The first thing you’ll need to do is choose a name for your Non-Profit organization.
Just make sure it is not similar to or the same as other businesses filed with the Secretary of State. Find out by doing a simple search at the Massachusetts name database.
Keep in mind your business’ name must contain either ‘Limited’, ‘Corporation’, ‘Incorporated’, or their abbreviations.
To comply with Massachusetts laws your Non-Profit must appoint at least one or more directors. In addition to that, you will also need to choose a president, clerk and treasurer in your Articles of Organization.
Note: Your director does not have to be a resident of Massachusetts.
In this step you will need to choose a Massachusetts Registered Agent for your Non-Profit.
A Registered Agent is the legal appointee who accepts notifications and legal documents on behalf of your business. Your Registered Agent has to be a Massachusetts resident and be available during regular office hours.
That said, you can hire a Registered Agent service and pay up to $160/year, or get a California Registered Agent free of charge when you incorporate your Non-Profit with IncFile.
In this step you will need to file Non-Profit Articles of Organization with Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth or have Rocket Lawyer do it for you.
The Articles of Incorporation will include information like:
File your Articles of Organization by mail, fax, online, or delivery and be sure to complete them based on the instructions from the Secretary of Commonwealth’s website.
However before filing your Non-Profit’s Articles of Organization, you are required to have bylaws that comply with Massachusetts law. This will contain procedures and rules your organization will follow to elect directors, elect officers, hold meetings, and other Massachusetts required formalities.
These bylaws will be your internal operating manual and will not be filed with the Massachusetts Corporations Division. (Specific rules: M.G.L. 180, Sec. 6A.)
For obtaining tax-exempt status 501(c)(3), the Articles of Organization form on the Secretary of Commonwealth’s website doesn’t include IRS required language. To receive 501(c)(3) you should see the IRS requirements on Publication 557 and use federal tax exempt required language in the Articles of Organization you create.
In the organizational meeting of your board of directors (the first meeting) there will be a number of things to take action on:
Be sure to keep minutes of this meeting when it’s finished.
If your Non-Profit will solicit donations from the public, you need to get a Certificate of Solicitation at the Attorney General’s office from the Division of Public Charities.
You will also need to register for taxes using the Business Registration page on the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s website. For additional information that may pertain to you, see the Guide to Employer Tax Obligations for more difficult employment tax questions.
Massachusetts requires your Non-Profit to obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number) whether you will hire employees or not. Think of an EIN like a social security number for your business.
You can register for your EIN number free of charge through the IRS by phone, fax, or by applying online. If you plan to apply online, be sure to print out the documents provided.
As you start a Non-Profit in Massachusetts, it is very important to keep your personal and business finances separate by opening a business bank account. This keeps your personal liability at a minimum and makes tax time much more simple.
There are many options for opening a business checking account like Chase, Bank of America, or Citibank. Be sure to do your research and decide which is right for you.
After officially filing a Non-Profit in Massachusetts, you can obtain your state and federal tax exemptions. Here are the 3 steps you will need to take for doing so:
The next step when starting a business in Massachusetts is to adhere to all licenses and regulations. This will all depend on your specific industry and location so be sure to do your research.
To get started, see this resource roundup or look into this package where professionals do the research on your behalf. Do what you feel most comfortable with.
Now that you have followed the steps above, you are an official Non-Profit organization in the state of Massachusetts. Other than those 10 steps that are based on state guidelines, here are 2 additional steps based on best practices for starting a successful organization. Not required, but highly recommended.
Although writing a business plan is not required by the state to be legally recognized as a Non-Profit, it’s highly recommended that you do.
By writing a solid plan for your organization you will have a better chance at getting the attention of the right people, setting a clear path for what you are going to do, and how you plan to get there.
Nowadays, it is important to build trust through a professional website. Since you are likely more focused on building your business and have no time to learn code, I recommend building a website on WordPress.
WordPress is free, easy to use, and customizable. No need to hire a custom web developer. See how to start your business website through this free step-by-step guide.
Please note that this guide is not legal instruction or assume that it is. You should to talk to your lawyer in detailed matters of starting a Non-Profit organization in Massachusetts (or starting a new business) as this guide is only for informational purposes.