If you're well prepared regarding the needs of the state and what you have to provide to form a non-profit organization in a particular state, you'll save much time and energy later in the proceedings.
Most of the time, there's a form that needs to be filled out to incorporate your non-profit organization. On the form, select the "non-profit" option on the checkbox to designate the corporation type. There are some large differences in the fees and type of information necessary for each state, but a few basic basics are common to most states, outlined below.
The name of the organization. After you've conducted a preliminary search for the availability of the name you'd like to attribute to your non-profit business and discovered that it's available, the desired name should be included in the information you gather for the state. It usually ends with the suffixes "Corporation" or "Company" or "Limited," etc. Most of the time, abbreviations are acceptable, and they're written as "Corp." or "Ltd." etc. The state finally decides whether the desired name will be allowed for the company and either grants it or refuses it (based on whether it finds it deceptively similar to existing companies).
The purpose of your business. Information on why you've opted for a non-profit corporation and its aim and purpose should be included in the articles of incorporation you send to the state. Unlike profit-oriented corporations, non-profits need to give a detailed outline of their purpose. If you would like to receive tax-exemption, you need to apply to the State tax board and IRS, which is the final authority to grant it based on the detailed articles of incorporation you submit. Receiving an accurate classification of your non-profit business is essential to the IRS.
If your non-profit fits into 501(c)(3) non-profit clause, it means that your work is related to either public charity or it is a private foundation aiming at educational, religious, literary, or charitable works. It also includes public safety measures, development of amateur sports, prevention of cruelty to animals and children, etc. You should be aware that, to get tax-exempt status, you need to file with the IRS and fill out form 1023. Other procedures are also mandatory in some states, and your state department of taxation can guide you in this regard.
The Registered Agent. Even a non-profit corporation needs to have a registered agent to deal with the tax and legal documents – and information about the agent must be included in the articles of incorporation. They must possess a physical address in the state of formation and must be present during business hours. The agent is responsible for the receipt of services of process and taxation documents. The registered agent address is a matter of public record.
The Incorporator. In the formation documents, the name, address and signature of the incorporator (the one who is preparing and filing the documents with the state) needs to be included.
The Directors. On the formation documents, many states require a list of the names and addresses of the non-profit corporation's directors. Though they may not be responsible for the business's day-to-day activities, they determine the company's overall direction and are responsible for any major decisions. They appoint the Officers of the non-profit.
The Officers. Some of the states insist on listing the information of the officers in a non-profit corporation. They are involved in the corporation's day-to-day activities and include the President, the Vice-president, the Treasurer, and the Secretary.
The principal address of the non-profit. Some of the U.S. states may require the legal address of your non-profit corporation.
Taking time and care when assembling this information makes it easier for you to approach the state authorities for incorporation.
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