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Non-Profit Entity Requirements

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 12/11/2009

If you're starting a non-profit business, are there any non-profit entity organization requirements? You may qualify for a 501(c)3 tax-exempt status, but do you need to follow the same rules as conventional corporations? We'll take a look here and also provide sample templates in our Media Gallery.

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    Non-Profit Must Haves

    Corporate Seal by TiredofKim You’ve just received your 501(c) 3 tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service for your new non-profit organization but what other items are required? Most non-profit corporations must follow the same rules conventional corporations do as defined by their state’s Corporation Commission. Skipping required items could result in loss of state licensing, which will sway lenders, angel funding, and make it impossible to apply for or receive grants.

    To be in good standing with your state’s corporation commission, create, apply for, and keep the following items current:

    • Articles of Incorporation – Even non-profits are required to create articles of incorporation to establish the non-profit. Articles of Incorporation are filed with a state’s corporation commission identifying the name of the organization, its purpose, officers and directors, and the registered agent. You can find a sample Articles of Incorporation for Non-Profits in our Media Gallery.
    • Bylaws – Although bylaws are not usually filed with a state’s corporation commission, they are necessary to create. Bylaws clearly define how the corporation will be managed, what rules and policies will be followed, and lists the duties and responsibilities of the officers. Find a sample of corporate bylaws in our Media Gallery.
    • Corporate Report – Once a non-profit is recognized by the corporation commission, they are required to submit a corporate report which lists tax identification numbers, officers, directors, and length of terms for each. Most states require this document within 30 days after the corporation was formed. An example of a corporate report is available in our Media Gallery.
    • Supplemental Reports – These are used to update any change in officers or address of the non-profit. Depending upon your state, you may be required to send in a supplemental report annually or biannually. Our Media Gallery provides a sample of a non-profit supplement report.
    • Registered Agent Changes – When a non-profit submits their Articles of Incorporation, the registered agent is named in that document. A registered agent is appointed and must accept the responsibility to receive all legal notices on behalf of the non-profit. To stay in good standing with your state, if you have a change in registered agent, you must supply that information. We’ve included a sample change of registered agent form in our Media Gallery.
    • Registration for Corporate Name – Some, but not all states, require you complete and send to them a registration for corporate name. This is not the same as “reserving” or “trademarking” your non-profit’s corporate name. Learn more about trademarks in Jolli Ballew’s article, How Do I Trademark a Name or Brand? Find a sample registration for corporate name in our Media Gallery.
    • Organizational Meetings and Record keeping – As determined in your bylaws, you will need to hold an initial organization meeting and keep a meeting minute book. Your bylaws should state how often you plan on your Board of Directors to meet and at each and every meeting; the Secretary of the non-profit should record and file the meeting minutes in your corporate book. Because non-profits are often audited, it’s important to keep this up-to-date. Download a sample copy of non-profit meeting minutes from our Media Gallery and use as a guideline for all your board meetings.

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    Other Items to Consider

    Beyond non-profit entity requirements, keep these other tips in mind:

    • Visit the Non-Profit Resource Center to learn everything you need to know about forming, maintaining, and operating a non-profit.
    • Learn how to incorporate on your own and skip the legal fees, right here on Bright Hub.
    • Invest in a corporate kit. These include corporate seals, which are often needed on legal documents and provide a place to keep your meeting minutes.
    • Interview different accountants and choose one that has experience with non-profits, do the same in your attorney search.
    • Check with your state’s Attorney General’s office to see if they will provide you with a letter of non-profit acknowledgement. This is often needed when applying for grants.

    To stay on top of the requirements for your non-profit organization, keep good records; file the appropriate documents with your state’s corporation commission, and network with other non-profits on the Non-Profit Resource Center. Read the article How to Write a Non-Profit Business Plan and learn about Feasibility Studies, and use SCORE’s Business Planning Tips for Non-Profits to help you succeed with your non-profit organization.