In Michigan, the first step to forming a non-profit or non-stock corporation is to name it, which becomes official when you file the Articles in Step 5. Some rules are that it must be distinguishable and can’t imply the organization is formed for any other purpose than stated in the mission statement.
See the state Filing Information Guide for more information. Then, before filing be sure and conduct a Business Entity Search through the state to check for naming conflicts. If needed, you can file a Name Reservation Application form with the Dept. of Licensing & regulatory Affairs that’s good for 120 days.
Filing Fee: $10
A Registered Agent performs “service of process”, or in other words they’re responsible for receiving and helping process important documents like state filings, legal notices, tax forms, etc. on behalf of your non-profit. The agent can be an individual resident or a domestic/foreign business entity registered with the state. A physical street address is also required, of a registered office.
You can hire an outside professional service and expect to pay up to $160/year, or get a qualified agent free when incorporating a non-profit through services like IncFile or Incorporate.com. They handle this along with much more depending on your startup package.
Chances are you’re unfamiliar with the formal nature of non-profit corporations. That’s okay, choosing to govern by a board of directors (you’ll need at least three) has a fair amount of upsides vs. being member or volunteer-run. The first being that you’ve got to assemble a team! Now incorporators are the individuals who execute the Articles of Incorporation in Step 5 – sign & file. As long as they’re 18 you’re good to go.
Bookmark the Board Roles & Responsibilities page from National Council of Non-Profits because it has more helpful information for directors. To be frank, working with an attorney or incorporation provider really comes in handy during this foundational step as well because there are definitely corporate formalities.
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:
Once you and your team decide it’s time to form the initial corporation, file your non-profit Articles of Incorporation (domestic) or submit them via mail to the Sec. of State. Information you’ll need includes.
Filing Fee: $20
While not mandatory, this is very common practice among corporations/non-profits because of the nature of these business entities. It’s in this book you should keep all critical pieces of red tape to ensure you’re well-organized, to protect your status legally, and come across professionally.
As the name of the book implies, it’s a record holder of your Michigan registration documents, licenses and permits, minutes of meetings, and other important documents. You can find them at nearby office supply stores or on Amazon, but we’re huge fans of Corporate Kits which include gorgeous records books/binders you can brand for as little as $99.
Your first meeting with the initial directors will be foundational and mark the beginning of your organization. You’ll need to record “minutes” of the meeting and have it signed by all attending directors. Here’s a Corporate Minutes Template you can also customize and use to get the ball rolling. Topics should include:
What’s this? Well, it’s a 9-digit number that state and federal agencies use to basically track your financial activity – for compliance of course. It’s just like a social security number, but for business/non-profit entities. Once you have one you’ll be able to setup a formal bank account for your non-profit and hire paid employees if needed.
Almost every transaction your non-profit engages in will require an EIN. That said, you can get one quickly and free of charge by applying online through the IRS Website.
Now’s the point to ensure your non-profit is 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 corporation is established.
Two other great sources of information, networking, and financial services are the Detroit district office of the Small Business Administration and the state’s LARA LLC Business Services page because non-profits and the small business community work together in countless ways.
As a non-profit you’re looking for financial utility and solutions that are geared for your needs – low fees, waved expenses, great online banking options, good interest rates (if your non-profit maintains higher account balances) and other valuable services.
Take some time to shop around at local, state and national banks/credit unions until you find the best option. Also, if you haven’t already, consider appointing a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who’s knowledgeable and can help. If needed, check out this brief breakdown of Non-Profit Accounts to gain a better understanding and be sure to keep your non-profit account 100% separate from all others.
There are few things more enlightening to your entire non-profit team, and your donors and volunteers, then well-laid plans. Often non-profit core founders have the impact, visions, and goals driving them with no real focus on how to really get there. Worse, non-profits fall to pieces with meager success because no foundation’s been built, no structure, to hold it and continue scaling.
A fund-ready plan is pretty straightforward actually, typically touching on core fundamentals like outreach methods, funding goals, executive summary, mission statement, programs and services, etc. If you need help with this, check out LivePlan, which is a planning software that walks you through the entire process.
If you already have a website for your non-profit, as long as it’s mobile-friendly (responsive), you’re good to go. But if you don’t have a site yet, it’s probably because you aren’t a designer and you either a) don’t have one you trust close by, b) don’t know how to go about outsourcing.
In terms of outsourcing, you can set up an UpWork profile for free and find a good designer within your budget inside a month, or a couple weeks if you get lucky. If you’d rather keep everything in-house (recommended), head on over to website-builder platforms like Wix or Jimdo and build it yourself.
Note that this article on how to form a non-profit organization in Michigan 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 Michigan or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.