Use the guide below to form a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Maine. 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.
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!
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 Harbor Compliance (see details).
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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 in Step 10.
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.
By now you should be ready to apply for exemptions under state and federal laws and in the process take care of any remaining licensing/permit issues. If you don’t have a legal team, here are four resources to get you started:
Two other good websites to put in your resources bookmark folder would be the Augusta district office of the Small Business Administration and the Nonprofit section of the state’s Corporations Division because they’ve got tons to offer your platform moving forward.
If the business-side of banking is unfamiliar to you and you don’t yet have a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), bookmark this brief breakdown of Nonprofit Accounts.compiled in mid-2016 by Investopedia. You need financial utility, services and solutions that are engineered for nonprofits vs. conventional companies.
Look at their checking options, and while you may have minimal activity to begin with, don’t forget to project forward. Look at interest rates and overall fee structures. Take some time to research before choosing any local, state, or national bank or credit union because this is a critical step. Sure, you can change institutions at any time, but this is a foundational choice at conception.
If you’d like help forming a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit In Maine, we highly recommend looking into Harbor Compliance for personalized top-to-bottom nonprofit formation and obtaining IRS 501(c)(3) status.