This information on this page largely comes from the National Council of Nonprofits.
One of the most common questions we hear at the Council of Nonprofits is “How do I start my own nonprofit?” By following the steps below, we hope that many of your questions will be answered. These resources are certainly no substitute for legal advice from an attorney familiar with the law of tax-exempt organizations in your state. Many state associations of nonprofits offer workshops on this topic or have published guidance either on their website or in booklet form to help founders of nonprofit organizations with basic start-up issues. While we offer the resources here for informational purposes, we highly recommend also consulting with legal counsel to ensure that you are in compliance with all federal, state, and local regulations governing the establishment and operations of a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization.
Step 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.
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.
Step 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.
Step 4: Federal Filings
Find links to the federal forms you will need to file to start your nonprofit.
Step 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.
Resources to assist you in this process include:
- ANN Sponsors (businesses in Nevada with experience helping nonprofits)
- Research the law before you start! For state laws governing nonprofits in your state: www.lawforchange.org
- Started a new 501(c)(3) or considering doing so? Learn what’s needed to keep it on track with this helpful webinar from the IRS: Starting off Right – What New 501(c)(3) Organizations Need to Know.
- The IRS website offers guidance on important regulations to be aware of at various life cycle stages of public charity, as well as required provisions that must be included in the organizing documents of a public charity in order to acheive tax-exempt status at the federal level. The virtual workshops at “stayexempt.org” are helpful both at the “just starting” stage, and later in the life of a nonprofit too.
- An affordable publication by Nolo walks you through the process: Starting and Building a Nonprofit (3rd ed, 2009).
- 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?
- More resources