Starting a nonprofit is an exciting adventure. You will be joining millions of people making a difference in the world. The process of starting a nonprofit is similar across the country, but each state has different laws and regulations. Before you get started with government tax forms and organization bylaws, visit our blog for a step-by-step guide on how to start a nonprofit. This detailed guide will give you a better idea of your mission and vision, creating a business plan, and building a leadership team.
Now that you have a strong foundation, did you know Georgia requires bylaws to be adopted at the board of directors’ first organizational meeting? Nonprofits also must register as charities in Georgia before soliciting donations. If you are interested in learning more about Georgia’s rules and regulations to start a nonprofit, here is the step-by-step guide to make this process easier.
- Name Your Organization
- Name Incorporators and Directors
- Appoint a Registered Agent
- File Georgia Articles of Incorporation
- Publish an Intent to Incorporate
- Apply for an Employee Identification Number (EIN)
- Hold Organization Meeting and Establish Nonprofit Bylaws
- Apply for Federal and Georgia State Tax Exemptions
- Apply for Necessary Georgia State Business Licenses
- Register for Charitable Fundraising
- Create a Nonprofit Bank Account
- Submit Initial and Annual Reports
How To Start A Nonprofit In Georgia
Step 1: Name your Organization
Naming an organization does not have to be complicated. Your name should entice people to find out who you are and reflect your organization’s mission. It is best to ask your board members, volunteers, and others who start this journey with you for their advice.
In Georgia, the only requirement for naming your nonprofit is that it has not been taken by someone else, and it contains the word “corporation,” “incorporated,” “company,” “limited,” or their abbreviations. You can search the Georgia Secretary of State’s website to find a suitable name. If your nonprofit’s name follows those requirements, you can continue with the process.
Step 2: Name Incorporators and Directors
You cannot rush the step of finding the right Incorporators and Directors. These individuals will be the ones to lead your organization through the challenging starting process and will hopefully remain with your organization in the long run.
The state of Georgia only requires one Incorporator to sign the Articles of Incorporation. Georgia requires one Incorporator but allows more than one.
Directors will lead the governing body of your organization. They will be personally and financially responsible for the organization’s outcomes and will decide policies, activities, hiring and firing, and fundraising practices for your nonprofit.
Georgia requires nonprofit organizations to have a minimum of one director, though the federal government rarely offers tax-exempt status to organizations with less than three unrelated board members. Board Directors must be at least 18 years old, but there are no residency or membership requirements.
Step 3: Appoint a Registered Agent
A Registered Agent is responsible for all legal documents received or submitted by the organization. Registered Agents must be either individuals or a company that resides in the state of Georgia and has regular business hours.
Step 4: File Georgia Articles of Incorporation
Are you ready to become official? Once you file Georgia’s Articles of Incorporation, you have officially started your organization in the eyes of the law. There will be a $100 online fee or $100 fee if sent by mail for filing your Articles of Incorporation in Georgia, but that cost is necessary. Your Articles of Incorporation will be used when filing for an EIN and tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You will want to keep that in mind when filling out the Articles of Incorporation.
You will also need to file a Transmittal Information Form with the State of Georgia.
Both will require the following whether filing online or by mail:
- Corporation Name
- Corporation Address
- Name and Address of Registered Agent
- Name and Address of Incorporator/Directors
- Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation must include “The corporation is organized pursuant to the Georgia Nonprofit Corporation Code”
- Nonprofits must also state within the Articles of Incorporation whether they will have members or not.
- To qualify for tax-exempt status, you must state your organization’s purpose and be sure to keep that purpose the same when filing with the IRS.
Step 5: Publish an Intent to Incorporate
New organizations in Georgia must publish an Intent to Incorporate within one business day of filing your Articles of Incorporation.
You will need to publish your intent in a local newspaper and pay the $40 fee for publication. The Georgia Superior Court Clerks will help you find where to publish this intent.
Step 6: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Once you have filed your Articles of Incorporation, Transmittal Information Form, and published your Intent to Incorporate, you must apply for a 9-digit EIN number. An EIN identifies all legal organizations within the IRS. You will need to fill out Form SS-4 to apply and print your paperwork before closing the program.
