Use the guide below to form a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Ohio. 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.
First thing’s first, you need to verify that your nonprofit name is available and acceptable under state law. Then, you can either reserve it or wait to nail it down until filing your Articles of Incorporation (Step 5). Here’s the 1-2-3 of it:
Filing Fee: $39.00/$25.00
Quick Note: Before you commit 100% to a name, you may 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 that’ll make it easy for folks to find you!
An Ohio registered agent, or statutory agent, is a certified individual or business entity that acts as an intermediary, receiving all official documents on your nonprofit’s behalf. They must be a legal resident of Ohio, or an entity that’s registered to conduct business in the state.
They’ll also need a physical street address, but an individual agent may provide a certified P.O. Box after proving Ohio citizenship.
That said, you can hire a third-party professional service and pay around $160/year, or get an agent free of charge for one year when you incorporate with Harbor Compliance (see details).
By definition, all an incorporator does is sign and “execute” the Articles of Incorporation and submit them to the state. You’ll need to appoint at least one.
As for your directors, you’ll need to select a minimum of three. It’ll be their job to oversee the nonprofit until your first board meeting when official directors will be voted in.
If this is all brand new to you, be sure to check out the Ohio Guide for Charity Board Members, straight from the Attorney General. It includes tons of helpful information, which is great if you don’t have a professional guiding you through this part of the process.
Incorporated nonprofits need to have bylaws, a document that outlines how the organization is structured and governed. They’ll also articulate the mission of the nonprofit and steer its course.
Your bylaws should address the following topics (and more):
If this is foreign territory for you, you might consider using a corporate bylaws template to get familiar with this essential piece of documentation!
Once your name is secured, you have a statutory agent, and your incorporators are ready to officially form the organization, file Articles of Incorporation (domestic nonprofit corp.). There are extensive filing instructions on the document itself along with plenty of expedited filing options depending on how big of a hurry you’re in.
Just do not file these until you’re ready and have all your bases covered, especially when it comes to the name. This will save you time and potential extra filing fees.
If you aren’t already familiar, a nonprofit records book is where you keep physical copies of the most important paperwork – Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Meeting Minutes, 501.c.3 IRS Approval Letter, licenses & permits, current board members list, your annual and biannual reports, etc. Not mandatory, but very 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.
For your first meeting assemble incorporators/directors and get ready to establish the foundation of your nonprofit. Be sure to record “minutes” of the meeting and all attendees and have it signed by directors for your records book. Topics you’ll cover will vary but should include:
If you found the bylaws template we linked above useful, check out a similar Corporate Minutes Template you can also customize and use to provide initial structure until you and your board get the hang of things should it be necessary.
An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is required by both state and federal governments for essentially the same reasons individuals are required to have a SSN. It’s a nine-digit number that’s used to track business/nonprofit financial activity and makes it possible to open a business bank account, hire paid-employees if needed, and so on.
Almost every transaction your nonprofit engages in will require an EIN. That said, you can get one quickly, easily and free of charge by applying online through the IRS Website.
Now’s the point to ensure your nonprofit is 100% compliant in terms of not only licenses/permits, but state and federal taxes. You should be able to apply for tax exempt status now that the corporation is established.
Some other great resources to put in your bookmarks are the Columbus district office of the Small Business Administration and the C4NPR because they’re heavily connected throughout the state and can help in a large variety of ways.
Take some time to shop around and see which bank/credit union has the most convenience and perks to offer your organization. Don’t assume where you or any of your directors bank personally is the ideal choice. How’s their online banking? What are their free deposit/withdrawal limits? How high are their monthly fees? What kinds of incentives do they specifically offer nonprofits?
Where you choose to bank is important so don’t take it lightly. If this will be your first time setting up shop, a) check out this quick breakdown of NonProfit Accounts, and b) make sure to keep this account completely separate from all other accounts. Don’t muddy the pristine water of your financials.
If you’d like help forming a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit In Ohio, we highly recommend looking into Harbor Compliance for personalized top-to-bottom nonprofit formation and obtaining IRS 501(c)(3) status.