Step 1) Secure Your Nonprofit Name
Choosing a unique name, unlike any other entity's name registered with the state, for your nonprofit is an important first step so be sure to conduct a Business Entity Search through the state.
Also, the name needs to align with your core mission statement that will be declared in your Articles in Step 5. Then there are a number of other specifications you should brush up on by checking out Section 301-A (page 16) of the Maine Nonprofit Corporation Act.
Once you find a name that's not already taken and that suits your nonprofit, if needed you can file an Application for Reservation of Name to protect it for 120 days while you're getting everything established.
Filing Fee: $5
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
A Maine Registered Agent is required to incorporate any nonprofit in the state. This “statutory agent” should be an individual of legal age and a resident or a registered business entity on file with the Dept. of Assessments & Taxation.
Your “registered office” is also required to have a physical street address. They provide "Service of Process" or, in other words, receive your official documents on your nonprofit's behalf.
Costs can run $160 every year, or you can get a qualified/dependable agent free of charge when you incorporate your nonprofit through well-trusted services like Incfile.
Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors
Maine requires at least 1 incorporator whose job it is to sign/file your Articles of Incorporation with the state. Then you need to recruit initial directors that can oversee the nonprofit until you're formed and conduct your first meeting in Step 7 where official directors will be voted in/on.
Bookmark the Guide for Board Members of Charitable Corporations page on Maine.gov because it has some of the finer details and links to more resources, but to be frank, working with an attorney or incorporation provider really comes in handy during this foundational step because there are definitely corporate formalities to learn.
Step 4) Draft Nonprofit Bylaws
Without your own bylaws, your nonprofit would be subject to the default rules and statutes concerning these subjects which may not be suitable at all. There are some rules, but 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 Maine.
To get started, check out a savvy Corporate Bylaws Template with an example that you can customize yourself. Also, here’s a link to the revised statutes ME Nonprofit Act (page 27) which gives you the finer, comprehensive details.
Step 5) File Articles Of Incorporation
Once you and your board believe everything is in order and you're ready to form the nonprofit in the eyes of the law/public record, you'll have your incorporators sign and file Articles of Incorporation (Domestic) with the Maine Secretary of State, Bureau of Corporations, Elections, and Commissions.
This is going to require original signatures and ask you to declare some of the basics: name, registered agent info, directors info, etc.
Filing Fee: $40 or $50-$100 Expedited Fee Options
Step 6) Maintain A Corporate Records Book
This is a formality of being a for-profit or nonprofit corporation that goes along with digitally keeping track of your data. It's an organized physical book, or binder, that contains hard copies of the most critical paperwork - state filing documents, licenses & permits, meeting minutes, tax returns, contracts, etc.
You can find them at nearby office supply stores or on Amazon, but we’re huge fans of Corporate Kits which include gorgeous records books/binders, blank certificated, and you can brand them for as little as $99.
Step 7) Conduct Initial Meeting
Like the Articles of Incorporation, this part of nonprofit work can get very formal and complex for beginners trying to navigate the semi-corporate structure of conducting meetings, electing directors, discussing bylaws, and going through the motions so to speak. Your first meeting, however, should cover topics like:
- Approving or Amending the bylaws written down in Step 4, and establishing this process for future meetings.
- Appointment of officers like secretary, treasury, CEO, etc., as well as committee management.
- Setting a nonprofit accounting and tax period and appointing a CFO,
- Approval of initial transactions and approval of setting up a corporate bank account.
Don’t forget to record “corporate minutes,” take roll call, record everyone’s name, and have it signed by all attending directors then add this to your new records book.
Step 8) Get An EIN
An EIN, or FEIN, is a Federal Employer Identification Number and your nonprofit entity is required to have one whether it has paid employees in the beginning or not. In other words, it's like a social security number for your organization except it's there to track financial activity to help maintain exempt status. You also need one to open up an official bank account.
Almost every transaction your nonprofit engages in will require an EIN. That said, you can get one quickly and free of charge by applying online through the IRS Website.