Step 1) Secure Your Nonprofit Name
The first step to forming your nonprofit is to give it a distinguishable and unique name that is in line with your core mission statement.
There’s no rule when it comes to naming your nonprofit, however, you need to include words after your name like "association," "company," "foundation," "institute," "union," etc. You may also use abbreviations instead like “co.”, “inc.” and “ltd.” There are more instructions on the Certificate of Incorporation form which is linked in Step 5.
Just remember your chosen nonprofit name should be distinguishable and not already registered by another nonprofit or business. To check for naming conflicts prior to filing, you can use the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s Business Entity Search. If needed, an Application for Reservation of Name can be submitted that’s good for up to 60 days.
Filing Fee: $10
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
An Oklahoma Registered Agent is a mandatory requirement. They act as a representative, or legal appointee, of your nonprofit whose job it is to receive and help process all important documents, especially state filings. Some basic criteria includes:
- Must be an Oklahoma resident;
- Must be a registered Oklahoma business itself and;
- Must be authorized to transact and operate business in Oklahoma.
You can hire an outside professional service and expect to pay up to $160/year, or get a Registered Agent free of charge when you incorporate through filing services like Incfile. They handle this and more depending on your startup package.
Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors
By definition, all an incorporator does is sign and “execute” the formal Articles of Incorporation and submit them to the state, which requires a minimum of three. As for your temporary directors, you’ll need to select/recruit a minimum of one.
Among other important duties it’s their job to oversee the nonprofit corporation/organization during the formation process until your first board meeting in Step 7 where official directors will be voted on/in.
Step 4) Draft Nonprofit Bylaws
Incorporated nonprofits need to have bylaws, or rules and regulations, that first and foremost determine how it’s governed. They also state the mission of the nonprofit and steer it’s course. They're essential! Common bylaws touch on topics like:
- How meetings are to be conducted.
- How new officers and directors are elected.
- How voting takes place, disputes handled, and records kept/managed.
- Adding/Amending bylaws (any changes must be reported to the IRS after incorporation).
- How to handle other nonprofit organization formalities in the state of Oklahoma.
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.
Step 5) File Certificate Of Incorporation
Once you and your team decide it’s time to form and fully incorporate in the eyes of the law/public record, file your nonprofit Certificate of Incorporation with the Sec. of State either through mail or online. Information you’ll need includes:
- The name, type, duration of existence, and statement of purpose (provisions for nonprofit vs corp);
- Complete names & addresses of registered agent (and office), incorporators, and directors.
- Any specific provisions/bylaws set forth as part of the internal operations of your organization.
Filing Fee: $25
Step 6) Start A Corporate Records Book
What we’re talking about here is a physical book, or some call it a binder, where you put copies of the most important documents that comprise your nonprofit organization: formation/registration, core licenses & permits, minutes of meetings, big contracts, annual reports and taxation documents, etc.
To get one for your nonprofit you can grab a quality records book at any nearby office supply store, order them online through Amazon, or get a professional Corporate Kit which let you brand the book/slip case, provide blank certificates, and more for as little as $99.
Step 7) Conduct Initial Meeting
The first board of directors meeting is also known as the organizational meeting and one of the most important meetings that you can ever hold as a nonprofit. During the first meeting, the following agenda will be discussed:
- Nonprofit bylaws approval,
- Appointment of officers,
- Setting a nonprofit accounting and tax period and,
- Approval of initial transactions and application of a corporate bank account.
Prepare the minutes of the meeting and have it signed by all your board of directors. It must be recorded and kept in your Corporate Records Book for safekeeping.
Step 8) Get An EIN
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.