How to Start a Nonprofit in Maryland?


Starting a nonprofit organization in Maryland can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Not only does it allow you to make a positive impact in your community, but it also provides a way for you to use your skills and passions to make a difference. However, starting a nonprofit can also be a complex and time-consuming process. In this blog post, we will go over the steps you need to take to start a nonprofit in Maryland in more detail.

Choose a Name

The first step in starting a nonprofit is choosing a name for your organization. The name should be unique and should not be too similar to the name of an existing organization. It's important to choose a name that accurately reflects your mission and goals, and that is easy to remember. You can also consider including the words "nonprofit" or "charitable" in the name. In Maryland, you can check the availability of your desired name by searching the Maryland Business Express website.

Form a Board of Directors

A nonprofit must have a board of directors. The board of directors is responsible for the overall governance of the organization and sets the policies that guide its work. They also have the authority to hire and fire the organization's staff and to approve the budget and financial reports. In Maryland, a nonprofit must have at least three directors. The board should be diverse and composed of individuals with a variety of skills and experiences that align with the mission and goals of the nonprofit.

Draft your Articles of Incorporation

The next step is to draft your articles of incorporation. The articles of incorporation are a legal document that outlines the purpose of your nonprofit and the names of the board of directors. The articles of incorporation must include the name of the nonprofit, its purpose, the names and addresses of the directors and the address of the nonprofit's principal office. In Maryland, you can file your articles of incorporation with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Obtain Tax-exempt Status

Once your articles of incorporation have been filed, you will need to apply for tax-exempt status. This can be done by filing Form 1023 with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In order to qualify for tax-exempt status, your nonprofit must be organized for one of the following purposes: charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, or preventing cruelty to children or animals. Additionally, the nonprofit must be organized and operated for the benefit of the public, not for private gain.

Register with the Maryland Secretary of State

After obtaining tax-exempt status, you will need to register with the Maryland Secretary of State. This can be done by submitting Form CR-101. This registration is required for any organization that solicits contributions from Maryland residents. Once your registration is complete, you will be able to solicit donations and apply for grants.

Obtain any Necessary Licenses or Permits

Depending on the nature of your nonprofit, you may need to obtain certain licenses or permits. For example, if you plan to operate a food bank, you will need to obtain a food service permit. If you plan to operate a daycare center, you will need to obtain a daycare license. Additionally, if your nonprofit will be involved in activities such as fundraising, you may need to register with the Maryland Secretary of State's office. It's important to research and understand the specific requirements and regulations that apply to your nonprofit's activities.

Create Bylaws

The final step in starting a nonprofit is creating bylaws. Bylaws are a set of rules that govern the internal operations of your organization. They outline the responsibilities of the board of directors and the members of the organization, and they also establish the procedures for holding meetings, voting on decisions, and making changes to the organization's structure or policies. Bylaws should be created with the help of legal counsel to ensure they comply with state and federal laws. It's important to keep in mind that the bylaws can be amended as the organization evolves over time.


In conclusion, starting a nonprofit in Maryland can be a complex and time-consuming process. However, by following the steps outlined in this blog post, you can navigate the process with ease. Remember to choose a unique name, form a board of directors, draft your articles of incorporation, obtain tax-exempt status, register with the Maryland Secretary of State, obtain any necessary licenses or permits and create bylaws. With the right planning and commitment, you can make a positive impact in your community and turn your passion into action. It's also important to mention that starting a nonprofit also requires an ongoing commitment to compliance, accountability, and transparency. This includes filing annual reports, and keeping accurate financial records. Additionally, nonprofits are also required to comply with state and federal laws related to fundraising and lobbying, as well as laws related to employment, discrimination and other areas. It is recommended that you seek the guidance of legal and financial professionals throughout the process of starting a nonprofit to ensure that your organization is set up correctly and in compliance with all relevant laws. Additionally, you may also want to consider working with a nonprofit organization that can provide you with the support and resources you need to successfully navigate the process and achieve your goals.