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. To check for naming conflicts, first conduct a Business Entity Search through the state and be sure to check with Title 35: Part 3 in the state code (subject to change).
Also, once you know your name is unique you can file a Business Name Reservation application with the Montana Secretary of State to protect it until filing Articles of Incorporation in Step 5.
Filing Fee: $10 with Expedition Options
Your Montana Registered Agent is there so that your non-profit 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 non-profit with a service like IncFile or BizFilings. They handle this and more depending on your startup package.
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. 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 Governance & Leadership page from the MNA because it has more of the finer details in terms of board responsibilities. 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.
Without your own bylaws, your non-profit would be subject to the default rules and statutes concerning these subjects which may not be suitable at all. Common non-profit bylaws include:
To get started, check out this savvy Corporate Bylaws Template with an example that you can customize yourself. Also, if you have a legal representative or someone that’s familiar with going through state law, here’s a link to the annotated Chapter 2 of the Montana state code.
Once 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:
Filing Fee: $30
What we’re referring to here is a physical, often very nice looking “book” or binder where copies of all the most 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.
Also called the organizational meeting, the first meeting of the board of directors marks the beginning of your Montana non-profit. In this meeting, you must decide on important matters including:
Make sure that you prepare the minutes of the meeting; your attending board of directors will need to sign the document. If needed, check out this great Corporate Minutes Template which you can customize.
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.
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 Helena 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?
As a non-profit you’re looking for financial utility and solutions that are geared for your needs – low fees, waved expenses, great online banking options, good interest rates (if your non-profit maintains higher account balances) and other valuable services.
Take some time to shop around at local, state and national banks/credit unions until you find the best option. Also, if you haven’t already, consider appointing a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who’s knowledgeable and can help. If needed, check out this brief breakdown of Non-Profit Accounts to gain a better understanding and be sure to keep your non-profit account 100% separate from all others.
There are few things more enlightening to your entire non-profit team, and your donors and volunteers, then well-laid plans. Often non-profit core founders have the impact, visions, and goals driving them with no real focus on how to REALLY get there. Worse, non-profits fall to pieces with meager success because no foundation’s been built, no structure, to hold it and continue scaling.
A fund-ready plan is pretty straightforward actually, typically touching on core fundamentals like outreach methods, funding goals, executive summary, mission statement, programs, etc. If you need help setting all this up, we’re huge fans of a tool called LivePlan, which walks you through the entire process.
If you already have a website for your non-profit, as long as it’s mobile-friendly (responsive), you’re good to go. Websites are never done. They never stop growing and evolving as your platform does. But if you don’t have a site yet, it’s probably because you aren’t a designer and you either a) don’t have one you trust close by, b) don’t have the time for outsourcing.
Note that this article on how to start a non-profit organization in Montana 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 Montana or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.