Step 1) Secure Your Nonprofit Name
Okay, so this first step can be really easy if you already have a distinguishable name for your nonprofit that isn't already registered with the state by any kind of business entity.
To check for naming conflicts conduct a Corporate Entity Search through the state, and to dig into the recently passed naming requirements please download this New Hampshire Name Availability Guidelines. It should open a Word doc. formatted file that was produced by the state.
Also, keep in mind that if needed you can file an Application for Reservation of Name through postal mail that’s good for 120 days so the name is protected while you're forming your nonprofit.
Filing Fee: $15
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 New Hampshire Registered Agent (also referred to as a legal appointee or statutory 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 critical paperwork like state filings, tax forms, legal notices and so on.
That said, you can hire a 3rd party professional and expect to pay up to $160/year, or get a qualified agent free of charge when you start a nonprofit through Incfile. They handle this along with much more depending on your startup package.
Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors
Incorporators are simply individuals who are tasked with "executing" the Articles of Agreement (signing/filing them) with the state of New Hampshire. Directors on the other hand have much more responsibility if you intend on running your nonprofit by board vs. through members or through volunteers alone.
First, keep in mind that you'll need a minimum of 5 voting directors that aren't immediately related by blood or through marriage, though there are some exceptions. See the Guidebook for New Hampshire Charitable Nonprofit Organizations for more information regarding the responsibilities of board members.
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. There's also Sample Bylaws you can download (Word doc. format) from the NH Center for Nonprofits.
Step 5) File Articles Of Agreement
Head on over to the NH State Library and print a copy of their sample Articles of Agreement. This is what you'll file when you're ready to officially form your nonprofit entity. Also, bookmark this Filing Information, otherwise some data you'll need prepared includes:
- Statement of purpose (to distinguish from a conventional corp.).
- Membership and participation provisions;
- Statement of assets provision upon dissolution;
- Basic nonprofit details, address & contact info, capital stock if applicable, and so forth.
Filing Fee: $30
Step 6) Start A Corporate Records Book
What we're referring to here is a physical, often very nice looking "book" or binder where copies of all the most critical pieces of paperwork are kept and managed. And yes, that's along with the many modern ways of tracking and compiling information on your nonprofit. They're somewhat of a corporate formality, but extremely 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
Also called the organizational meeting, the first meeting of the board of directors marks the beginning of your New Hampshire nonprofit. In this meeting, you must decide on important matters including:
- Nonprofit bylaws approval or setting the precedent for amending them.
- Designation of officers and committees and their responsibilities.
- Nonprofit accounting and tax period and appointment of CFO/Treasurer.
- Approval of initial transactions and establishing a corporate bank account.
Make sure that you prepare the minutes of the meeting; your attending board of directors will need to sign the document. If needed, check out a Corporate Minutes Template which you can customize.
Step 8) Get An EIN
You have a social security number, right? An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is exactly like it except for business entities and nonprofit organizations. The state/federal government uses it to track your financial activity, but beyond that you’ll be able to use your EIN to set up a business bank account, hire paid-employees if applicable to your initiative, and more.
While there are a number of ways to get yours, it’s quick, easy and free of charge when you do it through the IRS Website.