Use the guide below to form a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in North Carolina. 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.
To secure and register your brand name it must be unique, and shouldn’t contain any restricted wording. Keep in mind that there are a number of other naming rules, so be sure to bookmark Article 3 of the NC Statutes, which covers corporate naming regulations.
Follow these steps:
Quick Note: Before you commit 100% to a name, you may also want to check that there’s a decent URL available for your organization. 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 website isn’t on your radar right now, it’s going to be soon, and you might as well nail down a domain name now.
When operating in North Carolina, you are required to designate a registered agent to handle official documents on behalf of your nonprofit.
Your registered agent must:
Action Step: You can designate a registered agent by electing someone within your organization, hiring an outside professional, or forming your nonprofit through a provider like Harbor Compliance to get a full year of these services for free (see details).
An incorporator is simply an individual who executes the Articles of Incorporation so your nonprofit can be made official. Directors, on the other hand, are in charge of helping run the nonprofit (check out this NC Guidebook for Nonprofit Boards of Directors for more information).
This part can be somewhat complex, which is why it’s a good idea to either hire a nonprofit lawyer or work with a professional nonprofit formation service. They’ll help you understand the ins and outs of choosing initial directors, and so much more.
Your nonprofit bylaws will define the structure, management and governance of your nonprofit. Common nonprofit bylaw topics include:
Action Step: If this is all new to you, consider creating your bylaws by customizing an online corporate bylaws template!
Once you and your team decide it’s time to officially form the nonprofit corporation, you’ll need to file nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the state.
Some of the information you’ll need to provide on this document includes:
Action Step: File the Articles of Incorporation with the NC Secretary of State’s Office online, in-person, or by mail.
Filing Fee: $60
While there’s a variety of modern ways to track and compile your nonprofit’s important data, what we’re talking about here is a physical records book where you keep copies of all your essential documents. Is this required by the state? No. But it’s a great way to stay organized, and even assert the legitimacy of your brand.
Action Step: You can find a sufficient corporate binder at a nearby office supply store or on Amazon, but we’re huge fans of corporate kits, which include branded pieces like custom printed bylaws and embossing seals!
Now’s the time to sit down with your initial directors and conduct an organizational meeting. This part of nonprofit work can get pretty complex, especially for beginners trying to navigate the corporate formalities involved. Regardless, it’s important to address all of the following topics:
Don’t forget to take roll call and record your first meeting minutes, too!
An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is a 9-digit number assigned by the IRS to track business entities’ financial activity. Think of it as a social security number for your nonprofit.
Having an EIN will make it possible for you to legally hire employees and open up a business bank account (Step 10). Almost every major transaction your nonprofit engages in will require an EIN, so it’s important to nail one down now.
Action Step: Get an EIN easily and completely free of charge by applying directly through the IRS website.
Now that your nonprofit corporation is established, it’s time to handle any licensing/permit requirements and apply for federal tax-exempt status. While we advise consulting a lawyer, here are some steps you can take to get the ball rolling:
Action Steps: We highly recommend working with an attorney or professional nonprofit formation service for this step. Applying for 501(c)(3) status is incredibly complicated, and services like Harbor Compliance can take care of this entire process on your behalf.
As a nonprofit, you’re probably looking for financial utility and solutions geared for your needs – waived fees, online banking options, conservative interest rates and other valuable services.
Take some time to shop around local, state and national banks/credit unions until you find the best option for your organization. Regardless of where you choose to bank, make sure to keep your personal and professional expenses totally separate. Don’t muddy the pristine waters of your financials and risk causing an audit!
Action Step: To get started on your research, check out our top 5 favorite business bank accounts.
If you’d like help forming a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit In North Carolina, we highly recommend looking into Harbor Compliance for personalized top-to-bottom nonprofit formation and obtaining IRS 501(c)(3) status.