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How to start a nonprofit organization

This is the last in a series on starting nonprofits and their boards. Don’t do it unless there’s no one else you can trust to take and receipt donations for you.  It’s a fair amount of work and you’ll probably have to hire an accountant to file form 990 to ensure compliance. …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
This is the last in a series on starting nonprofits and their boards.
Don’t do it unless there’s no one else you can trust to take and receipt donations for you.  It’s a fair amount of work and you’ll probably have to hire an accountant to file form 990 to ensure compliance.

There are many organizations engaged in work similar to what God has burdened you with and the easiest course of action is to negotiate a partnership with them so they take care of the receipting and IRS regulations.

If you are bound and determined to get 501(c)3 status with the IRS, begin by checking out their nonprofit FAQ page. Next, review the Life Cycle of a Public Charity.  Next, follow these steps:

(1)  Go on your state government web site and print out the forms to incorporate your organization.  This should be quick, easy and inexpensive.

(2) Go to the www.IRS.gov  web site and print out form 1023.  Completing this form and getting IRS approval is a protracted, tedious process.  Expect an IRS agent to ask you questions along the way.  Or hire a lawyer to fill it out for approx. $3000. 

(3) Do the hard work of defining the purpose of your new organization.  Recognize that, whatever you decide, it will limit the scope of your activities in the future.

(4) Find a template of some corporate by-laws.  Edit them to fit your organization. You’ll need to have a formal meeting of your board where you approve the by-laws and record that action in the minutes.

(5) Although it will probably take many months or even more than a year before you receive IRS approval, the government will allow you to receipt donations retroactively.  So, as soon as you’ve incorporated, assuming the IRS ultimately approves your status, you’ll be able to take donations.

(7) Once you’ve begun the process, you are obligated to file reports with the government.  The 990 is the year-end summary of your activities.  And of course social security must be withheld and filed monthly.
 
Nonprofits in America have a rich history. We are one of the most generous nations on earth and the tax laws have been very instrumental in facilitating our urge to help others. It may look like a lot, but it’s actually not bad compared to many other countries, many of which don’t give tax breaks to nonprofits. If, after reading this series you elect to join the hundreds of thousands of other nonprofits, I wish you the best!

Comments (4)

  • Seth – I’m grateful for this series especially since my sister and I are in the process of starting a nonprofit to umbrella our homeless ministry and some other ministries we lead. I like you advise on not doing it unless you have to. We looked all over for someone to umbrella us and could not find it. Then we had a lawyer and an accountant donate their services as well as someone give us all the start up funds. After a lot of prayer we realized that starting it was truly the direction God is leading us. All your advise has helped!

  • We at Ocean Grand are excited to help you get you 501c3 up and organized as quickly as possible. We have two ways to help you get a nonprofit project off the ground.

    We can set up a 501c3 project through either the Congressional District Programs (CDP) and have your nonprofit operational in about three weeks or the traditional route of setting up an independent 501c3 which is a lengthy several month process.

    http://www.oceangrand.org

  • I was curious about the NHF; would be a good avenue except it appears they are currently filing for Chapter 11 and are not disbursing funds until they are reorganized.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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