Step 1) Secure Your Nonprofit Name
The first step to securing an official name for your nonprofit is to check and see if the one you really 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 §414D-61 statute on corporate naming.
If needed, you may be able to have it reserved on the state level to protect it by filing an Application for Reservation of Name.
Filing Fee: $10
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!
Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent
As a legal business entity you'll need a Hawaii 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 a Hawaii resident/citizen or registered business entity with a "registered office" at a physical Hawaii street address that hold regular M-F business hours.
You can hire an outside professional service and pay $160/year or get an agent free of charge when you incorporate with Incfile (see details). They handle this and much more depending on your startup package.
Step 3) Select Incorporators & 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 3 initial directors 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 3 directors 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
You can't have an incorporated nonprofit without formal documented bylaws which according to the Hawaii Nonprofit Corporation Act, "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 Hawaii.
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
Filing a Articles of Incorporation establishes your nonprofit corporate entity in the eyes of the law and Hawaii public record. Some is basic information, but you must have other language that differentiates your nonprofit from a for-profit corporation as well:
- The name, type, duration of existence, and statement of purpose (provisions for nonprofit vs corp);
- Complete names & addresses of registered agent (and office), incorporators, and directors.
- Any specific provisions/bylaws set forth as part of the internal operations of your organization.
Filing Fee: $25 + $10 for Certified Copy
Step 6) Start A Nonprofit Records Book
While 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 Initial Meeting
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 VII. Members' Meetings, and Voting 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 helpful then go ahead and print out a Corporate Minutes Template you can customize and use to get the ball rolling.
Step 8) Get An EIN For Your Nonprofit
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.