Choose a Business Name

To secure and register your non-profit name in it should be unique, not too similar to another registered entity name, and shouldn’t contain any restricted wording as defined by Missouri law. To check for naming conflicts, first conduct a Business Entity Search through the state and be sure to check with section 355.146 in the state code (subject to change).

If needed, you can file an Application for Reservation of Name through postal mail with the Missouri Secretary of State to protect the name for up to 180 days or until filing Articles of Incorporation in Step 5.

Filing Fee: $25


Choose a Registered AgentA Missouri Registered Agent is required of your non-profit for compliance purposes. This registered, or statutory agent, can be an individual registered citizen or a corporation authorized to conduct business in the state. They’ll also need to provide a street address, for your registered office and hold regular M-F business hours.

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 non-profit with a service like IncFile or BizFilings. They handle this and more depending on your startup package.


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 non-profit Articles of Incorporation with the state in step 5. They don’t have to be an officer or director, but you do need President, Treasurer, and Secretary officers. Speaking of directors, you’ll need to select at least 3 initial directors to oversee the non-profit during formation until new more official directors can be voted on/in during your initial meeting in Step 7.

Bookmark the UMKC page because it has more of the finer details in terms of board responsibilities along with great non-profit resources. 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.


Register an LLCThis is somewhat complex subject, but here are two primary notes in state law concerning non-profit bylaws:

The code or codes of rules, other than the articles, adopted pursuant to this chapter for the regulation or management of the affairs of the corporation, irrespective of the name or names by which such rules are designated. Bylaws shall not include legally enforceable covenants, declarations, indentures or restrictions imposed upon members by validly recorded indentures, declarations, covenants, restrictions or other recorded instruments, as they apply to real property.

And this short section,

The incorporators or board of directors of a corporation shall adopt bylaws for the corporation. The bylaws may contain any provision for regulating and managing the affairs of the corporation that is not inconsistent with law or the articles of incorporation.

If it’ll be helpful, check out a savvy Corporate Bylaws Template with an example that you can customize yourself as well.


Business LicensesOnce you and your team decide it’s time to form the initial corporation, file your non-profit Articles of Incorporation or submit them via mail to 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: $25


File Annual Reports & Publication Requirements

What we’re referring to here is a physical, often very nice looking book, folder or binder where copies of critical pieces of paperwork are kept and managed. And yes, that’s along with the many modern ways of tracking and compiling information on your non-profit. They’re somewhat of a corporate formality, but extremely 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.


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.


Get an EIN for Your LLC

An EIN is very straightforward. It’s a 9-digit identifying number like a social security number but for business entities including non-profits. You’ll use it to setup a bank account and hire paid employees if needed, then the appropriate agencies will use it to track your financial activity.

The quickest and easiest way to get one is by submitting a request directly through the IRS Website.


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.

Two other great sources of information, networking, and financial services are the St. Louis district office of the Small Business Administration and the Sec. of State’s Business Services page. Non-profits and the small business community work together in countless ways, right?


Best Business Bank Account

First of all, make absolutely sure that no other accounts of any kind or any other income/expense steams of data get mixed in! This is a costly and completely avoidable mistake for too many non-profits stumble into. Secondly, do some homework and research different options between local, state, and federal banks along with credit unions.

Don’t be too quick to decide here! The amount of costs/savings per year from one bank to the next, relative to their other services, is a critical consideration. If needed, check out this brief breakdown of Non-Profit Accounts to gain a better understanding of what’s involved.


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.


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