STEP 1) SECURE NONPROFIT NAME

Choose a Business NameFirst and foremost, the name you choose to file for your nonprofit In Indiana must include “corporation,” “incorporated,” “limited,” “company,” or a corresponding abbreviation. Secondly, the name must be unique and unlike any other entity name registered with the state. To check for naming conflicts, conduct a Business Entity Search (or as many as needed).

If needed, you may be able to file an Reservation of Business Name form (download only) to reserve the name while in formation so it’s not taken by another business or nonprofit. Most people file online using INBiz.

STEP 2) APPOINT A REGISTERED AGENT

Choose a Registered Agent

Your Indiana Registered Agent is there so that your nonprofit always, and officially, receives important paperwork on time like state filings, legal notices, important tax forms, and so on. This is why they must be either a registered individual citizen or business entity in the state, have a physical street address, and be available during all regular business hours/days.

That said, you can hire an outside professional service and expect to pay up to $160/year, or get a certified agent free when you incorporate your nonprofit with a service like IncFile or BizFilings. They handle this and more depending on your startup package.

STEP 3) SELECT INCORPORATORS & DIRECTORS

Choose the Initial Directors

What are incorporators? That’s easy, this is the individual (you can have more than one) who signs and then files your nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the state in step 5. They don’t have to be an officer or director. Speaking of directors, you’ll need to select at least 3 initial directors to oversee the nonprofit during formation until new more official directors can be voted on/in during your initial meeting in Step 7.

Bookmark the Serve Indiana page (Board & Governance section) because it has more details. To be frank, working with an attorney or incorporation provider really comes in handy during this foundational step as well because there are definitely corporate formalities to learn for newcomers.

STEP 4) DRAFT NONPROFIT BYLAWS

Register an LLC

Incorporated non-profits need to have Bylaws, or rules, that first and foremost determine how it’s governed. They also state the mission of the non-profit 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 non-profit organization formalities in the state of Indiana.

If this is all new to you, use a savvy Corporate Bylaws Template which you can customize for your non-profit and get an idea of the paperwork-side of bylaws.

STEP 5) FILE ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION

Business LicensesOnce all the previous steps are covered, and you and your board/members are ready, incorporators should sign and file or “execute” Articles of Incorporation (also see these Filing Instructions) with the Sec. of State. Information you’ll need includes:

  • The name, type, duration of existence, and statement of purpose (provisions for non-profit 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: $30

STEP 6) START A CORPORATE RECORDS BOOK

File Annual Reports & Publication Requirements

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 non-profit organization: formation/registration, core licenses & permits, corporate minutes, huge contracts, annual reports and taxation documents, etc.

To get one for your non-profit 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 Directors

For your first meeting assemble incorporators/directors and get ready to establish the foundation of your non-profit. 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:

  • Voting on the appointment of critical officers;
  • Voting on and approving/amending bylaws;
  • Establishing a tax year as well as an accounting period;
  • Approving initial transactions, committees, and more.

If you found the bylaws template 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. Another good resource is this All About Boards guide.

STEP 8) GET AN EIN

Get an EIN for Your LLC

An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is a 9-digit number required by all business and non-profit entities under law in order to effectively track their financial activity. Think of it as a social security number for your non-profit, but it will also make it possible to legally hire paid employees if needed and open up a bank account in Step 10.

Almost every transaction your non-profit engages in will require an EIN. That said, you can get one quickly and free of charge by applying online through the IRS Website.

STEP 9) HANDLE LICENSING & EXEMPTIONS

Small Business Taxes

Now’s the point to ensure your non-profit 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.

Because of all the great positive ways the nonprofit and small business community intertwine, you should also consider bookmarking the Indianapolis Small Business Administration and Business Services Guide.

STEP 10) SETUP A BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT

Best Business Bank Account

Where you choose to bank is no small matter when we’re talking about an incorporated nonprofit. Often founders or their close directors often use personal accounts, but that’s not going to fly with a nonprofit. Instead you and your CFO, if you have appointed one, need to find the best bank or credit union to handle the business banking services you’ll need to grow your initiative.

Look at different fee-structures, perks, incentives, and overall costs and savings and think ahead! You could start with a smaller bank for better deals, then switch to a much larger bank when your platform demands it. To get started, check out this quick breakdown of Non-Profit Accounts.

OPTIONAL) WORK ON A FUND-READY PLAN

Write a Business Plan

It’s common to “wing it” during the initial bootstrapping phases of starting a non-profit which tend to be fast and furious. Goals and objectives are immediate and close to home. But don’t forget to think forward a bit, into the possibly near future where outside funding and attracting partners, donators, and volunteers will require something more official and concise.

To be taken seriously with non-profit organizations, angel funds, or VCs you’ll need an very well-organized mission statement and plans on how you aim to achieve it. You’ll need to show them structured financials and forecasts. You’ll need to have serious outreach methods and other important core fundamentals figured out. If you need help putting all this together, we highly recommend a planning software called LivePlan, which will walk you through the entire process.

OPTIONAL) PUBLISH A RESPONSIVE WEBSITE

Build a Business Website

From astonishing outreach/marketing potential to ecommerce and crowd funding, non-profit websites aren’t optional anymore. Not as far as we can tell anyway. The issue is if you don’t have an in-house designer you trust, and this is your first rodeo, what do you do? Where can you turn that isn’t a time-sink and a drain on your budget?

These days platforms like Wix and Weebly have a lot to offer. And let’s not forget about SquareSpace which is still one of the mighty titans of the digital world. Don’t worry, websites don’t need to be as complex as they once were. The internet’s changing.

Need Help Forming Your Organization?

Have a reliable non-profit filing service like Swyft Filings or LegalZoom do the work for you. Just answer a few questions about your organization and they’ll take care of the paperwork.

Visit Swyft Filings Or Visit LegalZoom

Note that this article on how to form an Indiana nonprofit isn’t a legal document or legal advice. It’s for informational purposes and the information above is subject to change. For specific legal questions regarding how to form an Indiana nonprofit or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.