Easy Steps To Protect Your Wisconsin Nonprofit and Keep Your Nonprofit Compliant

If you are starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Wisconsin, you have come to the right place. After following the easy steps for Wisconsin nonprofit formation, follow this guide to help keep your Wisconsin nonprofit compliant and protected.

In this guide we cover:

  1. How to Protect Your Wisconsin Nonprofit
  2. How to Keep Your Wisconsin Nonprofit Compliant

How to Protect Your Wisconsin Nonprofit

Get Business Insurance

As with any other business, there may be risks involved in running the nonprofit. Getting insurance for your nonprofit allows you to focus on your passion while minimizing your liability.

Here are some of the common types of insurance you may want to consider for your organization:

  • General Liability Coverage
  • Directors and Officers Coverage
  • Social Service Professional Coverage

Your coverage needs will vary based on your organization and the work you do.

Properly Sign Legal Documents

There will be times when you will be signing a document on behalf of your nonprofit. It is important that these times are easily distinguishable from when you are signing a document as an individual. If a document isn’t properly signed, you might suddenly find yourself personally responsible for something the organization should have been liable for.

To avoid such confusion we recommend you and all the members of your organization follow the following format:

  • The official name of your nonprofit
  • Your signature
  • Your full legal name
  • Your position in the organization

How to Keep Your Wisconsin Nonprofit Compliant

Maintain A Wisconsin Registered Agent

Nonprofits that have incorporated are required to maintain a registered agent with an office address in Wisconsin.

If the agent or the office address changes, you must file Form 13 with the State of Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions to effect a change to the certificate of formation.

NOTE: Failure to do so may result in termination of the corporation.

File Required Periodic Reports

The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (WDFI) - Corporate section requires all Wisconsin-based nonprofits to file an Annual Report by the end of the anniversary registration quarter. This form is typically sent to the registered agent on record by the WDFI, but it can also be filled out online.

NOTE: Failure to file a requested report may result in the termination of the corporation.

Determine Wisconsin Business Permits And Licenses

As a nonprofit in the state of Wisconsin, your organization will not need a general business license.

When you fill out form BTR-101 to register for your Business Tax ID, you may check the appropriate boxes to indicate if you need the following tax permits to be issued:

  • Wisconsin Withholding Tax
  • Seller’s Permit
  • Use Tax Certificate
  • Consumer’s Use Tax Certificate
  • Other Business Taxes

For more information, access the Wisconsin Department of Revenue’s website.


If you will be soliciting contributions in Wisconsin or have contributions solicited in Wisconsin on your organization’s behalf, you must register with the State of Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, using Form 296 - Charitable Organization Registration Application.

You will need to send the following documents:

  • Form 296
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • A copy of the bylaws
  • IRS 501(c)(3) determination letter
  • A statement explaining how the funds raised will be used.

Send these documents to the following address:

Department of Financial Institutions
P.O. Box 7876
Madison, WI 53707-7876

Information: (608) 267-1711

Fax: (608) 267-6889

Website: www.wdfi.org/CharitableOrganizations/default.htm

Filing Fee: $15


If your organization will have employees you must register with the State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

You can easily apply online or find the contact information for your local business service representative.

Public Inspection Rules for all 501(c)(3) Organizations

All organizations that have been granted the 501(c)(3) status are required to disclose the following documents to the public when requested:

  • Annual returns for 3 years after the due date (this includes returns like Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-PF, and any Forms 990-T)
  • All Form 990 Schedules (except portions of Schedule B), attachments and supporting documents.
  • Application of exemption and all supporting documents such as Form 1023
  • The official paperwork from the IRS that shows that your organization has tax-exempt status.

The following do NOT need to be shared with the public

  • Portions of schedule B of Form 990/990-EZ that identify the contributors. (You only need to disclose the amount contributed and the nature of the contributions)
  • Any unfavorable rulings such as an earlier denial of tax-exempt status.
  • Any information the IRS has said you can withhold. This may include things like sensitive patents and trade secrets.


How long do I have to produce these documents if requested?

Ideally within the same day. If your organization doesn’t have an office or maintains limited hours during parts of the year, the information should be made available within two weeks.

Do I need to provide copies of the documents?

If someone asks for copies in person or in writing you must provide them with copies.

Can I charge for copies?

You can charge a reasonable amount for making copies of the documents requested.

NOTE: It may be easiest to have the documents available on your website so that anyone who requests copies can be sent to the site. This allows you to stay compliant without having to spend a lot of time dealing with document requests.

Annual Returns for Tax-Exempt Organizations

Most tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are required to file an annual return with the IRS (Check the list of exceptions).

Which form you should use to file the annual returns depends on the annual gross receipt amounts for your organization.

"Gross receipt" is defined by the IRS as “the total amounts the organization received from all sources during its annual accounting period, without subtracting any costs or expenses”

  • For gross receipts ≤$50,000 --- File 990-N
  • Gross receipts <$200,000 and total assets <$500,000 --- File 990- EZ
  • Gross receipts >$200,000 or Total assets >$500,000 --- File 990

For any questions, you can call the IRS at

  • (800) 829-3676 (Form-related questions)
  • (800) 829-1040 (General information)

When is form 990 due?

You have a little over 4 months after your taxable year comes to an end to file Form 990. It is due on the 15th day of the 5th month. So if your taxable year ends on Dec 31st, your form 990 is due on May 15th.

NOTE: If your organization fails to file form 990 for 3 consecutive years, it will automatically lose its tax-exempt status.

Report Unrelated Business Income

If your Wisconsin organization has a gross income of ≥$1000 from a trade or business that is not related to the stated purpose of the organization, then it must file Form 990-T to pay tax on that income.

If you expect to pay $500 or more for the year in taxes on unrelated business income, your organization must pay a quarterly estimated tax on the unrelated business income using Form 990-W.

State of Wisconsin Nonprofit Quicklinks