How do I begin a non-profit foundation or charity?

Great question. It depends on where you are. In the United States, the first thing you should do is create a business plan. It’s not an official first step in creating the non-profit, but it is an important step. It acts as your roadmap and it can even help you get funding for your non-profit.

Take these steps to start your non-profit:

  • Do your research on the name you want to use for your non-profit. You want to check trademarks, do an Internet search, and you want to check through your Secretary of State website (if you’re in the United States) and use their business name search. This is important because you need to make sure that you aren’t considering a name that’s legally protected, already in use by another business or non-profit, and that it isn’t so similar to another business or non-profit name that it can cause confusion to the public.
  • Complete the right forms in your state or in the state in which you’d like to register your non-profit. It is usually easiest to complete your forms and file them with the Secretary of State in your state. You get the forms from the Secretary of State website, carefully complete them, and return them with the filing fee.
  • Go through the necessary steps to gain tax exempt status from the IRS. You should complete this step as soon as possible after you have set-up your non-profit in your state. Use Form 1023-series application to know what you need to do to gain tax-exempted status. You also need to double check with your state that there’s nothing else that you need to do and that you don’t need any special license or permit to provide whatever service it is what you offer as a non-profit.
  • Go forth and fundraise. Once you’re legally established as a non-profit, it’s time to fundraise. Make sure that you really understand what it is that your non-profit does and how any funds you receive will be used. Make sure that you have a good idea of who you could approach and who may be receptive.

It is very, very important that you complete the non-profit and tax forms the right way. These forms will affect your tax-exempt status. If you need help forming your non-profit, consider using LawTrades. We’re a legal marketplace that offers vetted freelance attorneys, start to finish project management and a satisfaction guarantee on all legal work. Hope this helps!

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