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

How to Use this Guide

Use the guide below to form a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Georgia. 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 NameThe first step to securing an official name for your nonprofit is to check and see if the one you have your heart set on has already been filed with the state – by a DBA, LLC, Corp, Trademark, etc. To check for naming conflicts conduct a Business Entity Search or as many as you need until you’re sure it’s unique. You’ll find specific info in the §41-3-401 statute on corporate naming.

If needed, file a Name Reservation Request to have it set aside for your nonprofit for 30 days while you’re forming.

Filing Fee: $25

Quick Note: Before you commit 100% to a name, you may also want to check that there’s a decent URL available for your business. Use GoDaddy to search your options. If there’s a quality domain name for purchase, we advise buying it right away. Even if launching a business website isn’t on your radar right now, it’s going to be soon, and you might as well nail down a domain name that’ll make it easy for customers to find you!


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Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent

Choose a Registered Agent

As a legal business entity you’ll need a Registered Agent, or statutory agent, who is responsible for officially receiving critical notices and copies of important paperwork on behalf of your nonprofit – legal notices, tax forms, state-level contracts, etc. They must be aGeorgia resident/citizen or registered business entity with a “registered office” at a physical Georgia street address that hold regular M-F business hours.

Now, you can hire an outside professional service and pay up to $160/year or get an agent free of charge when you incorporate with Harbor Compliance (see details). They handle this and much more depending on your startup package.

Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors

Choose the Initial Directors

As long as they’re an adult, anyone willing to represent your nonprofit can act as an Incorporator and “execute” your Articles. The duties and responsibilities of Directors are far more substantial. You’ll need to appoint  at least 1 initial director to preside over the nonprofit until it is formed. Then, in Step 7 you’ll vote on and establish the process by which officially elected directors take there place.

No matter what, you’ll always need to have at least 1 director to stay within the law. That said, this part can be complex so don’t be afraid to turn to a professional incorporation services experienced in working with new nonprofits or a specialized attorney. Directors and these formalities should be clearly understood.

Step 4) Draft Nonprofit Bylaws

Register an LLC

You can’t incorporate without formal documented bylaws which according to the 2010 Georgia Code, “The bylaws may contain any provision for regulating and managing the affairs of the corporation that is not inconsistent with law or the articles of incorporation.” Some of the issues covered should include:

  • The frequency and process by which you holding meetings,
  • How you electing/appoint new officers and directors,
  • How you keep and manage records (see Step 6),
  • Adding/Amending bylaws,
  • How to handle other corporate formalities required in the state.

Be sure to print out a savvy Corporate Bylaws Template so you can begin putting your initial bylaws together. They’re be voted and adopted in Step 7. If there are any changes or amendments to those stated in your Articles you’ll need to notify the right authorities so they can be reflected on the public record.

Step 5) File Articles Of Incorporation

Business LicensesUnlike other states there is no formal Articles of Incorporation template in the state of Georgia. However, here are a couple of very helpful resources to get your started and provide some direction.

  1. These Filing Procedures have example Articles for Nonprofits.
  2. Some more instructions for filing out & submitting your Articles of Incorporation.

Filing Fee: $100

Step 6) Start A Nonprofit Records Book

File Annual Reports & Publication RequirementsWhile it’s true that data tracking and storage has for the most part gone digital, and the cloud is all the rage, what we’re referring to here is a traditional hard cover book or binder where all the most critical paperwork – state registration and filing documents, important contracts, licenses, meeting minutes, and so on. It’s not required by any means, but par for the course with nonprofit and for-profit corps.

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 An Initial Meeting

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of Directors

Your first meeting with your initial directors marks the official beginning of your nonprofit! This is a critical time where the very foundation is laid upon which all the good work you do with your team will be built. Please refer to section Chapter 3. Article 7 within the law for some direction. Otherwise, common topics include:

  • Assigning initial officers and outlining their responsibilities;
  • Agreeing on or choosing to amend bylaws;
  • Formally choosing a tax year, accounting period, and where to setup a bank account.

You’ll need to record “minutes” of the meeting and have it signed by all attending directors. If you found the other template we showed you in Step 5 then go ahead and print out this Corporate Minutes Template you can customize and use to get the ball rolling.

Step 8) Get An EIN For Your Nonprofit

Get an EIN for Your LLC

What’s an EIN (also called an FEIN, or TIN) and what’s it for? First, it’s a 9-digit number the IRS assigns to your nonprofit to allow you to smoothly file taxes and to track your financial activity to ensure compliance with nonprofit tax laws. You can also use it to open an official bank account, legally hire paid employees if applicable and apply for certain licenses/permits.

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 gambling laws.

Also, if you don’t have a legal team or attorney yet and you’re having a hard time assessing what licenses and paperwork you’ll need, be sure to bookmark the Atlanta Small Business Admin office and the Dept. of Corp’s Business Services.

Step 10) Setup A Business Bank Account

Best Business Bank AccountIf you browse through this list of Top 10 Checking Accounts for Nonprofits you’ll notice a few specific traits, and in many ways they determined how rough your nonprofit’s journey will be in the first 2-5 years:

  • Solutions: where you choose to bank should have solutions that address your unique platform.
  • Variable Fees: focus on your volume demands as they typically start small and then scale over time.
  • Incentives: there are tons of incentives, kickbacks, and other financial services to consider.

And remember, your nonprofit’s financials should be completely separated from accounts of any other kind and have strict access controls in place as well.

Need Help?

How To Form a 501(c)(3) NonprofitIf you’d like help forming a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit In Georgia, 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.