Step 1) Pick a Name for Your Non-Profit

Choose a Business NameThe first step to forming a Non-Profit in Tennessee is to choose a name for your business. This Tennessee Non-Profit name will identify your business from all other businesses existing in the state.

The name you choose should not be similar or closely resemble any other business duly registered to the Secretary of State. Check the business name you chose through the Tennessee name database so you can proceed to the second phase of forming your Non-Profit.


Step 2) Choose the Initial Directors

Choose the Initial DirectorsAs part of the requirements of forming a non-profit in Tennessee, you have to elect directors.

The role of your directors is important as they help make major decisions in business operations.


Step 3) File the Non-Profit Articles of Incorporation

How to Choose a Business StructureIn registering a Tennessee Non-Profit organization, you have to file the Articles of Incorporation to the Tennessee Secretary of State. Make sure to ready the following information when filing your form:

To get more details on your charter, check TCA §48-52-102. Your charter can be filed online or through print and mail. The Secretary of State website also has a downloadable form that you can fill out. Make sure to complete all the entries so your application for forming a Non-Profit in Tennessee won’t be rejected.

As a Non-Profit organization, you are qualified for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status provided that you declare the following statements in your charter:

For tax exemption requirements set forth by the IRS, check IRS Publication 557 on the IRS website. The state and federal tax exemption language should be included in the articles you create.


Step 4) Create Bylaws for your Organization

Register an LLCCorporate bylaws summarizes the Corporation standard processes and procedures for the operations of your business from holding meetings to taking care of corporate responsibilities.

Before the application for the Articles of Incorporation, create your Corporate bylaws based on the stipulations provided by Tennessee law. Bylaws do not need to be submitted together with your Articles of Incorporation, since it is an internal operating manual.


Step 5) Hold a First Meeting with Your Board of Directors

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of DirectorsThe next agenda to forming a Non-Profit in Tennessee now that you have filed your Articles of Incorporation is to hold your first meeting with the board of directors you have appointed.

The following points should be taken up during the meeting:


Step 6) Start a Corporate Records Binder for Important Information

File Annual Reports & Publication RequirementsMaintaining a Corporate Records binder is not mandated during Tennessee Non-Profit registration, but it is an important part of running a Non-Profit Corporation because this is where all your important documents are stored.

A Corporate Records binder can be directly bought at Amazon.


Step 7) Get an EIN for Your Organization

Get an EIN for Your LLCAnother important requirement that you need to obtain for your Non-Profit organization is the Employer Identification Number (EIN).

This 9-series number is necessary for all of your business transactions. You can get your Tennessee Non-Profit EIN online by applying at the IRS website.


Step 8) Open a Business Bank Account

Best Business Bank AccountBy opening a separate business bank account for your Tennessee Non-Profit you will be able to keep all finances separate. This way, you can ensure that all your personal assets will not be mixed up with your business assets, which is extremely important.

You can use the bank you keep your personal account with, just be sure to keep transactions 100% separate. For a look at our top options, here is a review of the top 3.


Step 9) Apply for Federal and State Tax Exemptions

Small Business TaxesNow that you have formed your Non-Profit Corporation, it is time to get started on your Tennessee Non-Profit Tax Registration. To qualify for federal and state tax exemptions, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Process your Form 1023 to avail of federal tax exemption

Fill out and file Form 1023 or the Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code to qualify for federal tax exemption. Make sure that you fill out all the entries, and double check it.

Small Non-Profit organizations may qualify to file for Form 1023-EZ or the Streamlined Application for Recognition of Exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Only Non-Profit organizations with estimated gross receipts of less than $50,000 with total assets lower than $250,000 are qualified to file this form for tax exemption. For requirements on these forms, check the IRS website.

  1. Process your Tennessee state tax exemption

Another tax exemption as a Non-Profit organization in Tennessee are the franchise tax and excise tax. To be exempted for this, apply at the Tennessee Department of Revenue. To know more about registering for Non-Profit taxes and other state tax exemption, you can also check the Department of Revenue.

  1. Other State Reporting and Registration Requirements

Any fundraising activity your Non-Profit organization does may need to be registered with the Secretary of State depending on your Corporate activities and organization size. For detailed information on reports and registration, check the Secretary of State of Tennessee’s website.


Step 10) Handle Your Tennessee Business Licenses & Regulations

Business LicensesBesides business taxes, another important thing to take care of are your business licenses and regulations. This is essential for your business to be legally operating in the eyes of the state.

Keep in mind that these requirements will vary depending on your state and industry, so be sure to do your research. Visit the SBA website for more information or have professionals find the specific requirements for you through this reliable service.


To-Do After Starting a

Tennessee Non-Profit

Now that you have followed the steps above, you are an official Non-Profit organization in the state of Tennessee. 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.

1) Write a Solid Business Plan

Write a Business PlanEvery organization who wants to succeed must have an action plan, and this is action plan is depicted in the business plan. Although it is not required by the state to legally operate, having a business plan is highly recommended.

LivePlan (25% Off Promo Code) is a business plan tool that helps you write a business plan with detailed walkthroughs and business plan samples. LivePlan helps you make twice the impact – in half the time.


2) Build a Business Website

Build a Business WebsiteIf you want your Non-Profit to be taken seriously, build a website and feature what your company is all about. Without having to get too technical, you can use a free and customizable tool like WordPress to get started in minutes.

Learn more about WordPress and how to build a website yourself through this step-by-step guide. It walks you through the entire process.

This guide should not be taken as a substitute for your lawyer’s advice for at the end of the day, this is just here for information purposes. Questions about starting a Non-Profit organization in Tennessee or starting a new business should be directed to your lawyer.

Need Help Forming Your Organization?

Have a reliable incorporation service like IncFile or LegalZoom do the work for you. Just answer a few questions about your organization and they’ll take care of the paperwork.

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