According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the U.S. This number includes private foundations, public charities, and other various types of nonprofit organizations, including chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues. Because of this, it is very important to identify and quantify the need for your specific organization prior to founding it.
The National Council of Nonprofits poses six great questions to ask yourself as you determine whether or not starting a nonprofit is right for you. In some circumstances, there might be a different avenue in which you can impact your community.
- Is there a demonstrated need in the community for a new nonprofit with the mission we envision?
- Do we have a solid plan for financing the organization during start-up and in the future?
- What are the costs to start the organization?
- Where will I get not only start-up funding, but also operational funding to continue thereafter?
- How will this newly formed nonprofit demonstrate its impact?
- Is this the right solution for our community?
Once you have answered these questions, you will need to select an initial board of directors and file your Articles of Incorporation with the state. In Oklahoma, you can do so here. The current fee is $25. Besides name and purpose, you will need to establish who will be the registered agent, registered address, and duration of the corporation. You will need a minimum of 3 incorporators with their mailing addresses to file for incorporation as an Oklahoma not-for-profit corporation. It is recommended that the Articles of Incorporation include specific legal language in the mission statement. Make sure to research what this language is in your state. In Oklahoma, it is typically a couple sentences long and will help as you seek 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.
Once you are recognized by the state, it is time to file a Form 1023 with the IRS. That form can be found here. Registering with the state is not enough to become federally recognized as tax-exempt. You must complete the 28 page, Form 1023 to apply for 501(c)(3) status.