Last Updated 06 September 2017 | By:

How To Form a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit In Florida

How to Use this Guide

Use the guide below to form a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Florida. Keep in mind that the process requires forming a nonprofit corporation and getting tax-exempt status with the IRS.

Since the overall process is extremely complex, we highly recommend consulting with an attorney or using a service like Harbor Compliance for personalized top-to-bottom nonprofit formation and obtaining IRS 501(c)(3) status.

Step 1) Secure Your Nonprofit Name

Choose a Business NameIn order to incorporate a nonprofit, 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 nonprofits in Florida either.

Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent

Choose a Registered AgentAppoint 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 Harbor Compliance (see details). It’s a service we highly recommend to new nonprofits that need help but can’t afford legal assistance.

Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors

Choose the Initial DirectorsIn Florida your nonprofit 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 nonprofit 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 nonprofit professional or incorporation service!

Step 4) Draft Nonprofit Bylaws

Register an LLC

These are the operations and procedures that will govern your nonprofit 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:

  • Holding meetings, electing officers and directors,
  • Keeping and managing your records,
  • Adding/Amending bylaws,
  • How to handle other corporate formalities required in Florida.

To get started, check out a savvy Corporate Bylaws Template with an example that you can customize yourself. Also, the PDF “Nonprofit Management Support Organizations in Florida” as it lists all their contact details and you can reach out for help if needed.

Step 5) File Articles Of Incorporation

Business LicensesOnce you and your team are ready, have your incorporators execute the nonprofit 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

Step 6) Start A Nonprofit Records Book

File Annual Reports & Publication RequirementsThis 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 nonprofit 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.

Step 7) Conduct Initial Meeting

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of Directors

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:

  • Nonprofit bylaws approval,
  • Appointment of officers,
  • Setting a nonprofit accounting and tax period and,
  • Approval of initial transactions and application of a corporate bank account.

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.

Step 8) Get An EIN

Get an EIN for Your LLCWhether 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.

Step 9) Handle Licensing & Exemptions

Small Business Taxes

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 nonprofit 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.

Step 10) Setup A Business Bank Account

Best Business Bank AccountIf 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 nonprofit’s financial foundation, please take a couple minutes to read through the Top 10 Checking Accounts for Nonprofits. There’s really two parts to the big picture moral of the story here:

  1. Choose a banking institution based nonprofit-focused incentives and financial services;
  2. Keep your nonprofits bank account completely separate (an EIN helps with this) from all other accounts.

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.

Need Help?

How To Form a 501(c)(3) NonprofitIf you’d like help forming a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit In Florida, we highly recommend looking into Harbor Compliance for personalized top-to-bottom nonprofit formation and obtaining IRS 501(c)(3) status.

They handle everything on your behalf and be on-call for questions you have. If you’d like more info, visit their website or read our review.