Step 1) Secure Your Nonprofit Name
To secure and register your brand name it must be unique, and shouldn’t contain any restricted wording. Keep in mind that there are a number of other naming rules, so be sure to bookmark this section of the IL Nonprofit Act, which covers corporate naming regulations.
Follow these steps:
Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent
When starting a nonprofit, you are required to designate a registered agent to handle official documents on behalf of your organization. They must be a resident of Illinois, or a business entity registered with the Illinois Secretary of State. Either way, they must have a physical address where they're available during normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm).
You can designate a registered agent by electing someone within your company, hiring an outside professional, or forming your nonprofit through a service like IncFile to get a registered agent free of charge for one year.
Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors
An incorporator is simply an individual who executes the Articles of Incorporation so your nonprofit can be made official (you're required to designate at least one). Directors, on the other hand, are in charge of helping run the nonprofit.
Follow these steps:
- Select at least one incorporator to deliver your Articles of Incorporation to the state.
- Select three initial directors to oversee your nonprofit until new directors are voted in.
Step 4) Draft Nonprofit Bylaws
Your bylaws will define the structure, management and governance of your nonprofit. Common nonprofit bylaws include:
- Detailed info on principle and registered agent offices
- Management, procedures, and responsibilities of the board
- Details on each office – Pres., Secretary, Treasurer, etc.
- How to go about adding/amending bylaws
- How to handle other corporate formalities required in the state
Step 5) File Articles Of Incorporation
Once you and your team decide it’s time to officially form the nonprofit corporation, you'll need to file nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the state.
Some of the information you'll need to disclose on this document includes:
- The nonprofit name, type, duration of existence, and statement of purpose (provisions for nonprofit vs corp)
- Complete names & addresses of registered agent, incorporators and directors
- Any specific provisions/bylaws set forth as part of the internal operations of your organization
- File your Articles by mail by downloading the form here.
- Bookmark this IL Guide for Organizing Nonprofit Corporations PDF and check Publication 557 on the IRS website for comprehensive information regarding your filing.
Filing Fee: $50
Step 6) Start Corporate Records Book
While there’s a variety of modern ways to track and compile your nonprofit’s important data, what we’re talking about here is a physical records book where you keep copies of all your essential documents. Is this required by the state? No. But it’s a great way to stay organized, and even assert the legitimacy of your brand.
Follow these steps:
Step 7) Conduct An Initial Meeting
Now it’s time to conduct your first nonprofit meeting, which will be very organizational/foundational in nature.
The meeting agenda should look something like this:
- Take attendance and show you have a quorum (minimum number needed).
- Appoint temporary officers, chairmen, secretary, CEO, etc.
- Adopt or amend bylaws designed in Step 4.
- Decide on a bank, file state reports, etc.
Those are the basics, but there may certainly be a lot more to discuss. Regardless, this a huge move in the right direction, so make time to celebrate afterward!
Step 8) Get An EIN
Whether or not you intend to hire paid employees, your nonprofit needs to have an EIN (Employer Identification Number). In essence, it’s like a social security number for your nonprofit -- it tracks your financial activity to ensure compliance with state/federal tax laws.
Follow this step:
- Apply through the IRS Website to get an EIN quickly and free of charge.