Business License Requirements for Non-Profits

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Non-profits are organizations that serve communities with services ranging from business development to feeding the homeless. In most states, non-profits are required to obtain a business license before opening the doors of their organization. To obtain a general business license, a list of documents must be filed with local, state and city government offices.

Articles of Incorporation

Articles of Incorporation are used the incorporate a business within a state; most states handle incorporation through their Secretary of State office. The document states the purpose of the non-profit organization and details important information regarding directors, dissolution of assets, incorporation agent and the address of incorporation.


Bylaws are defined as a set of rules adopted by an organization or assembly for governing its own business meetings. The bylaws define organizational structure, the decision-making process of a group concerning business affairs, and sections which apply to the operation of the organization. In many states, the bylaws must be submitted with the Articles of Incorporation.

Employer Tax-ID Number

Non-profit organization are required to obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. The employer identification number is used to identify tax accounts of a company. If a non-profit is incorporating for the first time, an EIN number can be obtained online from the IRS at

Miscellaneous Licenses

There are non-profit organizations which may need various or different types of licensing before acquiring a general business license. For example, a non-profit community health clinic must obtain a license from a health or medical board before applying for a general business license. Local city tax offices can assist a non-profit to determine if special licenses are needed for operation.

General Business License

After a non-profit has met the requirements needed to obtain a general business license, the license itself must be applied for. In most states, licensing is performed by the applicable city or county which the non-profit has claimed in its Articles of Incorporation. License fees can range from $25.00 to over $100.00 dollars. For a non-profit to obtain a business license, the non-profit must show proof of incorporation with the applicable tax identification number and any special licenses obtained by the non-profit. Most applications are usually processed the same day.