How to Apply for Nonprofit


How to Apply for Nonprofit

Starting a nonprofit organization can be an incredibly rewarding experience, allowing you to make a positive impact in your community. However, the application process for nonprofit status can be complex and time-consuming. In this article, we will guide you through the steps of how to apply for nonprofit status and provide answers to frequently asked questions.

Step 1: Research and Planning

Before applying for nonprofit status, it is essential to conduct thorough research and planning to ensure that your organization’s mission aligns with the requirements for nonprofit status. Consider the following steps:

1. Define your mission: Clearly articulate the purpose and goals of your organization. Nonprofits must have a charitable, educational, religious, scientific, or literary purpose.

2. Conduct a needs assessment: Identify the specific needs that your organization aims to address. This will help you understand the target population and the impact you seek to make.

3. Develop a strategic plan: Outline the strategies, activities, and resources required to achieve your organization’s mission. This plan will serve as a roadmap for your nonprofit’s future activities.

Step 2: Incorporation

To apply for nonprofit status, you must first incorporate your organization at the state level. Follow these steps:

1. Choose a legal structure: Decide on the legal structure that best suits your organization’s needs. Common options include a nonprofit corporation, trust, or association.

2. Name your organization: Select a unique and descriptive name that reflects your mission. Ensure it is not already in use by another organization in your state.

3. Draft and file articles of incorporation: Prepare the necessary documents, including articles of incorporation, which outline the purpose and structure of your organization. Submit these documents to the appropriate state agency along with the required filing fee.

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Step 3: Apply for Tax-Exempt Status

After incorporating your organization, you must apply for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Follow these steps:

1. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): Apply for an EIN, also known as a federal tax identification number, on the IRS website. This number is necessary for tax reporting purposes.

2. Complete Form 1023 or 1023-EZ: Depending on the size and projected revenue of your organization, you will need to complete either Form 1023 (long form) or Form 1023-EZ (streamlined form). These forms require detailed information about your organization’s purpose, activities, and financials.

3. Pay the application fee: There is an application fee associated with Form 1023, ranging from $275 to $600, depending on your organization’s projected revenue.

4. Submit your application: Mail your completed application and fee to the IRS. Be prepared to wait several months for a determination letter, which will confirm your tax-exempt status.


Q: Can I apply for nonprofit status if I am an individual?
A: No, nonprofit organizations require a group of individuals to form and operate the organization. However, you can consider starting a foundation or establishing a donor-advised fund to support causes you care about.

Q: How long does it take to obtain nonprofit status?
A: The timeline can vary, but it typically takes several months to receive a determination letter from the IRS. Factors such as application complexity and IRS workload can impact the processing time.

Q: Can a nonprofit organization engage in profit-generating activities?
A: Yes, nonprofits can engage in certain revenue-generating activities, such as fundraising events or selling goods and services related to their mission. However, the generated income must be used to further the organization’s exempt purpose.

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Q: What ongoing requirements are there for nonprofit organizations?
A: Nonprofits are required to file annual tax returns, maintain accurate financial records, and comply with state and federal laws. Depending on your state, you may also need to renew your nonprofit status periodically.

Q: Can I pay myself a salary as the founder of a nonprofit?
A: Yes, nonprofit founders can receive a reasonable salary for their services. However, it must be justifiable and in line with industry standards to avoid conflicts of interest.

In conclusion, applying for nonprofit status involves careful research, planning, and adherence to legal requirements. By following the steps outlined in this article and consulting with legal and accounting professionals, you can successfully navigate the application process and establish a nonprofit organization to make a lasting impact in your community.