How to Start a Nonprofit in Missouri | The Ultimate Guide

How to Start a Nonprofit in Missouri | The Ultimate Guide

how to start a nonprofit in missouri

To start a nonprofit in Missouri, you’ll need to determine key information about your organization. For example, your nonprofit’s name, founders, directors, and Registered Agent. You’ll also file paperwork with state and federal agencies. Important steps along the way include filing your Articles of Incorporation, applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), establishing bylaws, and applying for tax-exempt status.

Starting a nonprofit in Missouri (or in any state!) requires dedication, hard work, and some paperwork. While it may take time and commitment, securing your nonprofit status can be a rewarding process.

starting a nonprofit organization in Missouri

How to Start a Nonprofit in Missouri

Missouri is home to more than 30,000 nonprofits – and your cause could be one of them!

In this post, you’ll learn step-by-step how to start a nonprofit in Missouri. Read on to equip yourself with all the knowledge you’ll need to get to work changing the world!

  1. Name Your Organization
  2. Choose Your Incorporators & Directors
  3. Appoint a Registered Agent
  4. File Articles of Incorporation
  5. File Your Initial Report
  6. Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  7. Establish Initial Governing Documents & Policies
  8. Get Missouri State Tax ID Numbers & Accounts
  9. Apply for 501(c)3 Status
  10. Apply for State Tax Exemption(s)
  11. Register for Charitable Solicitation
  12. Obtain Relevant Business Licenses & Permits

Bonus resource – 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Step #1. Name Your Organization

When naming your organization, aim for something unique, memorable, and descriptive. The Missouri Secretary of State notes your name must include “corporation,” “company,” “incorporated,” or “limited.” Or, use an abbreviation of one of those words: Inc., Co., Corp., Ltd.

Your name must also be distinguishable from other entities already registered in the state, to prevent confusion and infringement. Search for existing organizations in the Secretary of State’s database.

missouri charitable registration

When naming your nonprofit, consider:

  • Does this name reflect my nonprofit’s mission and work?
  • Does this name have a website URL available for a reasonable price?
  • Are my desired social media usernames available?
  • Does this name have an undesirable acronym or nickname?

If you’re struggling to find ideas, this charity name generator can help spark ideas. Be mindful any online name generator can result in some comical suggestions, too.

Step #2. Choose Your Incorporators & Directors

Your nonprofit’s incorporators and directors are responsible for the management and oversight of your organization.

The incorporator is the person who signs your Articles of Incorporation. Your board of directors is the governing body for your organization. Your board will create your bylaws (see step 7) and vote on key decisions on an ongoing basis. Consider recruiting a well-rounded, diverse board that reflects the community you serve.

Finding Directors for your nonprofit at Missouri

Incorporator requirements

  • A Missouri nonprofit must have at least one incorporator and may have more. Incorporators must be 18+ years old.
  • Your incorporator(s) cannot be amended later. This information is maintained forever to reflect the history concerning who created the organization.
  • The incorporator must sign and deliver the Articles of Incorporation and other key paperwork.
  • Your nonprofit’s incorporator must provide their name and address on paperwork

Read more about the role of an incorporator in Missouri.

Director requirements

  • A Missouri nonprofit’s board may include a president and/or chairperson, secretary, and treasurer. The same individual may hold more than one office, but at least three directors are required.
  • There is no residency requirement for your board of directors.
  • Directors must act in the best interests of the nonprofit.
  • Directors may be held personally liable for damages resulting from their neglect or disregard of their obligations.
  • Select board members with passion, expertise and resources to support the organization. “Resources” doesn’t just mean money. While many board members are expected to give generously, also consider time, connections, and knowledge.

Learn more about good board practices with this IRS publication: Governance & Related Topics – 501(c)(3) Organizations.

Step #3. Appoint a Registered Agent

A registered agent is an individual or organization that receives notifications of due process for your nonprofit. Your registered agent must provide their Missouri address when you register with the Secretary of State (more on that process later).

