It’s a good thing that social activists start nonprofits with a passion, a purpose and—hopefully—enough bankroll to finance their budding organization. Starting a nonprofit is hard work. Few can cut it, though we’re confident you can. Begin with an inspiring task, like writing your nonprofit mission statement. Knowing why you’re going through the difficult planning and budgeting process may propel you through dreary days.
But after crafting your mission statement, it’s time to settle into the difficult but immensely important financial planning process. Planning for the funds you need to start—and sustain—your nonprofit will save you trouble in the long run (it might even save your nonprofit). Read on to review our list of the fees and finance-related tasks associated with starting a nonprofit.
Plan Like a Business
Nonprofit executives will rightly tell you that a nonprofit is another form of a business. And like a business, you need more revenue than expenses. Create a business plan for your nonprofit so you know where the money’s coming from and where it’s going.
As you budget through your business plan, take a good look at your nonprofit’s revenue streams. Where did your current funds come from, and can you count on them to continue after the nonprofit startup process? The health and longevity of these revenue streams (individuals, the government, grants) need to be on your radar for a stronger nonprofit.
Before applying to the IRS for tax-exempt status, your new nonprofit needs to incorporate. Becoming a corporation typically involves choosing a legal business name, filing necessary documents with your state’s corporate filing office and creating bylaws to dictate how your organization will be run. The cost of incorporation depends on your state. In California, for example, filing to become a “C” Class nonprofit costs $100, but there’s no cost to become an “S” class corporation. We recommend comparing costs by state at BizFiliings.
You’ll also need to hold at least one meeting with your nonprofit board of directors and file for any applicable permits your corporation will need to operate legally. It is only after receiving your articles of incorporation (for a fee) that your nonprofit can apply for 501(c)(3) status.
Spend Quality Time with the IRS
Once your nonprofit is a corporation, you can apply for nonprofit status. It’s best to do so within 27 months of incorporating. You’ll receive a letter approving your application, rejecting it or requesting more information. Good news for your nonprofit’s finances—if your income is $57,000 or less you can use tax prep software for free e-filing.Your nonprofit will also need to file Form 1023. The standard filing fee for Form 1023 will cost you $750, but your fee will be reduced by $400 if you don’t expect revenue to exceed $40,000.
The financial considerations involved in starting a nonprofit require a lot of legwork and more than a little paperwork, but you will be rewarded with financial security.
To find exactly how much it’ll cost your organization to get started, as well as five ways to cut your costs (and the three things not to skimp on), check out our Ultimate Budget Guide.