Starting a Nonprofit Organization

Starting a nonprofit is exciting and rewarding, the purpose of any nonprofit organization or ministry is generally to improve the quality of life for others at a community, local, state, national, or even global level. These organizations are not dedicated to private or financial gain but to the advancement of public interest.

For a Christian Ministry helping others can be very rewarding and it is one of the most creative ministries of the church and an essential part of a church’s mission to be “salt and light” to those around them. There are many methods and types of ministries used to reach out to your community to show God’s love in such a way that people exchange ordinary living for an extraordinary life through the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

While starting a nonprofit Charity organization or ministry is an exciting and rewarding opportunity, it can also be challenging.

A nonprofit organization commonly performs some type of public or community benefit, without the purpose of making a profit. There are various categories of nonprofits recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS): 

A nonprofit is an organization that qualifies for tax-exempt status under the regulations outlined by the Internal Revenue Code. Each category has different tax benefits and requirements. While the majority of nonprofits are classified under 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code as charitable organizations.

Types of Nonprofits

Charitable or Religious Organizations

charitable organization or charity is a non-profit organization whose primary objectives are philanthropy meaning they desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. And social well-being (e.g. charitable, educational, religious, or other activities serving the public interest or common good).

Examples: Charitable Organization:

The exempt purposes set forth in Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.  The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erection or maintenance of public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.

Social welfare organizations

social welfare organization is a nonprofit civic organization operated under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4)exclusively for the promotion of social welfare; and. local associations of employees whose earnings are devoted to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.

Examples: Some nonprofit organizations that qualify as social welfare organizations include:

  • An organization operating an airport that serves the general public in an area with no other airport and that is on land owned by a local government, which supervises the airport’s operation,
  • A community association that works to improve public services, housing, and resi­dential parking; publishes a free commu­nity newspaper; sponsors a community sports league, holiday programs and meetings; and contracts with a private se­curity service to patrol the community,
  • A community association devoted to preserving the community’s traditions, ar­chitecture and appearance by represent­ing it before the local legislature and administrative agencies in zoning, traffic and parking matters,
  • An organization that tries to encourage in­dustrial development and relieve unem­ployment in an area by making loans to businesses so they will relocate to the area and
  • An organization that holds an annual festi­val of regional customs and traditions.

Other Types of non-profits:

  • Labor and agricultural organizations
  • Business leagues
  • Veterans organizations

How to Incorporate a Nonprofit

This process is very similar to creating a regular corporation except that you have to take the extra steps of applying for tax-exempt status with the IRS and their state tax division. These are the steps to take to incorporate your nonprofit:

  • Choose a business name:
    Check the state-by-state information on the various laws that apply to name a nonprofit in your state.
  • Appoint a Board of Directors:
    Draft your bylaws with guidance from your Board of Directors. These are the operating rules for your nonprofit.
  • Decide on a legal structure:
    Choose whether your organization will be a:
  • Trust:
    In general, a trust is a relationship in which one person holds title to the property, subject to an obligation to keep or use the property for the benefit of another. A trust is formed under state law. You may wish to consult the law of the state in which the organization is organized. Note that for a trust to qualify under section 501(c)(3) of the Code, its organizing document must contain certain language. Publication 557 contains suggested language.
  • Corporation:
    In general, a corporation is formed under state law by the filing of articles of incorporation with the state. The state must generally date-stamp the articles before they are effective. You may wish to consult the law of the state in which the organization is incorporated. Note that for a corporation to qualify under section 501(c)(3) of the Code, its charter or articles of incorporation must contain certain language. Publication 557 contains suggested language.
  • Association:
    In general, an association is a group of persons banded together for a specific purpose. To qualify under section 501(a) of the Code, the association must have a written document, such as articles of association, showing its creation. At least two persons must sign the document, which must be dated. The definition of an association can vary under state law. You may wish to consult the law of the state in which the organization is organized. Note that for an association to qualify under section 501(c)(3) of the Code, its articles of association must contain certain language. Publication 557 contains suggested language.
  • File your incorporation paperwork:
    You must next file formal paperwork or articles of incorporation, and pay a small filing fee to your state. State law may require charitable organizations to register and file periodic reports.
  • Apply for tax-exempt status:
    A nonprofit organization may be eligible for exemption from federal income tax to determine your eligibility you must Apply for Section 501(c)(3) Status.  
  • Obtain necessary licenses and permits:
    Does your nonprofit have all the licenses and permits needed to comply with federal, state, and local rules?

Grants, Loans, and Other Assistance

While individual donors make up the largest contributors to nonprofit organizations, federal, state, and local governments offer grants, loans, and programs to support funding.