This address must be a physical location (not a PO Box) where the registered agent may be served paperwork, if necessary. For more details, read the Secretary of State’s webpage on registered agents.

Quick Tips to Start a nonprofit organiztion in Missouri

Step #4. File Articles of Incorporation

Your Articles of Incorporation is the first legal document you’ll file to create your Missouri nonprofit. You’ll register this paperwork with the Secretary of State.

You’ll be required to provide the following:

  • Your nonprofit’s name.
  • The name and address of your incorporator(s) and registered agent (see steps 2 and 3)
  • Whether or not your organization plans to have members
  • A statement indicating what will happen to your nonprofit’s assets in a dissolution
  • The purpose of your nonprofit organization

Filing fee: $25

View the Missouri nonprofit Articles of Incorporation form for more information.

Step #5. File Your Initial Report

Missouri requires a nonprofit entity to file an initial report with the Secretary of State. By filing online, you can save money and time. The online system saves your information, making renewal easier.

Filing initial report for starting Missouri Nonprofit

Failing to file your report can result in the dissolution of your organization. It’s due at the end of the month that your nonprofit was incorporated. The standard practice, however, has been to extend the date to within 90 days after the end of the month of registration.

Filing fee: $20 if filing online. $45 if filing by paper. Late reports are subject to an additional fee of $15 for each 30-day period.

Read more about filing your nonprofit Annual Report in Missouri.

Step #6. Get an Employer ID Number (EIN)

An EIN is a 9-digit number assigned by the IRS. Your EIN allows you to complete critical administrative tasks like opening a bank account, applying for 501(c)(3) status, and submitting your annual Form 990.

To apply for an EIN, complete IRS Form SS-4 online for free. Then, you’ll receive an EIN online. You can also submit your EIN paperwork by fax or mail. However, the IRS cautions that these methods are slower.

Read the IRS’s instructions for how to fill out your Form SS-4 to get your EIN.

Step #7. Establish Initial Governing Documents & Policies

A nonprofit’s bylaws govern how the organization will operate. The state of Missouri and the IRS provide guidelines about how nonprofits must run. However, some things are up to your board of directors.

Governing Documents to create a nonprofit in Missouri

Some helpful guidelines for creating your bylaws:

  • Include provisions for selecting new directors and officers
  • Avoid including information that could be outdated soon; amending your bylaws later can be tedious!
  • In general, aim for flexibility – for example, your bylaws could say board meetings are held monthly rather than locking yourself into the first Tuesday of the month at 11 am.
  • Be cautious when using the word “shall,” which means that your organization must do something. Instead, you can use “may” or “will consider” for more flexibility.
  • At the same time, avoid making your nonprofit’s bylaws so flexible that they lack structure and routine.

To learn more, read Donorbox’s blog post on creating bylaws.

Step #8. Get Missouri State Tax Identification Numbers & Accounts

Your Missouri state ID number, or charter number, is issued by the Secretary of State once you register your nonprofit. Then, you can get a bank account for your organization. Your bank account allows you to collect donations, build savings, pay contractors, and more.

To open a bank account, you’ll generally need to provide:

  • Your business address and other contact information
  • The Articles of Incorporation and bylaws
  • EIN number
  • Your Missouri charter number
  • An initial deposit

Step #9. Apply for 501(c)3 Status

One little-known fact is that not all nonprofits are tax-exempt. To create a 501(c)(3) exempt nonprofit, you’ll need to apply for federal and state tax exemptions. First, let’s review the 501(c) federal tax exemption.

To apply for 501(c)(3) status, fill out a Form 1023 with the IRS. This application must be submitted electronically on

To ensure ongoing compliance, you’ll need to fill out an IRS Form 990 annually. There are several types of 990 forms, depending on your organization’s gross receipts.

Filing fee: $275 (for Form 1023)

Get more information on the IRS’’s 501c3 website. There’s also a 14-page guide to walk you through the process.

