The first step to forming a non-profit entity is to secure it’s name, which becomes official when you file Articles of Incorporation in Step 5.
To begin your research, conduct a Business Entity Search through the state and another search using the TESS System through the U.S. Patent Office. If needed, file an Application for Reservation of Business Name which protects the name for 120 days.
Filing Fee: $22
A Registered Agent must be an individual resident/citizen of Utah or a domestic/foreign business entity registered with the Utah Division of Corporations. They must also have a physical street address. They’re an official representative of your brand who receives and helps handle/process all official documentation like state filings, tax forms, court or legal notices, etc.
Basically you can hire an outside professional and expect to pay up to $160/year, or get a qualified agent free of charge when you start your organization through a service like IncFile or Incorporate.com. Nonprofit fling services like these handle this step along with much more depending on your startup package.
Incorporators are the individuals responsible for executing the Articles of Formation with the state which officially declares the entity. Utah only requires one. Then you’ll need to appoint at least 3 directors who among other things will oversee the non-profit until the first meeting where official directors can be voted on.
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 like IncFile. 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 Title 16 Chapter 16a of the Utah state code.
Once you and your team decide it’s time to form the initial corporation, file your non-profit Articles of Incorporation or submit them via mail to the Sec. of State. Information you’ll need includes:
Filing Fee: $30
If you’re audited, a corporate or non-profit records book/binder is what you’ll need to show them. In fact, if there are any kind of disputes it is the records book which should contain documents covering the matter either through contracts, bylaws, minutes of meeting, tax forms, legal notices, and so on.
As the name of the book implies, it’s a record holder of your Utah registration, licenses and permits, and other critical paperwork. They’re very common in conjunction with modern “cloud-based” storage. You can pick one up at nearby office supply stores, online through Amazon, or for $99 get a professional Corporate Kit which you can brand and customize.
Now it’s time to conduct your first non-profit meeting which is going to be very organizational/foundational in nature. Don’t forget to record “minutes” of the meeting and have it signed by all attending directors. Here’s a Corporate Minutes Template to get the ball rolling. The agenda should look something like this:
Those are the basics, but depending on the nature of your non-profit and how many members/directors are at the meeting there could be a lot more to discuss. It’s a huge move in the right direction though, so celebrate afterwards!
An EIN is an Employer Identification Number and your non-profit organization will need one to be compliant on the federal as well as state levels whether you intend on hiring official employees or not. Why? Well, through this number relevant agencies track your financials through your bank account which you need an EIN to create (Step 10).
Now, while there are a number of ways to get one, the quickest and easiest way is to apply/request one directly through the IRS Website.
At this point you should be able to cover these two bases at once – requesting exemptions for your non-profit on the federal level and taking care of any state licensing/permit issues. To get started:
Consider bookmarking the Salt Lake City district office of the Small Business Administration and the state’s Business Services page as well because they’re likely going to be valuable resources. Also, there are a few additional registration requirements as well as reports that need to be filed for any fundraising activities, especially if done outside the state’s jurisdiction. Visit Utah Division of Consumer Protection to get more information.
Ideally, during your first shareholder meeting you spent some serious time going over where to bank and set up your non-profit’s financial foundation. With so many different banks and credit unions (local, state, national) with tons of different fee structures, incentives, kickbacks, and other business services this shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The other issue is to make sure non-profit (corporate) accounts aren’t connected or mixed with any accounts of any other kinds (business or personal). It should be a dedicated and separate account for easy financial tracking and tax purposes synced with your accounting software.
It’s common to “wing it” during the initial bootstrapping phases of starting a non-profit which tend to be fast and furious. Goals and objectives are immediate and close to home. But don’t forget to think forward a bit, into the possibly near future where outside funding and attracting partners, donators, and volunteers will require something more official and concise.
To be taken seriously with non-profit organizations, angel funds, or VCs you’ll need an very well-organized mission statement and plans on how you aim to achieve it. You’ll need to show them structured financials and forecasts. You’ll need to have serious outreach methods and other important core fundamentals figured out. If you need help putting all this together, we highly recommend a planning software called LivePlan, which will walk you through the entire process.
From astonishing outreach/marketing potential to ecommerce and crowd funding, non-profit websites aren’t optional anymore. Not as far as we can tell anyway. The issue is if you don’t have an in-house designer you trust, and this is your first rodeo, what do you do? Where can you turn that isn’t a time-sink and a drain on your budget?
These days platforms like Wix and Weebly have a lot to offer. And let’s not forget about SquareSpace which is still one of the mighty titans of the digital world. Don’t worry, websites don’t need to be as complex as they once were. The internet’s changing.
Note that this article on how to form a non-profit organization in Utah 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 Utah or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.