Saturday, February 2, 2008

So You Want to Start A Non-Profit....

As I would speak to various groups about fundraising I'd often be asked the question, "How do I go about getting 501 (c)(3) status?" Perhaps you want to apply for some grants that are specifically set up for no-profits; or maybe you want your donors to be able to have a tax deduction from supporting your organization. Whatever the reason there are guidelines you must follow. Let's take a look at how you begin this process.

Your organization must be recognized by filing articles of incorporation. If you do not know the agency in your state that would be responsible for this contact your Secretary of State. Their number will be listed under your state government listings or your can find them through the Governor's office.

You also have the responsibility to apply to the IRS for application for Federal Income Tax Exemption. This is publication number 557, Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization. This can also be downloaded from the IRS website. If you're really a novice at this I would recommend you find a mentor--perhaps someone from the SCORE program (check with your local Chamber of Commerce). They will likely be able to provide you with any technical assistance you may need. Also contact your local bar association for a referral to someone who has worked with non-profits in the past. Do not be afraid to ask them if they do 'pro-bono' work or if they will discount their typical fees.

And now you wait. Consider yourself lucky if this is done within six months. :-) So have lots of patience, and definitely be working on acquiring board members who share in your vision AND CAN OFFER YOUR NON-PROFIT ASSISTANCE! More on this later.

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