Starting a Nonprofit

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The Nonprofit Business Plan
Resources, links and tips

This Foundation Center Grantspace Business Plans page offers information and links to a variety of resources.

LaPiana Associates offer these free resources.

Download this free guidebook from SCORE.  Business Planning Tools for Nonprofit Organizations 2nd ed.


Public Counsel’s Community Development Project
Assistance in starting a nonprofit organization

Public Counsel’s Community Development Project (CDP) provides a wide range of transactional legal services to qualifying nonprofit organizations. We assist start-up nonprofits that share our mission by helping to incorporate, obtain tax exemption, and establish workable corporate structures and policies. The following is a collection of resources to assist nonprofit organizations that have chosen to incorporate in California and the pro bono attorneys who represent them.  Check here for links and documents.


What to Think About Before Starting a Nonprofit
A video review

Thinking about starting a nonprofit?  This brief video offers some excellent food for thought.


Get Ready, Get Set
Read this free booklet to learn what you need to know before starting a nonprofit

If you are thinking of starting a nonprofit organization, download and read Get Ready, Get Set. This free booklet covers everything you need to know before starting a nonprofit.  Find answers to all of your basic questions.


Nonprofit Startup Resources by State
Links for startups outside of California

Every state has different requirements for starting a nonprofit.  If you are not in California, the Nonprofit Startup Map will help you find what you need.  It provides links to helpful state resources such as nonprofit associations, legal support organizations and government agencies.


Help Filling Out Your 501(c)(3) Application (IRS 1023)

This website, posted as a public service by Sandy Deja, author of
“Prepare Your Own 501(c)(3) Application”, is designed to help
new non-profit organizations complete the Application for Exempt
Status Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Helpful link

Incorporating a Social Enterprise: a Simple Legal Guide
The pros and cons of various legal forms

In this blog post, Incorporating a Social Enterprise: a Simple Legal Guide the authors outline and discuss the various legal forms they considered for their social enterprise and explain – in plain English – the pros and cons of each one. 


Life Cycle of a Public Charity
Help from the IRS

During its existence, a public charity has numerous interactions with the IRS – from filing an application for recognition of tax-exempt status, to filing the required annual information returns, to making changes in its mission and purpose. The IRS provides information, explanations, guides, forms and publications on all of these subjects – they are available through this IRS Web site.


Personifying the Nonprofit Life Cycle
The predictable stages of a nonprofit's development

Dr. B.J. Bischoff, a consultant in the Sonoma Valley area of northern California, offers a column (kudos to the Sonoma Valley Sun for featuring a regular column devoted to nonprofits) in which she outlines the stages of a nonprofit organization’s development as a life cycle. For those with significant experience in the nonprofit sector, this is likely nothing new. Consultants across the country have all heard the cry, “X, Y, and Z is happening at my organization. Is that normal?!?!” The answer to that question is almost always, “Yes, it’s perfectly normal.

Most nonprofits go through that at your stage of development.”…

Helpful link

Information on creating and maintaining your bylaws

Annotated Form of Bylaws for a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation [2010] from Public Counsel

Here’s an excellent article on what should be in your bylaws.

How to make your own bylaws cheat sheet.

And a website with good information and links.


Tool for Assessing Startup Organizations
What are funders looking for?

This booklet, published by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, aims to help funders assess a grant proposal from a startup nonprofit.  It offers valuable insight to a new nonprofit about what a funder is looking for and what the organization needs to have in place.

Helpful link

Forming a Nonprofit Corporation in California
Citizen Media Law Project offers detailed steps

 Here are the steps to form a nonprofit public benefit corporation in California.


How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation in California
A valuable reference book for anyone starting a nonprofit organization who wants to do it on their own,

This Nolo Press book by attorney Anthony Macuso offers complete instructions and downloadable forms. Purchase it in most bookstores or read it for free here at the Center.

Helpful link

Database of business license and permit requirements.

Business license and permit requirements vary. Use this helpful database to determine requirements for your specific area. Search nonprofit under business type. 


Guide to Charities
CA Attorney General's booklet helps answer legal questions

Guide to Charities CA Attorney General’s booklet helps answer legal questions

Helpful link

Myths and Realities of Starting and Running a Nonprofit
Video from the Foundation Center

Myths and Realities of Starting and Running a Nonprofit
You feel called to start a nonprofit business but do you really know what you are getting into before you take that leap?

Helpful link

Starting an Nonprofit Organization
Five tips and a warning

The world is in the midst of what one observer has called an “associational revolution.” New nonprofits are being formed for every sort of purpose on every continent at the fastest rate in history. If you are thinking of joining this vast worldwide movement by starting—or helping to start—a nonprofit, here are some crucial things to think about.

Helpful link

Fiscal Sponsorship
An alternative to nonprofit status

Fiscal sponsorship is an arrangement between a 501(c)(3) public charity and a project (that does not have that tax status) in which, typically, the charity receives and expends funds to advance the charitable work of the project while retaining discretion and control over the funds.  GrantSpace offers comprehensive information on all aspects of fiscal sponsorship.

Helpful link

Benefit Corporations and Flexible Purpose Corporations
New alternatives to a traditional nonprofit corporation

As of January 1, 2012, the California legislature created two new classes of corporations for businesses that seek to pursue both profit and purpose: Benefit Corporations and Flexible Purpose Corporations.  Here are some articles that explain what they are and how they work.

California Creates New Corporate Types that Reward Doing Good

California Benefit Organizations


What You Need to Know About Nonprofit Executive Compensation
IRS rules for nonprofit CEO salaries

This report outlines what the IRS permits in setting nonprofit executive compensation, the consequences of failing to comply with the regulations, how nonprofit board members can protect themselves and the organizations they serve, the kind of data compensation decisions should be based on, and the importance of reporting compensation accurately in annual IRS filing.


Youth Board Members
Can minors serve on a nonprofit board?

Youths represent a growing volunteer population for nonprofits and for some, a potential pool of nonprofit board members.