How To Form a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit In Oklahoma

How to Use this Guide

Use the guide below to form a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Oklahoma. 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.

Step 1) Secure Your Nonprofit Name

Choose a Business NameThe 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 WEEBLY 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

Choose 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 Harbor Compliance (see details). They handle this and more depending on your startup package.

Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors

Choose the Initial 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.

If this is all brand new, be sure to print out a copy of the OK guide To Starting a 501 (c) (3) Organization straight from the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. It’s got tons of helpful information if you don’t have someone guiding your way through this part of the process.

Step 4) Draft Nonprofit Bylaws

Register an LLC

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

Business LicensesOnce 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.
  • A stipulation of apportioning assets to any 501(c)(3) upon termination of your organization.

Filing Fee: $25

Step 6) Start A Corporate Records Book

File Annual Reports & Publication RequirementsWhat 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

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of DirectorsThe 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

Get an EIN for Your LLC

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.

Step 9) Handle Licensing & Exemptions

Small Business Taxes

Now it’s time 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.

  • Download IRS FORM 1023 – Application for the Recognition of Exemption under Section 501(c)(3).
  • Or Form 1023-EZ – streamlined form but must be under $50k annual gross receipts and $250k in assets.
  • Bookmark the OK Tax Commission site and OCP to get more state-specific info.
  • If you need help, check out Business License Research packages that take care of some legwork.

A couple other great sites to add to your bookmarks would be the Central Oklahoma Community Foundation and the Oklahoma City District Office of the Small Business Administration because they’re going to have a fair amount of valuable information and resources that can help your nonprofit get situated and established.

Step 10) Setup A Business Bank Account

Best Business Bank AccountSince you’re here in this article right now chances are it’s your first time starting a nonprofit organization, so you’re probably not aware of everything involved in the business-side of banking. Where you build your nonprofit’s financial foundation is important – fees, withdrawal/deposit limits, accessibility, location, credit/debit incentives, online banking options, etc. Don’t just wing this or assume you should set up shop where you personally bank or where one of your officers/directors does.

If you’re interested, this article takes a good look at Nonprofit Checking Accounts and what makes them appealing for new blooming charitable corporations. Shop around!

Need Help?

How To Form a 501(c)(3) NonprofitIf you’d like help forming a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit In Oklahoma, we highly recommend looking into Harbor Compliance for personalized top-to-bottom nonprofit formation and obtaining IRS 501(c)(3) status.

They handle everything on your behalf and be on-call for questions you have. If you’d like more info, visit their website or read our review.