Step 1) Secure Nonprofit Brand Name
First, conduct a Business Entity Search to ensure there aren't any naming conflicts. Then there are a number of other rules including:
- (1) the name shouldn't contain any words related to banks such as ‘banker’, ‘banking’, or ‘bank’; ‘insurance’; ‘cooperative’; ‘security’; ‘surety’;
- (2) additionally, the name shouldn't contain any name relating to a public park, playground or any public facility collectively with words such as ‘foundation’, ‘fund’, ‘benefit’, ‘benevolent’, ‘endowment’, or ‘philanthropic’.
For a complete list of the restrictions when it comes to naming your Louisiana Nonprofit, refer to Section 12:204.1 in the Louisiana Nonprofit Corporation Law. Also, if needed, you can file a Reservation for Business Name form and reserve the name for 60 days.
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 WEEBLY 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
A Louisiana Registered Agent can be an individual resident/citizen of the state or a legally registered domestic/foreign business entity with a physical street address and regular M-F business hours. On behalf of your nonprofit they receive and help process important documents like state, legal and tax notices. They’re essential and required by law.
That said, you can hire a 3rd party professional and expect to pay up to $160/year, or get a Registered Agent free of charge when you start a nonprofit with IncFile. They handle this along with so much more depending on the startup package/service you choose.
Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors
By definition, all an incorporator does is sign and “execute” the formal Articles of Incorporation and submit them to the state, which requires a minimum of one. As for your temporary directors, you’ll need to select/recruit a minimum of one. Among other important duties it’s their job to oversee the nonprofit corporation/organization during the formation process until your first board meeting in Step 7 where official directors will be voted on/in.
If this is all brand new, be sure to print out a copy of section RS 12:224 in the statutes which covers Board of Directors powers; number; qualifications; quorum; committees; terms and classes of directors; reliance upon records and information provided and everything else involved in this part of the process.
Step 4) Draft Nonprofit Bylaws
Bylaws are the rules/stipulations/regulations you write for how your nonprofit will be governed and managed along with the many other formalities that come along with having a board of directors vs a nonprofit that’s run expressly by members or volunteers. Common bylaws cover topics like:
- How meetings are to be conducted and how often (monthly, by-monthly, yearly, etc.)
- How new officers and directors are elected and their responsibilities.
- How voting takes place, how disputes are handled, and how records are kept.
- Adding/Amending bylaws (any changes must be reported to the IRS after incorporation).
If this is all new to you, use a savvy Corporate Bylaws Template which you can customize for your nonprofit and get an idea of the paperwork-side of bylaws.
Step 5) File Articles Of Incorporation
Once you and your team decide it’s time to form and fully incorporate in the eyes of the law/public record, file your nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the Sec. of State either through mail or online. Information you’ll need includes:
- 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: $75
Step 6) Start A Corporate Records Book
If you aren’t already familiar, a nonprofit records book is where you keep physical copies of the most important paperwork – Articles of Organization, Bylaws, Meeting Minutes, 501.c.3 IRS Approval Letter, licenses & permits, current board members list, your annual and biannual reports, etc. Not mandatory, but very common and highly advised.
You can pick one up at pretty much any office supply store or online through Amazon of course, but we’re huge fans of savvy-sleek Corporate Kits which include gorgeous records books, binders, blank certificates and more which you can brand for as little as $99.
Step 7) Conduct Initial Meeting
The first meeting is in many ways the most important because it lays the foundation. Before we list common issues covered below, here’s a list of Corporate Minutes Templates you can customize and use to get the ball rolling.
- You will appoint/vote in the initial board of directors.
- You will elect at least 1 officer as Secretary, but you’ll also need a CEO, treasurer, etc.
- Officially adopt bylaws, or address changes which need to be declared to the IRS.
- Approve getting an EIN, a bank account, assign committees, and more.
Step 8) Get An EIN
An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is required by both state and federal governments for essentially the same reasons individuals are required to have a SSN. It’s a nine-digit number that’s used to track business/nonprofit financial activity and makes it possible to open a business bank account, hire paid-employees if needed, and so on.
Almost every transaction your nonprofit engages in will require an EIN. That said, you can get one quickly, easily and free of charge by applying online through the IRS Website.