STEP 1) SECURE YOUR NON-PROFIT NAME

Choose a Business NameOkay, so this first step can be really easy if you already have a distinguishable name for your non-profit that isn’t already registered with the state by any kind of business entity. To check for naming conflicts conduct a Corporate Entity Search through the state, and to dig into the recently passed naming requirements please download this New Hampshire Name Availability Guidelines. It should open a Word doc. formatted file that was produced by the state.

Also, keep in mind that if needed you can file an Application for Reservation of Name through postal mail that’s good for 120 days so the name is protected while you’re forming your non-profit.

Filing Fee: $15

STEP 2) APPOINT A REGISTERED AGENT

Choose a Registered Agent

A New Hampshire Registered Agent (also referred to as a legal appointee or statutory 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 critical paperwork like state filings, tax forms, legal notices and so on.

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

STEP 3) SELECT INCORPORATORS & DIRECTORS

Choose the Initial DirectorsIncorporators are simply individuals who are tasked with “executing” the Articles of Agreement (signing/filing them) with the state of New Hampshire. Directors on the other hand have much more responsibility if you intend on running your non-profit by board vs. through members or through volunteers alone.

First, keep in mind that you’ll need a minimum of 5 voting directors that aren’t immediately related by blood or through marriage, though there are some exceptions. See the Guidebook for New Hampshire Charitable Non-Profit Organizations for more information regarding the responsibilities of board members.

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 this savvy Corporate Bylaws Template which you can customize for your non-profit and get an idea of the paperwork-side of bylaws. There’s also Sample Bylaws you can download (Word doc. format) from the NH Center for Non-Profits.

STEP 5) FILE ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT

Business LicensesHead on over to the NH State Library and print a copy of their sample Articles of Agreement. This is what you’ll file when you’re ready to officially form your non-profit entity. Also, bookmark this Filing Information, otherwise some data you’ll need prepared includes:

  • Statement of purpose (to distinguish from a conventional corp.).
  • Membership and participation provisions;
  • Statement of assets provision upon dissolution;
  • Basic non-profit details, address & contact info, capital stock if applicable, and so forth.

Filing Fee: $30

STEP 6) START A CORPORATE RECORDS BOOK

File Annual Reports & Publication RequirementsWhat 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.

STEP 7) CONDUCT INITIAL MEETING

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of Directors

Also called the organizational meeting, the first meeting of the board of directors marks the beginning of your New Hampshire non-profit. In this meeting, you must decide on important matters including:

  • Non-profit bylaws approval or setting the precedent for amending them.
  • Designation of officers and committees and their responsibilities.
  • Non-profit accounting and tax period and appointment of CFO/Treasurer.
  • Approval of initial transactions and establishing a corporate bank account (Step 10).

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.

STEP 8) GET AN EIN

Get an EIN for Your LLC

You have a social security number, right? An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is exactly like it except for business entities and non-profit organizations. The state/federal government uses it to track your financial activity, but beyond that you’ll be able to use your EIN to set up a business bank account in Step 10, hire paid-employees if applicable to your initiative, and more.

While there are a number of ways to get yours, it’s quick, easy and free of charge when you do it through the IRS Website.

STEP 9) HANDLE LICENSING & EXEMPTIONS

Small Business Taxes

First, please print out these Formation Instructions that list the pertinent forms you should know about and provides valuable details for this step. It’s essential your non-profit be 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.

Along with the Attorney General’s Office, a couple other great resources (especially when it comes to networking and financial services) are the Concord district office of the Small Business Administration and the state’s Small Biz Development Center page.

STEP 10) SETUP A BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT

Best Business Bank Account

In your initial meeting you and the board should have discussed where to set up your non-profit’s financial groundwork – where to bank in New Hampshire. This is no simple matter. If you aren’t a/haven’t hired a qualified CFO or accountant, then you need to check out a good number of different local, state, and national banks as well as credit unions.

There’s a lot of variables to consider here, so to get your research going 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. Don’t let any other assets of data streams put your non-profit at risk.

OPTIONAL) PLAN YOUR NON-PROFIT FOR SUCCESS

Write a Business Plan

So who’s designing your non-profit’s plan of action and with how much detail? Could you show it to a volunteer or partner group? Is it refined enough to share on a crowdfunding platform? Like, if it were a classroom project proposal, would it reach its funding on DonorsChoose.org? Remember, if your non-profit is incorporated and run by a board of directors, this isn’t just some pet project, right?

A donor-ready plan really lays out the mission, provides milestones/goals on how this mission is being achieved (impact), details outreach and marketing methods, and presents clear funding objectives. Thankfully there are cost-effective software solutions that walk newcomers through the process.

QUICK LINKS TO NON-PROFIT PLANNING

OPTIONAL) PUBLISH A RESPONSIVE WEBSITE

Build a Business Website

And by responsive we mean a website that responds to the needs of your target audiences. If you were to say, spend 10 minutes browsing the 20 Best Non-Profit Websites (2016 Edition) what you would see are words, images, and video that’s curated for a specific individual. For non-profits, vs. more business-style sites, it’s about really getting the mission across then giving people clear options to get involved.

The question most new non-profits face is where to turn to get a responsive site built for their initiative that doesn’t cost $4000. If there’s no in-house designer aboard, hiring can be costly and these costs really have an impact when you’re a bootstrapping non-profit. Be sure to investigate platforms like Wix and SquareSpace, or even WordPress and Shopify. And enjoy the journey!

Need Help Forming Your Organization?

Have a reliable incorporation service like IncFile or LegalZoom do the work for you. Just answer a few questions about your organization and they’ll take care of the paperwork.

Visit IncFile Or Visit LegalZoom

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