Opening a 501(c)3

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If you’re driven by a passion for positive change, or you’re a group with a shared vision, this is your hub for resources. We offer step-by-step guides, legal insights, and inspirational success stories to fuel your non-profit journey. It’s here that the seeds of transformative impact are sown, and the rewarding path to creating lasting change begins. Join us in the realm of purpose-driven ventures, where your dream of making a difference becomes a reality.

Opening a Non-Profit Organization: Where to Start

Opening a non-profit organization in California involves several steps. Here is a general guide to help you navigate the process:

  1. Define Your Mission and Vision:

    • Clearly articulate the mission and vision of your non-profit organization. Clearly define the purpose and goals that align with serving a public or charitable cause.
  2. Choose a Name:

    • Select a unique and meaningful name for your non-profit. Ensure the chosen name is not already in use and complies with California naming regulations.
  3. Determine Your Non-Profit Structure:

    • Choose a legal structure for your non-profit. Common structures include public benefit corporations, religious corporations, and mutual benefit corporations.
  4. Draft Bylaws:

    • Develop bylaws that outline the internal rules and structure of your organization. Include details about board structure, decision-making processes, and membership.
  5. Appoint Directors:

    • Appoint a board of directors who will oversee the organization’s activities. Ensure your board is composed of individuals who share a commitment to your mission.
  6. File Articles of Incorporation:

    • Prepare and file Articles of Incorporation with the California Secretary of State. This document officially establishes your non-profit as a legal entity.
  7. Apply for an EIN:

    • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This unique identifier is necessary for tax purposes and other official transactions.
  8. Register with the California Attorney General:

    • Register with the California Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts. This is a crucial step for compliance with state regulations.
  9. Apply for Tax-Exempt Status:

    • Apply for federal tax-exempt status with the IRS by filing Form 1023 or 1023-EZ. This step is vital for your organization to receive tax-deductible contributions.
  10. Register for State Taxes:

    • Register with the California Franchise Tax Board for state tax-exempt status, if applicable.
  11. Develop a Fundraising Plan:

    • Create a comprehensive fundraising plan that outlines how your organization will generate the necessary funds to support its mission.
  12. Comply with Ongoing Requirements:

    • Stay informed about ongoing compliance requirements, such as filing annual reports and maintaining tax-exempt status.
  13. Build a Board and Organizational Structure:

    • Develop a robust organizational structure, recruit additional board members and key personnel, and establish committees if needed.
  14. Create a Strategic Plan:

    • Develop a strategic plan that outlines short-term and long-term goals, as well as strategies for achieving them.


It’s crucial to note that these steps provide a general overview, and the specific requirements can vary based on the nature of your non-profit and its activities. Seek professional advice, such as legal and accounting services, to ensure compliance with all regulations. Additionally, the California Secretary of State’s website and the California Attorney General’s website offer valuable resources and forms for non-profit organizations.

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