There are so many items to track when you’re considering how to start a nonprofit organization, it can make your head spin. But fear not. At Instant Nonprofit, our job is to keep you on track so you’re not caught unprepared. Following the proper steps in the correct order can lead to a successful launch of your nonprofit into the world, and with it, do a world of good.
The most important of all steps is filing your articles of incorporation. It’s important to understand the ins and outs of this legal document, as it’s the means to securing the name you’ve selected to represent your mission and the explanation of your commitment and passion. Once you’ve received the stamp of approval from your state, then you can apply for the next steps in the process, such as an Employer Identification Number, also known as an EIN.
Let’s look more closely at what we believe are the most important things to consider before you file your articles of incorporation.
Charity auction, benefit gala, trivia night—you know what will resonate best with your potential and existing donors. Give your donors a reason to have a nice evening out for a good cause. Make it a no-brainer for them to come on out with a generous attitude.
To keep costs low, ask for donations where you can for the things you’ll need to make the evening successful. But don’t be afraid to spend money on the event, either. A smoothly executed event will reflect favorably on your organization.
If you don’t have an annual event, it’s time to start planning.
The reason to be.
Be prepared to spell out exactly what your nonprofit will do, what its purpose is, what its mission is all about. Writing your nonprofit’s mission statement is not something you can do on the fly. This is something you should consider long before filing your articles of incorporation. Write it, hone it, shop it around to peers you respect, and listen to their feedback. These one or two sentences will define everything you do.
The name you select for your organization has to be distinct from all other registered nonprofit names in your state. So it’s crucial that you and your team sit down and do a thorough search through nonprofit listings and business directories before filing your articles of incorporation. When choosing a nonprofit name, look for something that’s catchy and can stick in people’s minds, but that isn’t already claimed. It’s essential that you do your homework. If you do not, your journey from idea to nonprofit will suffer delays.
Your nonprofit might be a lean organization made up of only you and a few other key players. Or it might be larger and include broader membership. You should decide before filing your articles of incorporation whether you’re going to have members or non-members participating in the good work your do. Pay attention to what your state allows, because it varies. Some benefit to having members are that they will help do the work, keep your organization on track and moving toward its goals, and elect your board of directors. However, having members means more work, more people to manage, and more points of view to consider when trying to establish your mission and goals.
Who drives the bus?
Directors. There must be at least one director, but likely you’ll set up a board of directors. These are the people your members elect to oversee the nonprofit’s work. Line up who you’d like to be part of your board long before you begin filing your application for incorporation. People need time to weigh their commitment levels, and you want to pull in only those who demonstrate enthusiasm and ability. If your nonprofit does not have members, then your board of directors will make the decisions about how to fill director vacancies. Requirements vary by state, so check what you need to do before you file.
Designate a registered agent.
This is the point person for your nonprofit, the one who receives your legal documents. You’re legally required to name a registered office when you file your articles of incorporation, too. This location will be your nonprofit’s home base, where you receive important legal documents. Select a physical address in your state; you cannot use a Post Office box. You can opt to use something called a “registered agent service” to serve as a third-party participant on your behalf. This is something to consider if you’d prefer not to publicize your home address in the public record for your nonprofit.
When you’re considering how to start a nonprofit, turn to Yippiekiyay’s experts to help out. The process can certainly be overwhelming. But when you research and plan your nonprofit, and when you consider the proper steps to take before filing your articles of incorporation, you’ll avoid costly delays and see your nonprofit transform from idea into a real-world, life-changing organization.