Creating a tax-exempt, non-profit organization is a process with many requirements. The following is a pretty detailed list of the steps that is takes to start a tax-exempt, non-profit organization that is recognized by the IRS:
Decide on the cause that your non-profit will serve.
Decide on a name for the non-profit and search through your state's Division of Corporations records to see if it is available (and not already in use by someone else in your state).
Identify a minimum of 3 people who have agreed to serve as Directors in the organization. TIP: always have an odd number of Directors (for voting purposes).
Prepare your organization's Articles of Incorporation (the IRS wants specific language inserted here for non-profits - make sure draft it appropriately).
Submit the appropriate filing fee along with the Articles of Incorporation to your state Division of Corporations for filing.
When you receive documents informing you that your organization has been registered with the state, put it in your corporate book (book that contains most of the organization's important documents) and make copy to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS.
When you receive your EIN, put it in your corporate book and take a copy, along with a copy of the Articles of Incorporation, to go to a bank to open up a bank account. Make the request for an account for non-profit organization - the fees are sometimes less in accounts for non-profits.
Prepare bylaws that include how Directors/Officers are appointed, and also prepare a Conflict of interest Policy.
Have a special meeting of the Board of Directors to adopt the Bylaws and the Conflict of Interest Policy, and to appoint any officers to the organization.
Prepare the application for federal tax-exemption and mail it to the IRS with the appropriate filing fee.
When you receive your 501(c) determination letter from the IRS, put it in your corporate book.
Contact your state to register for authorization to solicit donations in your state.
Place the authorization to solicit donations into your corporate book.
Trademark the name of your organization to protect the goodwill created from your hard work.
Note: the above blog entry is not legal advice. Please hire an attorney if you have legal questions.
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