Starting a nonprofit isn’t an easy task to undergo. With so many steps to take in the early stages, it’s difficult to know where to start.

Let us help.

We put together seven of the first steps you should take when starting a nonprofit. Watch the short video below so you can hit the ground running on your quest to starting a nonprofit. Let us know how your journey is going in the comments below.


The first step to starting a nonprofit is articulating the problems your organization will address. You’ll make the biggest difference when you’re specific about your scope and the demographic your nonprofit will serve. Most importantly: before you start your own nonprofit, make sure there’s a need for you, otherwise your organization won’t be sustainable.

Secondly, choose a name that communicates your nonprofit’s identity and mission. Make sure a matching domain name is free for your website, and check with your state to make sure your chosen name is available.

The third step is assembling your board of directors, which ought to consist of at least 3 to 6 people. The leadership of your founding board members will be essential to the rest of the startup phase, so choose wisely.

After recruiting your committed board of directors, your fourth step is completing the steps for incorporation in your state. Settle on your name, file your Articles of Incorporation and create bylaws.

Fifth, upon incorporation you can file for nonprofit status: expect fees and plenty of paperwork associated with your applications for federal and state tax exemptions.

Sixth, develop a sustainable fundraising plan and apply for foundation grants after being award 501(c)(3) status.

Lastly, create a marketing plan to recruit donors and volunteers for your organization. Work on your online presence, because your nonprofit web design and outreach on social media is especially important in starting a nonprofit.

After completing these steps, your nonprofit is ready to bring donations in and start making a difference in your community.

Have other tips for starting a nonprofit or a question for our In Kind series? Let us know in the comments below.

start a nonprofit course

Take your good idea to a fully-functioning 501c3

The Start a Nonprofit Class is an on-demand, self-paced course taught by nonprofit expert, Randy Hawthorne. This class walks you through the beginning steps of taking a cause concept to an operational nonprofit mission.