Step 1) Secure Your Nonprofit Name
Before you can start your nonprofit, you’ll need to choose the perfect name to represent your organization. This name should:
- Be distinguishable from any existing business or organization in Georgia. Essentially, this means that your nonprofit cannot have the same name as any other entity that’s currently registered in Georgia.
- May not exceed 80 characters, including any spaces or punctuation.
For more case-specific guidelines, check out Georgia’s corporate name statutes for more details.
Keep in mind that your nonprofit’s name is the first significant branding decision you’ll make for the organization. Put some time aside so you can think long and hard on exactly what you want your brand name to communicate. You should settle on a name that represents your organization's message and will attract other individuals who are passionate about your cause!
What To Do:
To find out whether or not your desired brand name is available, run a quick entity name search here. You may also want to search WEEBLY for a good domain name at this time, even if you’re not planning on creating a website right away.
Step 2) Appoint Registered Agent & Initial Directors
Before you can move ahead with your Articles of Incorporation, you’ll need to choose a registered agent. This individual will be in charge of receiving important legal documents on your behalf, including tax forms and service of process notices. Your registered agent may be an individual who’s a resident of Georgia, or a business that’s registered to operate in the state.
You may choose to act as your own registered agent in Georgia, but there are a few things to think about before committing to this responsibility. For example:
- You’ll need to maintain normal (M-F, 9-5) business hours at your work or home address.
- If you work from home, you’ll be making your personal address public.
- You may risk being served in front of family, friends or customers.
While you’re deciding on a registered agent, now is also a good time to nail down your initial board of directors, since their names will be requested on your Articles of Incorporation. Technically, you may wait to appoint your directors, but there is an extra fee that comes with amending your Articles of Incorporation -- so it’s a good idea to get it out of the way at the original time of filing.
What To Do:
When choosing directors, your top priority should be finding people who share a passion for your mission and have some degree of business experience. Your board of directors may change over time, but it’s important to have reliable, dedicated people working with you in the early stages.
If you’re considering acting as your own registered agent, have a quick read through our guide for a more detailed look at the tasks and responsibilities associated with the position. It’s important that you fully understand what’s legally required of you before committing to this task.
On the other hand, if you’d prefer to bring in a professional, I’d recommend IncFile. They include a free year of registered agent services in their incorporation package.
Step 3) File Articles Of Incorporation
Congrats, this is a huge step for your organization! Once you’ve filed the Articles of Incorporation, you’ll be officially recognized as a Georgia nonprofit corporation.
In order to create your Georgia Articles of Incorporation, you must include:
- The full name of your corporation
- The name and address of your registered agent
- The names and addresses of each incorporator
- The primary address of your corporation
- A member statement
- The effective date
- Your signature
You’ll also need to include the following statement: “The corporation is organized pursuant to the Georgia Nonprofit Corporation Code.”
What To Do:
You may choose to file online or on paper depending on your personal preference. Whichever route you choose, you’ll have to take care of the $100.00 filing fee.
Step 4) Get An EIN
Now that you’ve filed your Articles of Incorporation, it’s time to get an EIN. An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is the federal government’s way of tracking your organization’s financial activity.
What To Do:
The good news is the application process is pretty simple. All you need to do is head over to the IRS website and complete their online application. It’s totally free and you’ll get your identification number as soon as you’ve filled everything out.
We recommend the online route because of its efficiency, but if this approach doesn’t suit you, check out our EIN guide for other options.
Step 5) Meet With Directors & Discuss Bylaws
Now it’s time to schedule your first meeting with your board of directors. This organizational meeting represents a huge moment for your organization, during which you and your directors have the opportunity to breathe life into your nonprofit and establish how it will operate.
You should plan on discussing pretty much every aspect of how the organization will be run, including:
- Each director’s title and duties
- The length of directors’ terms
- How often the board will meet
- Conditions for adding/amending bylaws
- What decisions can be made with/without a meeting
- Your banking resolution
During this meeting, you should also record your first meeting minutes and craft your nonprofit bylaws. Your bylaws will serve as the primary governing document of the organization, so make sure to spend a significant amount of time crafting them!
What To Do:
You’re about to make a number of significant decisions that will affect your organization well into the future, so don’t go into this meeting unprepared. Do some intensive research, including what should be discussed in your nonprofit bylaws and how to record meeting minutes. We encourage you to take advantage of nonprofit meeting minute and bylaw templates to get an idea of the key topics to address in these documents.
Step 6) Start A Nonprofit Records Book
At this point you’ll have acquired quite a few important documents, so now is the perfect time to create a safe place to store them. While having a corporate records book isn’t legally required, it’s essential that you have a safe, organized place to house things like your:
- Articles of Incorporation
- Tax forms
- Nonprofit bylaws
- Meeting minutes
- Banking resolution
… and any other essential documents.
If you’re looking for a basic-yet-functional option, you can always opt for a simple binder designated to your nonprofit’s records. On the other hand, you may want to take this opportunity to invest in a full-on nonprofit corporate kit. Most corporate kits include things like a custom seal, printed bylaws, and some other unique pieces.
What To Do:
Depending on your preference, it’s possible that you could find a sufficient corporate records binder at a local office supply store. However, if you’re considering investing in a professional corporate kit, take a look at Blumberg or Bindertek’s products. They have options specifically for nonprofits!