Starting a Nonprofit

Starting a Nonprofit
August 1, 2016 Prosperity Connection


Have you always had a passion for helping others? Is there a charity that you volunteer with or give to consistently? Do you have an idea of how to address disparities of a population through targeted services or improve the living environment through public education and cultivation of depleted resources? If you have a vision for changing the world around you, you may be considering starting a nonprofit.

There’s no doubt that there is a great need for charitable intervention on behalf of the disadvantaged and victims of unfortunate circumstances. However, there is also a need to be deliberate in the planning stages of developing a new nonprofit. Here’s a few things to consider:

Does it already exist?

There are currently more than 1 million nonprofits in the United States of America, 32,000 in Missouri, and around 1,400 in St. Louis County. Start by doing some research to find out what is in place in your community or area of interest and determine if it is making a meaningful impact. Can you partner with them to add value or support them in another way?

Will the community support it?

You may be very enthusiastic about your idea, but if you find it difficult to explain or potential funders aren’t receptive after a presentation, it may be more challenging to establish an organization that’s sustainable long-term. Be sure to have a clear mission and vision from the start as well as identify who is most likely to have the interest and capacity to advance it.

Legal Steps

Getting legal or other professional help when starting a new organization is one way to ensure compliance with state and federal requirements. Among these requirements are:

  • File articles of incorporation with the state’s corporate filing office
  • Submit a federal 501(c)(3) tax exemption application to the IRS
  • Apply for a state tax exemption
  • Draft bylaws
  • Appoint directors
  • Hold a meeting of the board
  • Obtain any necessary licenses and permits

Have a business plan

  • Describe start-up plans, including financial support
  • Organizational goals and objectives
  • Program activities, such as services and projects
  • Evaluation methods
  • Fundraising plan
  • Plans for growth, such as adding new programs or moving to a larger facility
  • Financial Plan, including your budget, financial statements and fundraising plan
  • Conclusion section – restate your mission and the plan’s benefits

Examples of some nonprofit business plans can be found at: http://www.bplans.com/nonprofit_business_plan_templates.php


After start-up, legal questions frequently come up, such as those on: maintaining tax exemption, governance and board procedures, liability, licensing and intellectual property, charitable contributions, employment matters, contract review and drafting, and real estate matters. It’s important to have access to legal counsel to navigate through these sometimes complex compliance issues.

By Torrey Park, Prosperity Connection Staff