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How to start your own nonprofit (501c3 charity)

You have the idea, you have the vision, and you know who you want to help – but starting your own nonprofit can feel like a daunting task. We at The Good Pixel, the creative agency for nonprofits, totally understand and are here to help you on the first step of the journey! Here is our quick, simple to-do list for starting up your very own 501c3 charity:

  1. Decide on your mission statement and put together a business plan
  2. Choose a name
  3. Assemble your Board of Directors
  4. File your Articles of Incorporation
  5. File for your nonprofit’s tax exemption
  6. Write down your nonprofit’s bylaws
  7. Hold your first board meeting

1. Decide on your mission statement and put together a business plan

Your mission statement will form the foundation of your business plan: in one or two sentences, it defines your direction and purpose as a nonprofit, who you will help and how. Once you have a clear mission statement, writing a business plan will help you to plan more comprehensively, know your market and the need for your organization, and speak cohesively about your nonprofit  – to potential donors, board members and beneficiaries.

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2. Choose a name

Keep it simple, make it catchy and keep it closely connected to your work and beneficiary group. Once you’ve decided on your favorite, you need to check it isn’t already taken. Quickly Google search the name and make sure that it is still available in your state by checking your local Secretary of State website (find a handy map and links to these here).

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3. Assemble your Board of Directors

Two – three, or four! – heads are better than one. Before incorporating, start putting together a board of motivated Directors with a range of expertise and experience – who are inspired by your mission and can help lead your nonprofit to success.

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4. File your Articles of Incorporation

Now you have your dream team together, it’s time to get official! Articles of Incorporation documents are different according to your state, so check your Secretary of State’s website for details. They are straightforward and only ask for basic details, such as your organization’s name and address.

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5. File for your nonprofit’s tax exemption

As a 501c3, your organization does not have to pay tax. But, to receive the tax exemption, you first need to submit an application to the IRS. This is more laborious than the Articles of Incorporation – the standard Form 1023 can take 90 hours to complete! However, smaller nonprofits are eligible to file the shorter Form 1023-EZ. It’s also important to note that there is a cost for filing for tax exemption: $600 for Form 1023 and $275 for Form 1023-EZ. And finally, in some states, you have to complete a state tax exemption application – check in with your local tax agency to be certain of what is required in your state.

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6. Write down your nonprofit’s bylaws

Bylaws act as an essential operating manual for your nonprofit. This legal document specifies how your organization works and who runs it, by covering everything from your purposes as a nonprofit, to meeting procedures and safeguarding policies.

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7. Hold your first board meeting

Congratulations – you’ve done all of the difficult stuff, now you’re ready to take action! Gather together your team of Directors and start making it happen: elect the officers, adopt the bylaws, and plan your next steps towards making a real difference to your beneficiaries’ lives. And don’t forget to record and file your minutes!

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Conclusion

We hope you found our setting up a charity guide helpful! And remember, when it comes down to getting your brand, mission and vision out into the world – The Good Pixel is here to help! If you have a question, or want to learn more about how we can assist, get in touch today for an impartial and honest chat! 

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The Good Pixel
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