Step #10. Apply for State Tax Exemption(s)

When you receive your 501(c) status and have your determination letter, your nonprofit will be exempt from corporate tax in Missouri. Then, you can apply for exemption from Missouri sales/use tax.

missouri 501c3 organization

To apply for state tax exemption, fill out the Missouri Department of Revenue Form 1746. You’ll be required to provide information including:

  • Missouri Tax ID number
  • Your EIN number
  • Type of exemption
  • Basic organizational and contact information
  • Description of your organization
  • Documents including IRS determination letter, Certificate of Missouri charitable registration (refer to step 11), bylaws, and a financial statement or projected budget.

Learn more about filing for your Missouri sales/use tax exemption from the Missouri Department of Revenue.

Step #11. Register for Charitable Solicitation

Before fundraising in Missouri (and in many other states), most nonprofits must register with the state’s Attorney General. There are exceptions for religious organizations and schools. Professional fundraisers and solicitors are also required to register.

Apply for a charitable solicitation license through the Missouri Attorney General’s office. Registering allows your Missouri 501c3 to legally solicit donations for your cause.

Filing fee: $15 if your organization raised $10,000+ during the reporting year

Learn more about registering your charitable organization on the Missouri Attorney General’s webpage dedicated to this topic. On that page, you’ll also find contact information for the Missouri charitable registration specialist who can help answer any questions you may have.

Check More Guides about Starting Nonprofit Organizations in:

New York | Colorado | North Carolina | South Carolina | Alabama | Georgia etc.

Step #12. Obtain Relevant Business Licenses & Permits

Local, state, and federal regulations for licensure vary. The U.S. Small Business Administration provides a helpful guide outlining federal and state licenses and permits.

Additionally, some nonprofit activities require additional licenses. For example, selling beer and wine at a fundraising event requires a license from the Missouri Department of Public Safety. Games of chance, such as a raffle or bingo, require a license or permit from the Missouri Gaming Commission.


Starting a 501c3 at Missouri

Starting your Missouri nonprofit requires determination, patience, and some hard work. That said, creating your own nonprofit can be a rewarding and empowering way to change the world. When you encounter challenges, remember the importance of the cause you’re working toward and the ways in which your nonprofit will make a real difference.

For more tips and useful resources, check out our nonprofit blog.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this section, we’ll answer some commonly asked questions on how to start a nonprofit in Missouri.

how to start a nonprofit in missouri

1. How long will it take to start a nonprofit in Missouri?

Simply put – it varies! State and federal agencies often cannot provide a specific timeline, since the volume of incoming applications can fluctuate. Plan for the process to take a few months.

As a general rule, the best way to ensure a quicker turnaround is to submit paperwork electronically when possible.

2. How much does it cost to start a nonprofit in Missouri?

The fees to start a nonprofit organization in Missouri include:

  • $25 to file Articles of Incorporation
  • $275 fee to apply for 501(c)3 status
  • $20-45 fee to submit your Annual Report (yearly)
  • $15 fee to submit your Charitable Organization Registration, IF your organization raised more than $10,000 in the year (yearly)

You may choose to take on additional costs when creating your nonprofit. For example, you could pay a lawyer to guide you through the paperwork or serve as your registered agent. You might also apply for additional licenses that require fees.

3. When should an organization apply for federal tax exemption?

Your form 1023 should be submitted within 27 months after the end of the month you created your nonprofit. If filing after 27 months, the date of your exempt status will be when you submit your form, rather than the founding date.

That said, it’s best to start the process as soon as possible. You can apply after you have your EIN, bylaws, and state ID number.

4. How many board members should a Missouri nonprofit have?

At least three directors are required to start a nonprofit in Missouri. The state’s guidance on board governance advises making your board large enough to have a variety of skill sets, and small enough to be manageable.

Heather is a writer, business owner, and nonprofit professional. She is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) with more than a decade of experience leading fundraising efforts and creating communication materials for arts, education, and social services nonprofits.

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