What should I do to start an NGO?

For starters, an NGO (non-governmental organization) is a non-profit entity (for anyone reading who may not know the acronym). One thing to consider is whether you’re looking to start a charity or a non-profit business. With a charity, the money or services donated would be placed into the hands of those who need it. If you were to start a nonprofit business, you’d have to consider inventory as well as selling the inventory. So, deciding between those two should be your first step.

Others have mentioned knowing what problem you’d like to solve. This is absolutely true. Knowing where you’d like to direct your attention and your resources is important. Is it an underserved area or will you be another resource to people in need? If it is the latter, you might also consider creating a list of others serving the same demographic so that you can refer out if you don’t have the resources to help.

You’re going to need:

– Choose a name for your NGO. You should do a little research on the Secretary of State website for your state to make sure that no one is using the name you have in mind or that it wouldn’t create confusion because your NGO name is similar to the name of another business (for profit or nonprofit).

– You’ll need to complete the right paperwork with the state. After completion, the documents are filed with the Secretary of State and you’ll also need to pay a filing fee. You may also be required to turn in copies of certain documents such as your Articles of Incorporation. Articles of Incorporation include basic business information like the name of your NGO, the address, and contact information for a registered agent. You must be extremely careful when completing all of your paperwork because you want to make sure that you receive tax-exempt status.

– You need to apply with the IRS for tax exemption. The application is known as a 501(c)(3) application (Application for Recognition of Exemption). You’ll need to fill it out and include a copy of your filed articles.

– In some states, you may need to apply separately for state tax exemption. Talk to a representative of your state tax agency or a lawyer.

– You need to write nonprofit bylaws. These bylaws govern your nonprofit.

– Appoint your directors. The job of the directors is to make policy and financial decisions. How many directors you must appoint will depend on the state you live in.

– Hold your first board meeting. This is when bylaws will officially be adopted, officers will be elected, and your nonprofit will record the receipt of its federal and state tax exemptions. You need to keep copies of the minutes for this meeting (and all other board meetings). Create a records binder for this.

– Get the proper licenses and permits. Depending on what your nonprofit will do (or sell), you may be required to have licenses or permits. Check at the city level and at the state level.

Starting a nonprofit is a noble aspiration. It can also be extremely confusing because of the amount of paperwork. LawTrades can help. Our nonprofit attorneys can provide affordable help with the documents you need to start your nonprofit and have the reassurance that they’re done the right way in order for you to receive and maintain your tax exempt status. Visit us for a complimentary consultation!