Steps to Start a Nonprofit

Navigating the Path to Nonprofit Incorporation in Your State: Step-by-Step Guide

When starting and incorporating a nonprofit organization in the United States, one must carefully plan and adhere to the legal requirements found in their state. Although the steps to start a nonprofit corporation are the same across all states in the U.S., there are differences in the laws and regulations that must be followed.

Here’s a specific example of how one can start and incorporate a nonprofit in Florida.

In Florida, the first step is finding the perfect name for your corporation. Your corporation’s name should be memorable and relevant to the issue you hope to solve. Once you’ve found a name that best fits your cause, then you must verify that it isn’t taken by anyone. You can ensure that the name you’ve chosen is available through searching through the Florida Department of State’s website.

The next step would be to choose who will be the incorporators and directors for your nonprofit. The incorporators will sign and deliver the articles of incorporation for your nonprofit and will oversee filling and interacting with the state of Florida. Whereas the directors will be making the final decision for your corporation. In the state of Florida, a nonprofit corporation must have at least three directors, who must be 18 years or older and unrelated to each other.

The third step when starting a nonprofit is appointing a registered agent. This can be an individual or business that is responsible for handling your corporation’s legal documents. Florida requires nonprofits to have an out-of-state registered agent. A registered agent sends reminders to your organization of filling requirements.

After appointing a registered agent, your corporation must file an article of incorporation. This includes the name of your corporation, principal place of business, mailing address, registered name and address, corporate purpose, office directors, manner of elections, effective date, and incorporator’s signature.

Later, you can apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) which will be given to you by the IRS. You can use this to hire employees, open a bank account, apply for tax-exempt status, and submit tax forms.

Once you have received this you can start establishing your bylaws. These will establish how and when your officers and directors will be elected and hold meetings. It will also determine the minimum number of members allowed in the meetings and the structure and operation of your organization.

Following this, you should apply for federal and Florida state tax exemptions. You can do this through filling FORM 1023 at

Now that your non-profit has filed for tax-exemption, you must register it as a charitable foundation through the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

You will then need to open a separate bank account for your nonprofit organization.

For this you must have:

  • A copy of your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation
  • A copy of your nonprofit’s bylaws
  • Your nonprofit’s EIN
  • A resolution authorizing you to open the account

Division of Corporations – Search Records

Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) Online

IRS – Charities & Nonprofits