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Table of Contents

The Basics

Managing the Process

Managing the Money

Managing Assets

Managing People

Nonprofit FAQ



Sponsors & Contact Us

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Managing The Process I

  • An Organized Outline of Steps to Create a Nonprofit
  • Filing Paperwork with the Government (and Paying Fees )
  • Writing Your Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws
  • Keeping Current with Ongoing Filings with the Government

Steps to Create a Nonprofit

I Creating the Nonprofit Under Ohio Law

The Ohio Secretary of State has an Articles of Incorporation form that must be used to start a nonprofit corporation.  You can read and download the Articles of Incorporation form and instructions from the Secretary of State's Web site. This link will take you directly to the form and instructions

The Federal government has created and placed articles online called "Tax Information for Charitable Organizations." The IRS web site (http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/index.htmll) offers information about starting the organization, applying for tax-exempt status, filing requirements, making sure you are following rules and many, many other subjects.

II Complete the Articles of Incorporation

Some of the things you will need are

  • Name, location and effective date. The name you choose must be different than any existing corporation's name. In Ohio, you can call 1-877-SOS-FILE to make sure the name you want is not already being used. Also, you must list the city, village or township and where the corporation is located.

    You can choose the date that the nonprofit will officially be in business, which must be less than 90 days from the date you file the Articles of Incorporation. If you don't choose a date, the effective date is the date of filing.

  • Purpose Clause. The Articles of Incorporation must include a purpose statement (the specific reason the nonprofit is being formed).  If a nonprofit is applying for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the exact same purpose statement needs to be included in the information sent to the IRS.  The Internal Revenue Service Publication Number 557, "tax-exempt status for your organization," contains samples of the required language and is available for free from the IRS Forms Distribution Center, P.O. Box 8903, Bloomington, Illinois (61702-8903)

    General IRS Information for Charitable Organizations

    First, the specific purpose written in your Articles of Incorporation must be explained. For example, if your nonprofit wants to promote aerobic exercise as a sport and means of healthy exercise, the specific purpose clause may be "to promote and encourage aerobic exercise as a sport and means of healthful exercise."  The purpose given must meet the nonprofit laws listed in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code if you plan to be tax-exempt

  • Appointment of Statutory Agent. Every nonprofit corporation must have a statutory agent who is the "contact person" for all legal matters and is the one who receives the corporation's legal documents. A statutory agent does not have to be a lawyer. The name and address of the statutory agent must be included in the original Articles of Incorporation and in the Original Appointment of Statutory Agent form. The statutory agent must acknowledge and accept the appointment. The original appointment of statutory agent is done on the initial articles of incorporation form 532
  • Name the Directors. In your Articles of Incorporation, you may choose to list the names and addresses of the first directors.  Usually, the first directors are the incorporators (the individuals who organize and start the corporation) and others recruited by the incorporators. The directors do not have to be listed on the initial Articles of Incorporation if they wish to keep their names and addresses private.

    Ohio law requires a director to perform his/her duties in good faith and in a way he/she believes is in the best interests of the corporation. The Ohio Attorney General has a pamphlet, offering advice for persons serving as directors of nonprofit corporations, which you can find at

  • Filing Articles of Incorporation. After the Articles of Incorporation and Original Appointment of Statutory Agent forms are completed, the incorporators must sign it, with names typed under their signatures. Then they can be sent with the current fees to the Ohio Secretary of State's office. 

III Code of Regulations

A nonprofit corporation must have a Code of Regulations that lists the rules and conduct of its affairs and management of assets.

The Code of Regulations may include rules such as:

  • Member meeting requirements.
  • Membership requirements, rights and responsibilities.
  • Officers, duties, terms and elections.
  • Removal of officers, trustees or members.
  • Amendments to the regulations.

IV Ongoing filing obligations

Within five years of the date of incorporation (or of the last filing), a nonprofit must complete a form (Statement of Continued Existence, Form 522) and send it with the current filing fee to the Secretary of State's office. This must be done to keep the corporation's name and to continue being a nonprofit corporation.  Think of this as a renewal process. Forms must be kept up-to-date and regularly (as required) mailed to the correct government office. Again, the Secretary of State's web site is probably the best source for information

V Reporting to the Ohio Secretary of State

These are links to the legal forms that must be filed with the Secretary of State's office:

These forms, along with all other business forms, are listed on the Secretary of State's web site at this address

VI Reporting to the Ohio Attorney General

The Ohio Attorney General supervises the activities of nonprofit organizations. The Ohio Charitable Trust Act is a law that requires nonprofits to register with the Ohio Attorney General within six months after the organization is created.  The Ohio Attorney General also supervises nonprofits that ask for funds from the public for charitable purposes. An organization that intends to ask for contributions must already be registered with the Attorney General. These organizations need registration statements and must file an annual financial report with the Ohio Attorney General.  The Solicitation Registration Form and Annual Financial Report can be found on the Ohio Attorney General's Web site at

VII Local Solicitation and Reporting Requirements

Nonprofits should know and follow all laws about asking for donations and reporting information to their city.  Nonprofits may be required to get a permit to ask for donations from the public and may be required to report any donations received and any expenses paid.

An example of solicitation code section for Toledo listed under "Business Regulations."

This site offers general links to a variety of Ohio municipal codes. Here is a link to the Bowling Green page which gives an opportunity to view the solicitation code from Bowling Green:

Below is a link to a library which allows you to view all available online Ohio municipal codes.  Not all are online but this has a very large selection

A reminder that this is a complicated subject and site users should not try to set up any portion of a nonprofit corporation based solely on the information they find on this site.  You should work with specialists in each area and seek advice from an attorney or CPA.

Continue to Managing the Process "Ending the Nonprofit"

  • Voluntary Dissolution
  • Certificate of Merger
  • Certificate of Consolidation
  • Merger