How to Start a Non Profit Organization in Ohio

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Nonprofit organizations meet the needs of thousands of Ohio residents every day. From providing food and helping with utilities to sponsoring scholarships and providing job-training, there are nonprofit organizations in Ohio that speak to every situation. But new needs and new solutions constantly arise---and new Ohio nonprofits are vital to bringing these new answers and services to life. All it takes is one person with a vision of helping others to start a new nonprofit organization in Ohio.

Choose a name for your nonprofit organization. The best organization names suggest what your organization is about in a way that's unique and memorable for supporters, volunteers and service recipients. Ideally, a shorter name like, "Healthy Ohio Babies" is preferable to a longer name like, "The Organization for Helping Mothers Have Healthy Babies in Ohio." You may want to choose two or three possible names in case your first choice isn't available.

Check your chosen name's availability by visiting the Secretary of State's Office name availability search tool (see link in Resources). Once you've ensured that the name you've chosen is available, register it with the Secretary of State's Office using Form 534A (see link in Resources; requires a $50 filing fee).

Download Form 532 to register your organization's articles of incorporation from the Ohio Secretary of State's website (see link in Resources) and complete the form with the name of your organization, its purpose and the location of your principal office, as well as a list of the starting directors and a "statutory agent" appointment, which is included with the articles (requires $125 filing fee).

Request an Employer Identification Number (EIN) online from the IRS website's instant EIN application form (see Resources). This number serves as the permanent identification number for your organization, and is required of every organization whether you anticipate eventually hiring employees or not.

Consult the IRS website to ensure that your organization will meet IRS requirements for nonprofit, "tax-exempt" status (see link in Resources) and note what "exempt purpose" your organization will qualify under. Demonstrating that your nonprofit will qualify under one of the IRS exempt purposes is absolutely essential to be granted tax-exempt status for your organization.

Download Form 1023, "Application for Recognition of Exempt Status" from the IRS website (see Resources) along with Publication 557, "Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization" and Publication 4220, "Applying for 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status," two helpful IRS publications that provide additional advice on completing your exempt status application. The IRS also provides an online mini-course to help explain the process (see Resources).

Complete Form 1023, the "Application for Recognition of Exempt Status," being sure to include the full text of suggested application statements that demonstrate your tax-exempt purpose. Refer to specific language found in the IRS publications where possible on the application. Be careful to include all the required accompanying documentation of your tax-exempt purpose, such as seminar outlines, publication ideas or specific services that you will provide, along with estimates of your future budgets.

Make a copy of your entire Form 1023 application for your records, and submit the form to the IRS address indicated on the form, along with the $400 user fee. Mailing the application by registered mail will guarantee delivery and provide you with proof of your date of mailing should you need to prove your submission's mailing date at a later time.

Begin your organization's services. Provided that your application for recognition of tax-exempt status is approved, your tax-exempt status will be effective starting with the date that your application was received by the IRS---you do not need to wait for the IRS response to your application before beginning your services.


  • Have your completed Form 1023 reviewed by a tax attorney (or ideally, an attorney that has performed Form 1023 filings in the past) prior to submission. Mistakes on the form cause your application to be delayed or denied.

  • Nonprofit organizations also enjoy special mailing rates that are substantially cheaper than other forms of mailing. Contact your local post office for details and a nonprofit mailing application.