How to Start a Nonprofit in Hawaii?


Starting a nonprofit organization in Hawaii can be a rewarding and fulfilling endeavor, but it requires careful planning and attention to detail. In this blog, we'll walk you through the steps of starting a nonprofit in Hawaii, including how to choose a mission, form a board of directors, and file for tax-exempt status.

Define Your Cause

The first step in starting a nonprofit is to define the cause you wish to support. This cause should align with your passions and interests, as well as address a need in the community. Consider what problem you want to solve and how your organization will make a difference. Research the current landscape of similar organizations in the area and their impact to ensure your organization is unique and fills a specific gap.

Form a Board of Directors

A board of directors is responsible for the governance of your nonprofit. In Hawaii, your board must consist of at least three members, and these members should be representative of the community your organization will serve. Board members should also have a variety of skills, including financial, legal, and fundraising expertise. Having a diverse and dedicated board that is committed to the mission of your organization is key to the success of your nonprofit.

Incorporate Your Nonprofit

Incorporating your nonprofit is the process of legally forming a corporation and registering it with the state. This is done by filing articles of incorporation with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and obtaining a corporate charter. This step is important as it establishes your nonprofit as a separate legal entity and protects the personal assets of the board members and officers.

File for Tax-Exempt Status

To operate as a nonprofit in Hawaii, your organization must file for tax-exempt status with the IRS. This is done by submitting Form 1023, the Application for Recognition of Exemption. The process can take several months, and it is important to have all of your paperwork in order. This step is important as it allows your organization to be exempt from paying federal income taxes on money earned from activities related to its mission.

Register with the State of Hawaii

In addition to filing for tax-exempt status with the IRS, your organization must also register with the state of Hawaii. This is done by submitting the appropriate paperwork, including articles of incorporation and bylaws. This registration is typically done through the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. This step is important as it allows your organization to legally operate within the state and be eligible for certain state-level benefits.

Develop a Business Plan

A business plan is a roadmap for your nonprofit's operations and growth. It should include details about your mission, target population, budget, and fundraising strategy. A business plan is important to have in place before you begin fundraising, as it will help you to communicate your organization's goals and objectives to potential donors. It should be comprehensive and realistic, and should be reviewed and updated regularly.


Fundraising is a crucial aspect of starting and running a nonprofit. It will help you to cover the costs of operating your organization and will be essential to your continued growth. Consider a variety of fundraising options, such as grants, private donations, and fundraising events. It is important to have a fundraising plan in place, and to regularly communicate with donors and potential donors about the impact of their donations.

Get Insured

Starting a nonprofit means that you are responsible for the well-being of your staff, volunteers, and participants. Having a liability insurance will protect you and your organization from any potential risks. This insurance can cover things such as property damage, personal injuries, and legal fees. It is important to carefully research insurance options and to make sure that your organization has the coverage it needs to protect itself and the people it serves.

Establish Accounting and Record Keeping Procedures

Proper accounting and record keeping are essential for any nonprofit organization. Not only is it important for legal and tax compliance, but it also helps to ensure that your organization is financially sound and that your donors' funds are being used effectively. Establish a system for keeping track of income, expenses, and donations, and make sure that all financial records are accurate and up-to-date. It is also important to have a separate bank account for your nonprofit to keep your personal finances separate from the organization's finances.

Build a Strong Online Presence

Having a strong online presence is essential for any nonprofit in today's digital age. It is important to have a professional website that clearly communicates your mission, programs, and how to get involved. Use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to connect with your target audience and to keep them updated on your organization's activities. By building an online presence, you can reach a wider audience, attract new donors and volunteers, and increase visibility for your organization.

Build Relationships

Building relationships with community members, donors, volunteers, and other nonprofit organizations is crucial for the success of your nonprofit. Collaborating with other organizations can help you achieve your mission more efficiently and effectively, and can also help to raise awareness for your cause. Building relationships with donors and volunteers will help to ensure a steady stream of support for your organization. Attend networking events, and participate in community activities to build relationships and increase visibility for your organization.

Evaluate and Adapt

Starting a nonprofit is an ongoing process, and it is important to regularly evaluate and adapt your organization's activities to ensure that you are achieving your mission and making a real impact in the community. Regularly review your business plan and track your progress against your goals. Make adjustments as needed and communicate these changes to your board of directors, staff, volunteers, and donors. Continuously strive to improve and make a greater impact in the community.


Starting a nonprofit in Hawaii requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and perseverance, but the rewards can be significant. By following the steps outlined in this blog, you can establish a solid foundation for your organization and begin making a difference in your community. Remember to stay organized, stay focused on your mission, and never lose sight of the impact your organization can have on the lives of the people you serve.