If you’re struggling with how to register a nonprofit organization name, it’s actually easier than you may realize. You’ll just need a few basic items to get started:
- IRS Form 1023 (to file for tax-exempt status)
- IRS Form 990 (for annual IRS reporting)
- IRS Form SS-4 (to apply for your EIN)
- Your nonprofit website and social media profiles (to start building your web presence)
- Any required state forms (these vary by state and are generally processed by the Secretary of State—though some states also require filing through the Attorney General’s office)
The following steps should help simplify your nonprofit startup process.
1. Incorporate your business with the Secretary of State.
Incorporating establishes your nonprofit organization as a legal corporation in your state. Each state and territory in the United States has a different process and fee structure for incorporating a new organization. If you’re not sure where to register your nonprofit organization, refer to our Nonprofit Filing Requirements By State.
Tip: Incorporating your nonprofit ensures that no other business in the state can use that name.
2. Register domains and social media accounts.
Even if you already know how to register a nonprofit organization, there are some ancillary steps that shouldn’t be ignored. For instance, you’ll need to build your nonprofit website and create accounts on all major social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok) and register the web domain. Even if you don’t intend to use these accounts in the foreseeable future, securing the accounts and URL will ensure that no one else can take the name or domain. When you are ready to build a website or start posting on social media, you won’t have to worry about the availability of your desired name.
Tip: A registered domain also offers matching email addresses.
3. Request an EIN from the IRS.
Like every individual has a Social Security Number, every business needs a federal Employer Identification Number or EIN. The EIN identifies your organization on all federal documents. The IRS requires business names to be unique before issuing a new EIN.
Tip: Don’t forget to add the INC at the end of your organization’s name if it’s required in your state.
4. File for 501c3 tax-exempt status with the IRS.
Obtaining your charitable 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status is the most important step when registering a nonprofit organization. There is no name security benefit to filing for tax exemption, but it is an important step for nonprofit organizations. You’ll need your IRS form 1023 for this step.
Tip: It can take months to hear back from the IRS, but you can begin your nonprofit’s operations while waiting.