STEP 1) SECURE YOUR NON-PROFIT NAME

Choose a Business NameThe first step to forming your nonprofit is to give it a distinguishable and unique name that is in line with your core mission statement. There’s no rule when it comes to naming your nonprofit, however, you need to include words after your name like “association,” “company,” “foundation,” “institute,” “union,” etc. You may also use abbreviations instead like “co.”, “inc.” and “ltd.” There are more instructions on the Certificate of Incorporation form which is linked in Step 5.

Just remember your chosen nonprofit name should be distinguishable and not already registered by another nonprofit or business. To check for naming conflicts prior to filing, you can use the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s Business Entity Search. If needed, an Application for Reservation of Name can be submitted that’s good for up to 60 days.

Filing Fee: $10

STEP 2) APPOINT A REGISTERED AGENT

Choose a Registered Agent

An Oklahoma Registered Agent is a mandatory requirement. They act as a representative, or legal appointee, of your non-profit whose job it is to receive and help process all important documents, especially state filings. Some basic criteria includes:

  • Must be an Oklahoma resident;
  • Must be a registered Oklahoma business itself and;
  • Must be authorized to transact and operate business in Oklahoma.

You can hire an outside professional service and expect to pay up to $160/year, or get a Registered Agent free of charge when you incorporate through filing services like IncFile or BizFilings. They handle this and more depending on your startup package.

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 three. 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 the OK guide To Starting a 501 (c) (3) Organization straight from the Oklahoma Center for Non-Profits. It’s got tons of helpful information if you don’t have someone guiding your way through this part of the process.

STEP 4) DRAFT NON-PROFIT BYLAWS

Register an LLC

Incorporated non-profits need to have bylaws, or rules and regulations, that first and foremost determine how it’s governed. They also state the mission of the non-profit and steer it’s course. They’re essential! Common bylaws touch on topics like:

  • How meetings are to be conducted.
  • How new officers and directors are elected.
  • How voting takes place, disputes handled, and records kept/managed.
  • Adding/Amending bylaws (any changes must be reported to the IRS after incorporation).
  • How to handle other non-profit organization formalities in the state of Oklahoma.

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.

STEP 5) FILE CERTIFICATE OF INCORPORATION

Business LicensesOnce 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 Certificate 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: $25

STEP 6) START A CORPORATE RECORDS BOOK

File Annual Reports & Publication Requirements

What we’re talking about here is a physical book, or some call it a binder, where you put copies of the most important documents that comprise your non-profit organization: formation/registration, core licenses & permits, minutes of meetings, big contracts, annual reports and taxation documents, etc.

To get one for your non-profit you can grab a quality records book at any nearby office supply store, order them online through Amazon, or get a professional Corporate Kit which let you brand the book/slip case, provide blank certificates, and more for as little as $99.

STEP 7) CONDUCT INITIAL MEETING

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of DirectorsThe first board of directors meeting is also known as the organizational meeting and one of the most important meetings that you can ever hold as a nonprofit. During the first meeting, the following agenda will be discussed:

  • Non-profit bylaws approval,
  • Appointment of officers,
  • Setting a non-profit accounting and tax period and,
  • Approval of initial transactions and application of a corporate bank account.

Prepare the minutes of the meeting and have it signed by all your board of directors. It must be recorded and kept in your Corporate Records Book for safekeeping.

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, 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 & EXEMPTIONS

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.

  • Download IRS FORM 1023 – Application for the Recognition of Exemption under Section 501(c)(3).
  • Or Form 1023-EZ – streamlined form but must be under $50k annual gross receipts and $250k in assets.
  • Bookmark the OK Tax Commission site and OCP to get more state-specific info.
  • If you need help, check out Business License Research packages that take care of some legwork.

A couple other great sites to add to your bookmarks would be the Central Oklahoma Community Foundation and the Oklahoma City District Office of the Small Business Administration because they’re going to have a fair amount of valuable information and resources that can help your non-profit get situated and established.

STEP 10) SETUP A BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT

Best Business Bank AccountSince you’re here in this article right now chances are it’s your first time starting a non-profit organization, so you’re probably not aware of everything involved in the business-side of banking. Where you build your non-profit’s financial foundation is important – fees, withdrawal/deposit limits, accessibility, location, credit/debit incentives, online banking options, etc. Don’t just wing this or assume you should set up shop where you personally bank or where one of your officers/directors does.

If you’re interested, this article takes a good look at Non-Profit Checking Accounts and what makes them appealing for new blooming charitable corporations. Shop around!

OPTIONAL) WRITE A SOLID BUSINESS PLAN

Write a Business Plan

Because of the nature of non-profits, truth is there’s some sort of planning in place. The question is how effective will it end up being a year from now? A year from now, how far will your current approach to non-profit planning (and execution) have gotten you and your board? How defined will your mission statement and outreach goals? How tight of a grasp on your fundamentals?

It’s never too early, or too late, to begin establishing a fund-ready plan you would proudly show to potential partners or donors. The process itself will open so many doors, and dramatically increase your awareness of your potential. If you need help with this, check out and grab our exclusive discount to LivePlan.

OPTIONAL) CREATE A BUSINESS WEBSITE

Build a Business Website

When a potential volunteer, donor, or investor searches the internet for your non-profit brand what will or do they find? The very worst thing that can happen these days is that they don’t find anything at all. What would you think of a non-profit if they didn’t have at bare minimum a responsive one-pager explaining who they are, what they’re about, what they’re doing, and a simple way to contact/engage them?

Those are the basics of what a non-profit website is for, along with direct sales if you’re into you’re raising money, but you get the idea. With options like Wix, Jimdo and Weebly it’s never been easier or less expensive to begin building a digital presence for your organization.

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 Oklahoma 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 form a non-profit organization in Oklahoma or business in general, please consult with a non-profit/corporate lawyer or other accredited professional.