Step 7: Hold Organization Meeting and Establish Nonprofit Bylaws
Georgia is different from other states when it comes to establishing nonprofit bylaws. Georgia requires that your board of directors adopt your nonprofit bylaws at the first organizational meeting.
Bylaws will include not only the purpose and mission of the organization but also details on how the board is run and membership information. Your bylaws must include the following information:
- Purpose or mission of the nonprofit: The purpose written in your bylaws must match the purpose you included in your Articles of Incorporation.
- Board Director Elections: Georgia requires that all board members serve at least one year and be at least 18 years old.
- Quorum and majority vote for Board of Directors: Georgia requires a majority vote to meet quorum.
- How board meetings are called
- How board meetings are conducted
- The officers of the organization (Pres, VP, Secretary, Treasurer, etc)
- Duties and Responsibilities of each officer
- The authorization of board and non-board committees
- Level of indemnification provided by the corporation to protect its directors, officers, and other agents
- Reports required
- Membership structure: This is only required if your organization will include members
- Role of the Executive Director: Make sure you include the board’s authority to fire the Executive Director and how many votes will be needed to make this decision.
- Address key management issues: An example of this is a Conflict of Interest clause
- Amendment of bylaws
- Dissolution of the organization
For more information on how to write your bylaws, visit our blog post, Nonprofit Bylaws Made Easy.
Step 8: Apply for Federal and Georgia State Tax Exemptions
As a nonprofit organization, you are entitled to tax-exempt status with the federal government and the state of Georgia.
501(c)3 Federal Tax Exemption
The IRS awards tax-exempt status to organizations that focus exclusively on the following purposes: charitable, religious, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, educational, fostering national or international amateur sports competitions and preventing cruelty to children or animals.
The IRS awards tax-exempt status under the 501(c)3 of the tax code. Smaller organizations can file Form 1023-EZ with a fee of $275. Larger organizations will need to file Form 1023 and pay a $600 fee. Both applications ask several questions about the description of your organization’s activities. Remember to use the same descriptions as you stated in your Articles of Incorporation.
The IRS will send a determination letter in the mail to award you tax-exempt status. It may take one to six months for the determination letter to arrive at your destination.
Georgia State Tax Exemption
Once you have been awarded tax-exempt status from the IRS, you will be exempt from Georgia state taxes as well. Your organization will most likely pay Georgia Sales Taxes. Only specific organizations are eligible for exemption from sales taxes in Georgia. If you are one of the following, you may include your IRS determination letter and your certificate of Incorporation with your initial exempt tax return filed with Georgia:
- Licensed Nonprofit Orphanages
- Adoption Agencies
- Maternity Homes
- In-patient Hospitals
- Mental Hospitals
- Nursing Homes
- Blood Banks
- Private Schools
- Nonprofit groups whose primary purpose is to raise money for public libraries
- Organizations that provide services to the developmentally disabled
Step 9: Apply for Necessary Georgia State Business Licenses
Business license requirements vary by county and city in Georgia. Call your local business licensing office to determine whether you should file for a statewide business license.
Step 10: Register for Charitable Fundraising
If you plan to solicit donations as a nonprofit, you will need to register as a charity with the Georgia Secretary of State. If you are an organization outside of Georgia but will solicit donations from Georgia residents, you will need to register with the Secretary of State.
There are a $35 filing fee and a renewal fee of $20 to register with the state. Your local government should be contacted for more information on solicitation regulations. If your organization plans to hold a raffle or bingo game, your local sheriff’s office must be notified.
Step 11: Create a Nonprofit Bank Account
In order to accept donations, you will need a bank account for your nonprofit. Banks will require the following:
- A copy of your Articles of Incorporation
- A copy of your nonprofit bylaws
- Your EIN
Step 12: Submit Initial and Annual Reports
In many states, filing a 990 will fulfill the Annual Report requirements. Georgia requires nonprofits to file Initial and concurring Annual Reports using their online form. You are required to include the following information:
- Name of the Organization
- Name of the person filing the annual registration
- A valid email address
- Name and address of the registered agent
This address must be located in the state of Georgia
- The mailing address of the main office
- Name and address of each director
- A valid major credit card
The Initial Report is the first registration of your nonprofit. You must file this within ninety days of filing your Articles of Incorporation.
