To secure and register your non-profit brand name it must be unique, not too similar to another registered name in West Virginia, and shouldn’t contain any restricted wording. Also, note that the name must contain the words “corporation,” “incorporated,” “company,” or “limited,” or the abbreviations “corp.,” “inc.,” “co.,” or “ltd.”
To check for naming conflicts conduct a Business Entity Search through the Sec. of State, and If needed, file an Application for Name Reservation to protect the name that’s good for 120 days. For more information, read through WV Code §31E-4-401.
Filing Fee: $15
Your non-profit’s registered agent can be an individual resident/citizen of the state or a legally registered domestic/foreign business entity with a physical street address and regular M-F business hours. On behalf of your non-profit they receive and help process important business documents like state filings, tax forms, legal notices, official demands and so on. They’re essential and required by law.
You can hire an outside 3rd party professional to act as your registered agent/office for as much as $160/year, or get a qualified agent free for your first year when you incorporate with IncFile or Incorporate.com.
In West Virginia your non-profit must be founded by at least one natural person (not a business entity), known as an incorporator. Among other things, they’re responsible for filing Articles of Incorporation with the state in Step 5. You must also have a minimum of 3 temporary Directors who serve many different purposes, for example serving on the Board of Directors. More official ones will be voted in during your initial meeting in Step 7.
This part can be somewhat complex because of the legal/tax nature of non-profits which is why it’s a good idea to either hire the best non-profit lawyer you can afford or work with professional service providers. They can help you understand the ins and outs of choosing initial directors and so much more.
Without your own bylaws, your non-profit would be subject to the default rules and statutes concerning these subjects which may not be suitable at all. Common non-profit bylaws include:
To get started, check out a savvy Corporate Bylaws Template with an example that you can customize yourself. Also, if you have a legal representative or someone that’s familiar with going through state law, here’s a link to the Chapter 31E. of the West Virginia Non-profit Corporation Act.
Once you and your team decide it’s time to form the initial corporation, file Articles of Incorporation online or submit them via mail to the Sec. of State. Some data you’ll need includes:
Filing Fee: $25
If you aren’t already familiar, a non-profit records book is where you keep physical copies of the most important paperwork – Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Meeting Minutes, 501.c.3 IRS Approval Letter, licenses & permits, current board members list, your annual and biannual reports, etc. Not mandatory, but very common and highly advised.
You can pick one up at pretty much any office supply store or online through Amazon of course, but we’re huge fans of savvy-sleek Corporate Kits which include gorgeous records books, binders, blank certificated and more which you can brand for as little as $99.
The first meeting is in many ways the most important because it lays the foundation. Before we list common issues covered below, here’s a Corporate Minutes Template you can customize and use to get the ball rolling.
Whether you intend on hiring paid employees or not your non-profit needs to have an EIN or an FEIN, which means a 9-digit Employer Identification Number. In essence, it’s like a social security number but it tracks your financial activity to ensure compliance with state/federal tax laws.
There are a variety of ways to get one but the easiest is online directly through the IRS Website. It’ll come in handy when you go to set up your bank account.
It’s time for your non-profit to become 100% compliant in terms of not only licenses/permits, but state and federal taxes. You should be able to apply for tax exempt status now that the corporate entity is established.
Another amazing resource would definitely be the Clarksburg district office of the Small Business Administration, and be sure to set up an account with Business4WV because they’re connected to TONS of services you can leverage to grow your non-profit.
We saved the best for last. After everything above, and with your EIN in hand, you can now choose which institution to form the financial foundation of your non-profit. Don’t be hasty here. If you haven’t appointed a CFO, be sure that you or someone else takes time to research different local, state, and national banks/credit unions.
If you aren’t familiar with this side of banking, there’s a lot more to it because it’s a corporate account. This means there are different fee structures, financial services, and permissions involved. How many people will be using this account? Be sure that it isn’t mixed with any other accounts, business or personal, so that you’ve got a clean and tidy record of transactions!
Without very precise planning/strategy it’s likely you’ll a) lose your exempt status and b) find it incredibly difficult to attract the kind of supporters it takes to really grow a non-profit into an organization with serious impact. That being said, these days there’s amazing software solutions that simplify the process for those of us without MBAs.
If you need help putting a solid plan together, we highly recommend a tool called LivePlan. The software will walk you through the planning process in half the time it normally takes.
If you don’t already have a website published, it’s time to get started. Not having a website really isn’t an option anymore and if this is all brand new to you, you’ll be surprised how affordable it can be. Our most valuable bit of advice here is:
Note that this article on how to form a West Virginia non-profit organization isn’t a legal document or legal advice. It’s for informational purposes and the information above is subject to change. For specific legal questions regarding how to form a West Virginia non-profit organization or business in general, please consult with a non-profit/corporate lawyer or other accredited professional.