How to Start a Nonprofit in Ohio

Two people forming a nonprofit in Ohio

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

Follow these 9 easy steps below to start a nonprofit yourself:

Step 1: Name Your Ohio Nonprofit
Step 2: Appoint an Ohio Registered Agent
Step 3: Select Your Board Members and Officers
Step 4: Ohio 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: Get an Ohio Tax Identification Number
Step 9: Applying for Exemption from State and Federal Taxes (501(c)(3) status)

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 Ohio is easy, just follow these easy steps:

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

Step 1: Name Your Ohio 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.

Ohio Nonprofit Naming Guidelines

The name you pick for your organization must:

  • Be distinguishable from other businesses operating in the state of Ohio
  • Not improperly imply the organization is affiliated with a government agency
  • Not include any words or terms that are considered slurs or include profanity
  • Not use terms associated with financial institutions such as: ‘Bank’, ‘bank and trust’, ‘trust’ or ‘trust company’ unless approval is obtained from the superintendent of financial institutions

The name need not include an organizational designation such as "Inc.", "Ltd.", "Incorporated", or "Company"

You can read the Secretary of State's official guidelines for the complete rules on naming an Ohio-based organization.

To learn more, read our How to Name a Nonprofit in Ohio 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 an Ohio Registered Agent

A nonprofit corporation in Ohio is required to have a registered agent with an Ohio 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 Ohio 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 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Ohio MUST include:

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

NOTE: The president and secretary positions cannot be held by the same person.

To learn more, read our guide on How to Select Board Members for Your Ohio Nonprofit.

Step 4: Ohio Articles of Incorporation

To become a nonprofit corporation in Ohio you must file Form 532B: the Initial Articles of Incorporation (Nonprofit, Domestic Corporation).

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

The filing fee is $99.

  • Checks and money orders for mailed forms must be made payable to the "Ohio Secretary of State"
  • Filings with credit card payments must include the credit card authorization form
  • Accepted credit cards include Visa, Discover, MasterCard, and American Express

To learn more, read our Ohio Articles of Incorporation guide.

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.

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: Get an Ohio Tax Identification Number

Nonprofits in the state of Ohio will also need to register for Ohio tax accounts. This can be accomplished by registering and using the Ohio Business Gateway.

For more information, you can call the Business Gateway at (866) 644-6468.

Step 9: 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:

Once you have received your 501(c)(3) determination letter from the IRS, your organization will generally be exempt from Ohio Commercial Activity Tax.

501(c)(3) nonprofits in Ohio are also exempt from paying sales tax. Your organization will need to present a STEC-B certificate to vendors you wish to purchase from.

For more information, you can call the Department of Taxation at (888) 405-4039, visit them at their website, or mail them at the address below:

Ohio Department of Taxation
P.O. Box 530
Columbus, OH 43216-0530

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

State of Ohio Nonprofit Quicklinks