If you want to change the world, you have many options at your disposal. One of those options is starting your own nonprofit. Starting a nonprofit corporation is all the rage today, as people respond to some of the social problems in the country by taking action. California has a significant amount of need, too, so the state makes it easy for legitimate nonprofits to operate. You just have to make sure you follow all the rules and keep your organization on the up and up. If you fail to do so, you might find the state coming down hard on you. With this in mind, here’s how to start a nonprofit corporation in California.
Select a cause you are passionate about
The first rule of starting a nonprofit is to stay in your lane, so to speak. If you have a passion for helping people who are coming out of prison, then start there. If you want to give little children with disabilities the opportunity to learn equestrian skills, then start there. Founding a nonprofit in your area of interest will help you more passionately advocate for the cause. It will also allow you to come off as credible to the people who will eventually support you.
Coming up with a name and filing the articles of incorporation
You’ll need to come up with an appropriate name for your nonprofit. This should be something that both communicates the strength of your mission and comes across as professional. From there, you must draft the articles of incorporation. This will provide the state with your nonprofit name, your statement of purpose, the individual who can be served with legal documents and any limitations on governance. Keep in mind that it is always better to start with a more general statement of purpose. As you grow and evolve, you can modify this statement.
Choosing a board of directors
Every nonprofit needs a board of directors who can advise the executive director and ensure compliance with the law. As you select people for your board, there are some things to keep in mind. You may want to add people you trust in the beginning. You will also want to add people who bring some kind of expertise to the table. Having people who know the cause and mission well will help you come up with ideas. Generally speaking, people will likely want to be associated with your nonprofit. However, being on a board can be a lot of work, so be prepared for well-meaning people to say “no” if they have too much on their plate. You can work with your board to draft the organization’s bylaws.
Filing appropriate state and federal forms
There are many forms you will need to fill out to be official with the state and federal government. You will first need to get an employment identification number (EIN) from the IRS. Next, you will need to file the CT-1 form with the California Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts. Next, you will file a statement of information with the California Secretary of State. Finally, you will need to file for a tax exemption with the IRS. This will generally be done under code 501(c)3, and it allows your donors to deduct their donations.