Annual Reports must be filed between January 1st and April 1st each year. There is a filing fee of $30 for this report.
Ongoing Compliance Obligations for Georgia Nonprofit Organizations
It is essential to remain in compliance with Georgia’s state laws. You will be required to file an Annual Report, IRS Form 990, and Charitable Solicitations Renewal every year to maintain your status. There may be local ordinances you need to file each year as well, so make sure you ask your local city council office for any nonprofit requirements.
Corporate Annual Report
Georgia’s requirements for an Annual Report are simple. You will need to keep the state updated on any changes to your organization’s name and address and any changes to your board of directors and officers’ names and addresses.
Annual Reports can be used for more than fulfilling state requirements. This is your opportunity to spread the word about the work your organization does and what has been accomplished. Many major donors and foundations will look for a published Annual Report when deciding whether to donate. To learn more about Annual Reports, and how to create one that brings in donations, view our Step by Step Guide to Writing an Effective Nonprofit Annual Report.
IRS Form 990
An IRS Form 990 must be filed by all nonprofits as part of their taxes each year. Try to find an accountant with nonprofit experience to file the form with the IRS. This report will keep the IRS updated on your income and expenses, last year’s activities, and details about the organization’s structure and operations.
Your IRS Form is due five months after the end of your fiscal year. You can extend that date for another six months if necessary.
Charitable Solicitations Renewal
Your charitable organization registration is valid for twenty-four months. Your organization will receive a renewal notice a month before the expiration date. You must sign and return the notice with a renewal fee of $20 prior to the expiration date.
The notice requires information on any charitable contributions collected the previous year. Attach the IRS Form 990 for the last two tax years to the application along with financial statements and a report by a certified accountant if the amount requires.
Starting a nonprofit is easier than it may seem if you have the right foundation. We hope the steps we have provided will help you start your experience off right. As you continue to build your organization and fulfill your mission, we are excited to be part of that trip as well.
Donorbox provides new information on fundraising, board development, and volunteer management every week. Visit our blog for updated articles on these subjects and more. If you are looking for an online donation system that does not cost too much but offers everything you want, check out our features.
How much does it cost to start a Georgia nonprofit?
The cost can get in the way of many things when running a nonprofit, but do not let the cost of starting your organization scare you away. The fees required to start a nonprofit organization are lower than you may expect. Here is a list of those fees to give you a better idea:
- Georgia Articles of Incorporation: $100 or $110
- Publication of your Notice of Intent to Incorporate: $40
- Federal Tax Exemption: $275 or $600
- Georgia Initial Annual Registration: $30
- Georgia Charitable Registration: $35
Many foundations will have funds set aside to help new nonprofits. Grants are your best option for finding funds at the start of your organization. Be sure to find a few people to help you apply for grants and make sure they have access to all necessary information.
How long does it take to start a Georgia nonprofit?
- Articles of Incorporation: 5-12 business days
- 501(c)3 tax-exempt status: 1 to 6 months
What is the Transmittal Information Form?
The Transmittal Information updates the state on your company name, name, and address of your registered agent, and notice that you will be publishing a Notice of Intent with your local newspaper.
You can find more information about the Transmittal Information Form 227 online at the Georgia Secretary of State website.
Do Georgia nonprofits need to file for a business license?
You do not have to file for a separate Business License in the state of Georgia, but requirements vary by county and city. Call your local business licensing office to determine whether you should file for a statewide business license.
How many board members are required for a nonprofit in Georgia?
The state of Georgia only requires nonprofit organizations to have one board member, but the IRS rarely provides tax-exempt status with less than three unrelated board members. It is recommended for nonprofits to have three to twenty-five board members depending on the size and purpose of the organization.
Can the founder of a Georgia nonprofit receive a salary?
The IRS requires that no shareholder or individual can profit from a nonprofit. Nonprofit expenses can include rent or mortgage payments, necessary supplies, transportation, utilities, employee salaries, and compensation like medical benefits and a bonus structure.
If the founder is an employee of the organization, they can receive a salary dependent on their work if it is not excessive. IRS Form 1023 outlines the allowed compensation arrangements for directors, officers, and employees. Foundations and major donors will look at this compensation when researching your organization.