STEP 1) SECURE NON-PROFIT BRAND NAME

Choose a Business NameFirst, conduct a Business Entity Search to ensure there aren’t any naming conflicts. Then there are a number of other rules including:

  • (1) the name shouldn’t contain any words related to banks such as ‘banker’, ‘banking’, or ‘bank’; ‘insurance’; ‘cooperative’; ‘security’; ‘surety’;
  • (2) additionally, the name shouldn’t contain any name relating to a public park, playground or any public facility collectively with words such as ‘foundation’, ‘fund’, ‘benefit’, ‘benevolent’, ‘endowment’, or ‘philanthropic’.

For a complete list of the restrictions when it comes to naming your Louisiana Non-Profit, refer to Section 12:204.1 in the Louisiana Nonprofit Corporation Law. Also, if needed, you can file a Reservation for Business Name form and reserve the name for 60 days.

Filing Fee: $25

STEP 2) APPOINT A REGISTERED AGENT

Choose a Registered Agent

A Louisiana Registered Agent can be an individual resident/citizen of the state or a legally registered domestic/foreign business entity with a physical street address and regular M-F business hours. On behalf of your non-profit they receive and help process important documents like state, legal and tax notices. They’re essential and required by law.

That said, you can hire a 3rd party professional and expect to pay up to $160/year, or get a Registered Agent free of charge when you start a non-profit with IncFile or Incorporate.com. They handle this along with so much more depending on the startup package/service you choose.

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 one. 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 non-profit 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 section RS 12:224 in the statutes which covers Board of Directors powers; number; qualifications; quorum; committees; terms and classes of directors; reliance upon records and information provided and everything else involved in this part of the process.

STEP 4) DRAFT NON-PROFIT BYLAWS

Register an LLC

Bylaws are the rules/stipulations/regulations you write for how your non-profit will be governed and managed along with the many other formalities that come along with having a board of directors vs a non-profit that’s run expressly by members or volunteers. Common bylaws cover topics like:

  • How meetings are to be conducted and how often (monthly, by-monthly, yearly, etc.)
  • How new officers and directors are elected and their responsibilities.
  • How voting takes place, how disputes are handled, and how records are kept.
  • Adding/Amending bylaws (any changes must be reported to the IRS after incorporation).

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 Licenses

Once you and your team decide it’s time to form and fully incorporate in the eyes of the law/public record, file your non-profit Articles 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 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: $75

STEP 6) START A CORPORATE RECORDS BOOK

File Annual Reports & Publication Requirements

If you aren’t already familiar, a non-profit records book is where you keep physical copies of the most important paperwork – Articles of Organization, 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.

STEP 7) CONDUCT INITIAL MEETING

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of Directors

The first meeting is in many ways the most important because it lays the foundation. Before we list common issues covered below, here’s a list of Corporate Minutes Templates you can customize and use to get the ball rolling.

  • You will appoint/vote in the initial board of directors.
  • You will elect at least 1 officer as Secretary, but you’ll also need a CEO, treasurer, etc.
  • Officially adopt bylaws, or address changes which need to be declared to the IRS.
  • Approve getting an EIN in Step 8, a bank account in Step 10, assign committees, and more.

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/non-profit financial activity and makes it possible to open a business bank account (Step 10), hire paid-employees if needed, and so on.

Almost every transaction your non-profit 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 & TAXATION

Small Business Taxes

Now it’s time 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.

Two other great sites to bookmark so you can utilize all the many resources and networking potential are the New Orleans Small Business Administration office and Sec. of State’s Business Services. Besides, non-profits and the business community work together in endless ways.

STEP 10) SETUP A BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT

Best Business Bank Account

First of all, your non-profit’s financials need to be separate from all other accounts or streams of financial data. Also, don’t just assume you should set it up where you or your directors already have personal bank accounts. Would that be convenient? Yes, but keep in mind there are plenty of options – local, state, and national banks as well as credit unions.

Try to look at the differences in fees, kickbacks, incentives and financial services on an annual basis when you do your comparisons. Just don’t be hasty. Do some homework. Here’s a quick breakdown article on Non-Profit Accounts to gain a better understanding.

OPTIONAL) WORK ON A FUND-READY PLAN

Write a Business Plan

Unbelievable work, at this point your non-profit is established and ready to impact the world, change lives, and make a difference. That said, how’s your planning? What kind of plan do you have and how much structure is there?

Listen, if all you have is a basic mission statement and a hazy vision of the next couple years PLEASE consider taking some time to really chisel out a solid game plan with core fundamentals like outreach methods, funding needs, impact goals/milestones, etc. It’s worth it. Eventually your non-profit will need this anyway when it comes time to approach potential partners and volunteer organizations. If you need help putting this together, we highly recommend a tool called LivePlan, which will walk you through the entire process.

OPTIONAL) PUBLISH A RESPONSIVE WEBSITE

Build a Business Website

Do you have a website for your non-profit yet? It’s important you do, whether that be a single explanatory landing page, a comprehensive agency-style site, or a blog with ecommerce capabilities. At the end of the day it’s about this one thing: “What people see or discover when they search for your non-profit’s name online.”

If you don’t have a designer, be sure to check out modern website builders like Wix, Weebly and Jimdo. All three of these tools are easy to use, all-in-one and affordable.

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 start a non-profit organization in Louisiana 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 organization in Louisiana or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.