People frequently contact the Center for Nonprofit Stewardship about how to start a new nonprofit. If this is something you’re considering, we’ve written up a few ways to analyze if starting a new organization is necessary and if so, how you can proceed.
Consider existing nonprofits that may need your help. You most likely want to start a nonprofit organization because you see a need in your community. Instead of starting from scratch, you can join an existing, established organization that already has 501(c)3 status and may also have a donor base, support in the community, and strong programming. Search Google or Guidestar for nonprofits that could use your assistance and consider becoming a volunteer or a board member.
Cross-sector collaborations offer additional avenues. If you’re already a business owner, partnering with a local nonprofit in your field of interest can be a great way to leverage existing resources. Can you become a sponsor of a nonprofit that supports causes you care about? Can you donate your time, office space, or other needed resources to support them? For example, if you have an art gallery and you’re interested in offering art classes to at-risk populations, maybe your business can partner with the existing arts coalition to offer such classes.
Many nonprofits are seeking additional avenues to advance their mission, but don’t have the capacity and many businesses benefit from having a philanthropic arm that helps illustrate their commitment to the community. These kinds of cross-sector partnerships can help nonprofits thrive!
In some cases, these options aren’t viable for you. Maybe you’re not a business owner or your community doesn’t have any established organizations in your field of interest. In that case, founding a nonprofit can be a fulfilling experience and an inspiring way to give back to your community.
Here are some basic guidelines on how to start a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation in Oregon.
- File your articles of incorporation with the state of Oregon. Read more info about the articles of incorporation here.
- Obtain an employer ID number (EIN) for your new organization
- Write your bylaws and adopt them at your first organizational meeting.
- Register with the Department of Justice Charitable Activities Section.
- Apply for tax-exempt status with the IRS using Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ. For instructions and prerequisites for the Form 1023, see this presentation from the IRS. To find out if you’re eligible for a Form 1023-EZ, a streamlined process for smaller organizations, see this worksheet (page 13).
- Determine if you’ll need to file a Form 990 at the end of the year using these instructions from the IRS.
- For further help, contact a lawyer experienced with nonprofit issues such as John Gear or Center for Nonprofit Law, both of whom come highly recommended from CNS
- Nonprofit Association of Oregon has a host of helpful resources, a directory of consultants, and meetings across the state for nonprofits. They have a helpful article on Starting a Nonprofit on their website. It goes through the above steps in more detail.
- A Guide to Nonprofit Service in Oregon: a guideline to the rights, responsibilities, and role of a board director for a nonprofit.