Sustainable Bliss

never stop learning!

Creating a Non Profit

I went through the process of helping to create a non profit for First Friday: Oceanside Art Walk. I'll share that process here. How to decide

  • Option 1: work with an established organization as fiscal agent
    • similar mission
    • typical fees 5%-10%
  • Option 2: join an existing organization
    • make sure it is a cultural fit
  • else pursue 501(c)(3)


  • buy-in from a group of people - if it is going to be a community organization there must be more than just one person invested

First things first

  • develop mission statement
    • answers purpose, how, who benefits
      • example: "The mission of United Way of York County is to inspire the people of York County to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors through financial generosity and volunteer commitment"
  • create board of directors, elect officers
    • establish policy, exercise fiscal responsibility and oversee management (Association of Fundraising Professionals)
    • minimum officers are President, Secretary, Treasurer/CFO
      • President cannot be Secretary or Treasurer, but the person holding the Secretary role can also be the Treasurer
      • Officers cannot be paid for those roles
    • Executive Director cannot be President, but can be Secretary or Treasurer
    • evaluate time, talent, treasure
  • decide whether to engage a lawyer
    • ours made it easy, providing the following services:
      • checked name availability
      • procured EIN
      • created/filed articles of incorporation
      • drafted bylaws
      • drafted initial meeting minutes
      • created/filed IRS Form 1023
      • drafted CT-1
      • drafted FTB 3500A
  • Bylaws
    • rules for calling board meetings, define quorum
    • how/when board members  and officers are selected/elected/removed
    • officer job descriptions
    • pitfalls
    • checklist
  • file Articles of Incorporation ($98)
  • get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
    • donation letter text: "To comply with IRS requirements regarding charitable donations, we affirm that no goods or services have been provided to you, in whole or in part, in consideration for your contribution."
  • file IRS Form 1023 ($400)
    • no corporate income tax
    • accept tax deductible donations

Put everything in place

  • check name availability
  • create bank account
    • in general, a bank needs your EIN and a copy of the endorsed Articles of Incorporation and possibly the organization's bylaws, signed by the officers
    • the signers on the account should be officers
    • banking rules/guidelines
  • establish PO Box and physical address
  • establish phone number
    • grab free number from Google Voice and forward it to a cell phone
  • create official Initial Meeting Minutes
  • for every meeting, record miniutes
  • put Liability Insurance policy in place
  • policies

Yay! Got the Letter of Determination from the IRS!

  • file CT-1 form with other paperwork to Registry of Charitable Trusts
  • send FTB 3500A form with other paperwork to Exempt Organizations Unit MS F120, CA Franchise Tax Board
  • register with GuideStar to help with Grant applications
  • register with Google for Nonprofits to get access to the Google Apps Suite

Ongoing Filings (for CA entity)

General nonprofit resources:

Arts resources:

Grant resources: