How to Start a Nonprofit in MD

Two people forming a nonprofit in Maryland

In this guide, you’ll find everything you need about starting your Maryland nonprofit, including information on how to name your nonprofit, file articles of incorporation, and how to apply for IRS tax-exempt status.

Follow these 8 easy steps below to start a nonprofit yourself:

Step 1: Name Your Maryland Nonprofit
Step 2: Appoint a Maryland Registered Agent
Step 3: Select Your Board Members and Officers
Step 4: File the Maryland Articles of Incorporation
Step 5: Draft Bylaws and Conflict of Interest Policy
Step 6: Conduct an Organizational Meeting
Step 7: Get an EIN
Step 8: Applying for Exemption from Federal (501(c)(3) status) and State taxes

Or, use a professional formation service:

4.8 out of 5 starsIncfile ($49 + state fee) for easy nonprofit formation.

Starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Maryland is easy, just follow these easy steps:

If you’ve been thinking about starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Maryland, you have come to the right place. We have developed this comprehensive guide to help you not only start a nonprofit in Maryland but also make it successful.

Step 1: Name Your Maryland Nonprofit

The name you select for your nonprofit will establish its brand. It is the first thing most people will learn about your organization. It is important to pick a name that both aligns with your mission and follows the rules for naming in your state.

Maryland Nonprofit Naming Guidelines

The name you pick for your organization must include one of the following words or their abbreviation: 

  • "Company", (if it's not preceded by the word/symbol "and)"
  • "Corporation" 
  • "Incorporated"
  • "Limited." 

You can read the official guidelines for the complete rules on naming a Maryland based organization. 

To learn more, read our How to Name a Nonprofit in Maryland guide.

Is the Website Domain Name Available?

If you plan to have a website for your organization, you will want to make sure that a suitable URL is currently available on GoDaddy.

You may want to buy any URLs you are interested in, to make sure they are available when you are ready to finalize and create your website.

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Step 2: Appoint a Maryland Registered Agent

A nonprofit corporation in Maryland is required to have a registered agent with a Maryland address.

What is a Registered Agent? A registered agent is an individual or business entity responsible for receiving important legal documents on behalf of your business. Think of your registered agent as your business' point of contact with the state.

Learn more about registered agents.

Incfile provides the first year of registered agent service free with nonprofit formation ($49 + State Fees)

To learn more, read our Maryland Registered Agent guide.

Step 3: Select Your Board Members and Officers

The directors of a nonprofit are responsible for overseeing the operations of the organization. The directors come together to form a board.

The officers of a nonprofit (such as the president or the secretary) are individuals with responsibilities, and the authority to execute based on their job descriptions.

Together, the officers and the board will come together to make up the organizational structure of your nonprofit.

The organization structure of your nonprofit in Maryland MUST include:

  • At least 3 directors not related to each other
  • A president
  • A secretary 
  • A treasurer

NOTE: One person may hold two or more officer positions, however, if a document requires signatures of two officers, it must be signed by two different people. 

To learn more, read our guide on how to select board members for your nonprofit

Step 4: File the Maryland Articles of Incorporation Form

To become a nonprofit corporation in Maryland you must file the Articles of Incorporation with the State of Maryland. 

In order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, the organization’s purpose must explicitly be limited to one or more of the following:

  • Charitable
  • Religious
  • Scientific
  • Literary
  • Testing for public safety
  • Fostering national/international amateur sports competition
  • Preventing cruelty to animals/children

You will need to mail the following to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation:

State Department of Assessments and Taxation
Charter Division 
301 W. Preston Street; 8th Floor 
Baltimore, MD 21201-2395

 To learn more, read our guide on How to File the Maryland Articles of Incorporation.

Step 5: Draft Bylaws and Conflict of Interest Policy

There are two documents that will be central to the running of your nonprofit:

Bylaws: These are the rules that determine how your organization will be governed and run.

Conflict of Interest Policy: These are the rules set to ensure that decisions being made for the nonprofit are based on what is best for the organization, and not being motivated by what is best for individuals.

Learn more about how to write bylaws for your nonprofit.

Step 6: Conduct an Organizational Meeting

An organizational meeting is the first official meeting of your nonprofit! Some of the things that are discussed in a typical organizational meeting:

  • Taking attendance to show you have a quorum (minimum number needed)
  • Appointing temporary officers, chairmen, secretaries, etc.
  • Adoption of the bylaws
  • Adoption of conflict of interest policy

Don’t forget to record “minutes” of the meeting and have it signed by all attending directors. Here are some corporate minutes templates to help you get the ball rolling.

Here are some corporate minutes templates to help you get the ball rolling.

Step 7: Get an EIN

An EIN or Employment Identification Number (also called a Federal Tax Identification Number or Federal Employment Identification Number), is used to uniquely identify a business entity. You can think of the EIN as a social security number for your nonprofit.

The EIN is required for your organization whether or not it will have any employees.

 To learn more, read our guide on how to get your EIN.

Step 8: Applying for Exemption from State and Federal Taxes (501(c)(3) status)

Applying for Exemption from Federal Taxes:

A nonprofit may be eligible for 501(c)(3) status only if its purpose is limited to one or more of the following:

Charitable, Religious, Scientific, Educational, Literary, Fostering national/international amateur sports competition, Preventing cruelty to animals/children, Testing for public safety

Before a nonprofit can apply for 501(c)(3) status it must: 

  1. Elect at least 3 directors not related to each other
  2. Register as a nonprofit with the state
  3. Adopt the bylaws and conflict of interest policy  
  4. Have an EIN number

Once these four conditions have been met your nonprofit can apply for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by filing Form-1023 online.

If your application is approved, the IRS will send you a determination letter stating that your organization is exempt from federal taxes under section 501(c)(3).

To learn more, read our guide on How to File Form 1023-EZ


Applying for Exemption from State Taxes:

For exemption from state income tax send the following:

  1. A letter requesting exemption from Maryland Income tax
  2. Copy of the IRS determination letter
  3. Copy of the bylaws
  4. An explanation of the purpose of your organization
  5. Latest financial statement of your nonprofit. 


Legal Department
Comptroller of the Treasury
Revenue Administration Division
110 Carroll Street
Annapolis, MD 21411

Information: (410) 260-7980 

Web Site:

Filing Fee: $0

For exemption from sales and use tax, you must submit a Sales and Use tax exemption certificate application

Once you have formed your Maryland nonprofit, we recommend you read our guide on How To Protect your Maryland Nonprofit and Keep It Compliant

State of Maryland Nonprofit Quicklinks