In order to incorporate a non-profit, first and foremost it’s name must be unique and not contain any restricted words. Start by conducting a Business Entity Search through the state in various ways and consult Chapter 617.0401 in the Florida statutes.
It’s not that complex, but if you’re unsure don’t be afraid to consult with a professional or attorney because you don’t want to have to go through the process of filing (and awaiting acceptance/processing) more than once. Also, unlike most other states there’s no name reservation option for corporations or non-profits in Florida either.
Appoint a Florida Registered Agent is the next step you should take as they’re legally required for a great many things, specifically they become your registered office where all important legal notices and other paperwork are sent. Your agent provides process of service in this respect, so they must be either a registered citizen of Florida or a registered business entity able to conduct business in the state.
It’s also important they hold regular and reliable business days/hours so there aren’t any delays. That said, you can hire an outside professional and spend up to $160/yr, or get a registered agent free of charge for the first year when you incorporate with IncFile or CorpNet. It’s a service we highly recommend to new non-profits that need help but can’t afford legal assistance.
In Florida your non-profit must have at least one Incorporator, and yes you can have more than one, who is responsible for executing your Articles with the state. You’ll also need to select a minimum of three initial Directors to officially oversee the forming of the non-profit until you’ve properly elected directors in your first board meeting.
It’s up to you and your initial directors whether they should be named in the Articles/bylaws, but you’ll always need to maintain at least 3 directors. Again, if this part and the corporate formalities are confusing don’t hesitate to reach out to a non-profit professional or incorporation service!
These are the operations and procedures that will govern your non-profit organization, some of which will be stated in your Articles of Incorporation, for example how to handle assets upon dissolution. Some of the issues covered should include:
To get started, check out a savvy Corporate Bylaws Template with an example that you can customize yourself. Also, the PDF “Non-Profit Management Support Organizations in Florida” as it lists all their contact details and you can reach out for help if needed.
Once you and your team are ready, have your incorporators execute the non-profit Articles of Incorporation with the state. If you need a little direction, consult section 617.0202 in the state code concerning them and feel free to bookmark the SunBiz page where you can file online (1-3 days to process) if you’d like. Otherwise they can be submitted through postal mail (8-10 day wait).
Be sure to read the instructions carefully with your team and ensure all the information is correct (for example your name, bylaws, cover sheet, etc.) before filing.
Filing Fee: $35 + $35 Designation of Registered Agent Fee
This isn’t mandatory or required by law by any means, but records books in the incorporated world are pretty much par for the course. They’re usually very nice and formal looking binders or books, and they contain copies of critical paperwork like contracts, meeting minutes, annual reports/taxes, and so forth. Highly recommended.
To get one for your non-profit you can grab a quality records book at any nearby office supply store, order them online through Amazon, or get a professional Corporate Kit which let you brand the book/slip case, provide blank certificates, and more for as little as $99.
The first board of directors meeting is also known as the organizational meeting and one of the most important meetings that you can ever hold as a nonprofit. During the first meeting, the following agenda will be discussed:
Prepare the minutes of the meeting and have it signed by all your board of directors. It must be recorded and kept in your Corporate Records Book for safekeeping.
Whether you intend on hiring paid employees or not, you’ve got to process taxes each year. And in order to do that you need an EIN, or Employer Identification Number (also called TIN) which is currently assigned by the Internal Revenue Service. It also makes it possible to get certain licenses/permits and open up an official bank account in Step 10.
That said, you can get one quickly, easily and free of charge by applying online through the IRS Website.
Now it’s time to ensure compliance on local, state, and federal levels and apply for exemptions in the process. Do keep in mind your non-profit will be subject to conventional Florida gambling laws.
Also, because of the many financial services and mutually beneficial relationships you can build, also feel free to bookmark the Miami Small Business Administration office and the Division of Corp’s Sun Biz website.
If you haven’t already elected/appointed a CFO or treasurer who’s qualified to handle this and aren’t sure where to start building your non-profit’s financial foundation, please take a couple minutes to read through the Top 10 Checking Accounts for Non-Profits. There’s really two parts to the big picture moral of the story here:
Start small, and do your research between local, state, and national banks as well as credit unions. This isn’t a light choice to make, but will have a tremendous impact on the first few years building your initiative.
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 strategy together, we’re huge fans of a tool called LivePlan. It’s been used by over 400,000 entrepreneurs and offers our readers an exclusive discount when they try it out.
If you don’t already have a website published, let’s get that ball rolling. 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.
Note that this article on how to form a non-profit organization in Florida 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 non-profit organization in Florida or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.