How to Start a Non-Profit Organization

Non-Profit Organization Requirements

Taking the leap into running your own nonprofit can be overwhelming. There are plans to draw up, funds to find and partners to build solid, trust-based relationships with. And there's going to be some paperwork -- maybe a lot of paperwork. But when your life goals and dreams are pointing you in the direction of an exciting, nonprofit adventure, a little time spent getting the process rolling will be easily trumped by the benefits. When you start to feel a little freaked out by the idea of setting up the organization, remember that more than 1.4 million nonprofits are alive and well in the United States -- and they all had to start somewhere [source: Blackwood, Wing, & Pollack]. You can do it, too.

Here are the steps you need to take to get started:

  • Write a mission statement for your chosen organization.
  • Find a group of trusted individuals to form a board of directors.
  • File an article of incorporation with your state. You can find this document on your state's government Web site. There may be a small fee when you send in the form.
  • Write a list of bylaws for the organization.
  • Write to the IRS to request nonprofit status. Once you've been approved, you'll need to apply for the same status through your own state. You may have to fill out other forms or register with other state-run offices depending on where you live.
  • Formally register your nonprofit organization with your state and apply for sales tax exemption.
  • Contact your city government to find out if you need a solicitation license.
  • If you're going to be sending out a lot of mail, you can apply for a nonprofit bulk mail permit from your local post office.
  • Get insurance. There are many kinds of insurance for nonprofits, so do your research and shop around before you settle with one company.

[sources: SNPO, ISOS]

Now that you know how to get started, it's time to think about financial backing. Read on to learn about fundraising ideas for your nonprofit organization.