) before starting any fundraising
    2. Registering (if necessary) before engaging in any lobbying
    3. Securing (if necessary) permits and licenses required because of:
      1. Goods or services provided (e.g., health care);
      2. Types of clients served (e.g., fingerprinting of employees dealing with children);
      3. Types of employees hired (e.g., educators or health care providers); and
      4. Location (e.g., zoning in certain areas)
    4. Completing state tax exemption requirements (usually must wait until IRS acts)
    5. Registering (if necessary) for unemployment insurance and reporting to officials
    6. Registering (if necessary) to secure any additional tax exemptions (e.g., property tax, sales tax collections, exemptions from paying sales tax)

What are the heavy lifting?

  1. Initial internal issues
    1. Structural - staff, space, services
    2. Setting up systems and policies:
      1. Accounting
      2. Fundraising (e.g., that required legal disclosures are made)
      3. HR and employment issues
      4. Risk management
  2. Regular activities:
    1. Tax withholdings
    2. Board meetings
  3. Quarterly - e.g., reporting taxes withheld (federal/state/potentially local)
  4. Annually:
    1. File annual report with state government
    2. File Form 990 information return with IRS (and any similar form required by the state)
    3. Re-register any required items (e.g., charitable solicitation)
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