Step 1) Secure Your Non-Profit Name

Choose a Business NameThere’s two things to consider when choosing your non-profit name. First, it must be unique/unlike any other name currently registered with the state. Be sure to conduct a Business Entity Search through the state until you know you’ve got a qualified name.

Secondly, in KY the name should contain: ‘Corporation’, ‘Company’, or ‘Incorporated’ or any of their abbreviations (never follow ‘Company’ or ‘Co.’ with ‘and’ or ‘&’). If needed, you can have it reserved for 120 days by filing a Reservation of Corporate Name form. To see all the specifics, print out a copy of section 14A.3 – 010 in the statutes.

Filing Fee: $15

Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent

Choose a Registered Agent

Forming a non-profit corporation requires a qualified Kentucky Registered Agent to receive and help you officially process important documents, for example state-level paperwork or legal notices. Do keep in mind this agent must be a Kentucky resident or authorized Kentucky business entity with a physical street address that’s always available during regular M-F business hours.

In terms of pricing you can either hire on outside professional yourself and expect to pay up to $160/yr, or get a qualified registered agent for free when you incorporate your non-profit through IncFile or

Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors

Choose the Initial DirectorsAn incorporator is simply the individual(s) who deliver your Articles of Incorporation to the state so they can be filed and make your non-profit official. Directors on the other hand are those who help you run your non-profit. You’ll need to select at least 3 initial directors to oversee it until formed and new ones are voted in.

These initial directors will be listed in your Articles as well. Your official directors and their number will be stated in your bylaws once voted in. To be frank, working with an attorney or incorporation provider really comes in handy during this foundational step because there are definitely corporate formalities to learn.

Step 4) Draft Non-Profit Bylaws

Register an LLC

Your bylaws define your non-profit – structure, management, and governance. See section 273.191 in the statutes for specifics, it’s only one paragraph. Common non-profit bylaws include:

  • Detailed info on principle and registered agent offices.
  • Management, procedures, and responsibilities of the board.
  • Details on each office – Pres., Secretary, Treasurer, etc.
  • How to go about Adding/Amending bylaws,
  • How to handle other corporate formalities required in Kentucky.

To get started, check out a savvy Corporate Bylaws Template with an example that you can customize yourself and get an idea for what they look and sound like. These will be voted on and adopted or amended in your initial meeting in Step 7.

Step 5) File Articles Of Incorporation

Business Licenses

Once you and your board believe everything is in order and you’re ready to form the non-profit in the eyes of the law/public record, you’ll have your incorporators sign and file Articles of Incorporation (section 273.247) with the Kentucky Secretary of State. Please, do not try to take this step prematurely as it will only end up costing more time and resources.

The form is going to require original signatures and ask you to declare some of the basics of your non-profit: name, registered agent info, directors info, mission/purpose statement, etc.

Filing Fee: $8

Step 6) Start A Corporate Records Book

File Annual Reports & Publication Requirements

This is a formality of being a for-profit or non-profit corporation that goes along with digitally keeping track of your data. It’s an organized physical book, or binder, that contains hard copies of the most critical paperwork –  state filing documents, licenses & permits, meeting minutes, tax returns, contracts, etc.

You can find them at nearby office supply stores or on Amazon, but we’re huge fans of Corporate Kits which include gorgeous records books/binders, blank certificated, and you can brand them for as little as $99.

Step 7) Conduct Initial Meeting

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of Directors

Okay, this is your first official meeting and the kickoff of your newly formed non-profit. That said, let’s take a look at three critical governance mistakes non-profit boards make to give you some perspective here.

  • Failing to understand their fiduciary (trustee) duties.
  • Failing to provide effective oversight to the non-profit.
  • Directors deferring to many responsibilities to executive committee, board chair or the founders.

You can learn more in this Non-Profit Law Article and this PDF on KY Governance has some good info as well. Keep in mind you’ll need to record everything that happens and have it signed. Here’s a Minutes Template you can customize and use to get the ball rolling.

Step 8) Get An EIN

Get an EIN for Your LLC

An EIN, or FEIN, is a Federal Employer Identification Number and your non-profit entity is required to have one whether it has paid employees in the beginning or not. In other words, it’s like a social security number for your organization except it’s there to track financial activity to help maintain exempt status. You also need one to open up an official 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

After all the big steps above your non-profit should be ready to obtain the proper licensing/permits as well as tax-exempt status to become 100% compliant on the local, state, and federal levels.

  1. File a Form 1023 federal tax exemption application with the IRS.
  2. Or Form 1023-EZ – streamlined form but must be under $50k annual gross receipts and $250k in assets.
  3. Bookmark the KY Dept. of Revenue and the Attorney General to get more information.
  4. If you need help, check out Business License Research packages that take care of some legwork.

A couple other websites we think it would be a good idea to bookmark are the Louisville district office of the Small Business Administration and the Kentucky One-Stop because they’ve got ample resources, financial services, and TONS of networking potential to help grow your non-profit.

Step 10) Start A Business Bank Account

Best Business Bank Account

If the business-side of banking is unfamiliar to you and you don’t yet have a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), bookmark this brief breakdown of Non-Profit Accounts compiled in mid-2016 by Investopedia. You need financial utility, services and solutions that are engineered for non-profits vs. conventional companies.

Look at their checking options, and while you may have minimal activity to begin with, don’t forget to project forward. Look at interest rates and overall fee structures. Take some time to research before choosing any local, state, or national bank or credit union because this is a critical step. Sure, you can change institutions at any time, but this is a foundational choice at conception.

Do You Need Help?

We highly recommend using Harbor Compliance for nonprofit formation, guaranteed 501(c)(3) approval, ongoing compliance and dedicated support. However if you’d like to explore your other options, feel to do some research through our comparison of the best nonprofit formation services available.

Visit Harbor Compliance Or Visit Other Services

Note that this article on how to start a non-profit in Kentucky 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 start a non-profit in Kentucky or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.