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How to Start a Nonprofit | Step 5: Heavy Lifting

State and Local Government Filings

  1. Before starting operations, review state and local laws to ensure compliance on topics including, but not limited to:
    • Registering (if necessary) before starting any fundraising 
    • Registering (if necessary) before engaging in any lobbying
    • Securing (if necessary) permits and licenses required because of:
      • Goods or services provided (e.g., health care);
      • Types of clients served (e.g., fingerprinting of employees dealing with children); 
      • Types of employees hired (e.g., educators or health care providers); and 
      • Location (e.g., zoning in certain areas)
  2. Completing state tax exemption requirements (usually must wait until IRS acts)
  3. Registering (if necessary) for unemployment insurance and reporting to officials
  4. Registering (if necessary) to secure any additional tax exemptions (e.g., property tax, sales tax collections, exemptions from paying sales tax)

Heavy Lifting

  1. Initial internal issues
    • Structural - staff, space, services
    • Setting up systems and policies - 
      • Accounting
      • Fundraising (e.g., that required legal disclosures are made)
      • Human relations - for volunteers and paid employees (e.g., rebuttable presumption & intermediate sanctions rule)
      • insurance
  2. Regular activities
    • Tax withholdings
    • Board meetings
  3. Quarterly - e.g., reporting taxes withheld (federal/state/potentially local)
  4. Annually
    • File annual report with state government
    • File Form 990 information return with IRS (and any similar form required by the state)
    • Re-register any required items (e.g., charitable solicitation)

If, after careful consideration, you believe you should start your own organization, contact your State Association for guidance on state laws and regulations.

Once you've formed your new nonprofit, join your State Association and tap into the resources, training, networking and information they can provide.