Choose a Business NameFirst and foremost the name you choose must be unlike/distinguishable from any other business entities registered with the Secretary of State. Also, certain terms like ‘limited partnership’, and ‘cooperative’, etc. are restricted. To get a full rundown on the naming rules visit the state statutes: ORS 65.094.

Once you’ve determined that the name you want is acceptable, conduct a Business Entity Search through the state to look for any naming conflicts. If needed, now would be a good time to set up an account with the state so you can easily check the current fee and file an Application for Name Reservation.


Choose a Registered Agent

Your 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.


Choose the Initial Directors

An incorporator, and there can be more than one, is responsible for “executing” the Articles of Incorporation with the state in Step 5. Pretty simple and the only real requirement is that they be over 18 year of age. Directors on the other hand bare far more responsibility. For now you’ll be recruiting at least one temporary director to oversee the organization until in Step 7, you vote in the official directors of the board.

For a bit more info on directors bookmark the “Guide to Non-Profit Board Service in Oregon” through the OR Attorney General. Otherwise it’s a good idea to work with either a non-profit lawyer or an incorporation service who can help guide you and your team through this part of the process and explain the finer details.


Register an LLCThese are the rules you stipulate that determine how your non-profit organization is governed and managed. All incorporated non-profits need them because if they aren’t in place the default OR state statutes/codes take over which may not be the best option. Here’s some options to help with this step if it’s unfamiliar territory for you and your initial directors.

To boil it down though these bylaws determine the authority granted to board members and establish the number of meetings that you’ll per monthly, yearly, etc. as well as the provisions for adding/amending bylaws, appoint committees, and much more.


Business LicensesWhen you and your board are ready to form your corporate entity and make it known to the public record, file Articles of Incorporation with the state as either a religious, public benefit, or mutual benefit non-profit. The form declares the basics of your new organization including:

  • 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: $50


File Annual Reports & Publication Requirements

Apart from your digital record keeping methods, this 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.


Hold a Meeting with Your Board of Directors

As this is your first official non-profit meeting it’s very important and organizational. Once you have a quorum (the needed amount of attendance in OR) be sure you record your first “meeting minutes” and put them in your records book. Topic covered 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, efforts, and more.

To begin familiarizing yourself with this aspect, use a savvy Corporate Minutes Template that can be customized and shows you what types of wording is used.


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

At this point your non-profit corporation should be established, so now it’s time to handle any licensing/permit requirements and apply for tax exempt status. While we advise consulting a lawyer, here are some steps you can take to get the ball rolling:

  • 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 Dept. of Revenue and the NAO in Portland to get more specific information.
  • If you need help, check out Business License Research packages that can handle some of the legwork

A couple other great sites to add to your bookmarks are the Portland district office of the Small Business Administration and the state’s Small Biz Development Center because they have tons of helpful information and valuable resources for non-profits.


Best Business Bank Account

As a non-profit, you’ll likely conduct activities and charity events to generate money/donations for your cause or mission. In essence, your relationship with money is different and can be a bit complex which is why a business bank account is essential.

Most prominent institutions are used to working with charitable organizations so take your time to shop around (local, state, national banks & credit unions) and see who has the most to offer in terms of making your financials easier to manage.

Don’t jump the gun here! This is critical. The differences per year from one bank to the next, relative to their other services, is important to research. If you’re interested, check out this Business Checking Accounts breakdown from some of the bigger mainstream banks for starters.


Write a Business PlanListen, no joke, operating and managing a non-profit can be very challenging these days even with a full board of directors and officers. You’re going to need all the help you get, and the chances of winging it successfully over the long run are close to zero. Plan! Strategize! Really hammer down on the core fundamentals now to dramatically improve the chances your impact goals will be met and exceeded.

Having a handle on your goals and objectives is essential, but also HOW to achieve them – marketing, executive summary, pitch, financials, budgeting, and so on. The process is an astounding teacher all by itself. Learn more through the links below.

  • Discover which Business Plan Tool helps you create a presentation-ready breakdown of your brand in half the time.
  • Our free email-based Business Plan Course is designed to take you smoothly through the process step-by-step.


Build a Business Website

The last step we wanted to touch on has to do with establishing your non-profit’s digital presence. Your home base online. It’s where you provide people with a place to buy, contact, donate, volunteer, spread the word, engage and investigate what you’re about and where you’re initiative is going.

It also opens up jaw-dropping amounts of marketing and outreach potential. If you’re just getting started check out platforms like Wix, SquareSpace, and Shopify. Another option is to learn the basics of how to Build a Website on WordPress. Regardless, enjoy the journey!

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