How to Start a Nonprofit in Massachusetts?


Starting a nonprofit in Massachusetts can be a rewarding and fulfilling endeavor, but it also requires a significant amount of planning and work. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the steps you need to take to start a nonprofit in Massachusetts, including information on legal requirements, funding, and organizational structure.

Determine your Mission

Before you begin the process of starting a nonprofit, it is important to have a clear understanding of your organization's mission and goals. Your mission should be a concise statement that describes the purpose of your organization and the specific problem or issue it aims to address. This statement will be used to guide the organization's actions and decision-making, and it should be communicated clearly to potential donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders. Your goals should be specific, measurable, and aligned with your mission. These goals will help you to track the progress and success of your organization. For example, if your mission is to provide education to underprivileged children, your goal may be to increase the number of children served by your organization each year. It is also important to set realistic and achievable goals that are aligned with the resources you have available to you.

Choose a Name and Register with the State

Once you have determined your mission and goals, you will need to choose a name for your organization and register with the state of Massachusetts. The name you choose should be unique, easy to remember, and reflective of your mission. It is also important to ensure that the name is not already in use by another organization. To register, you will need to file articles of incorporation with the Massachusetts Secretary of State. This document should include information about your organization's name, purpose, and initial directors. The process of registering typically takes several weeks and there is a fee associated with it. It is important to ensure that all the information provided is accurate and complete to avoid delays or issues with registration.

Obtain Tax-exempt Status

To be recognized as a tax-exempt nonprofit in Massachusetts, you will need to apply for tax-exempt status with the IRS. This status will allow your organization to be exempt from certain taxes, including federal income tax and state sales tax. The process for obtaining tax-exempt status can be complex, and it is recommended that you seek the assistance of an attorney or accountant. There are different types of tax-exempt status that can be applied for, such as 501(c)(3) for charitable organizations. It is important to choose the one that best fits your organization's goals and operations. The application process can take several months and there are fees associated with it.

Create a Board of Directors

A board of directors is responsible for overseeing the operations of a nonprofit organization. The board is typically made up of individuals who are passionate about the organization's mission and have the skills and experience to help the organization achieve its goals. When creating your board of directors, it is important to consider diversity and representation of the communities you plan to serve. The board of directors typically includes a combination of individuals with diverse backgrounds, skills, and experiences that can help guide the organization towards achieving its mission. The board also typically includes a president, secretary, and treasurer, who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization.

Develop a Fundraising Plan

Nonprofit organizations rely on funding from a variety of sources, including grants, donations, and fundraising events. Developing a fundraising plan is essential for the long-term sustainability of your organization. Make sure to research potential funding sources and develop relationships with potential donors. This includes foundations, corporations, and individuals who may be interested in supporting your mission. A fundraising plan should include a list of potential funding sources and a timeline for applying for grants and soliciting donations. It should also include information on how you plan to communicate with potential donors and the methods you plan to use to solicit donations.

Create a Business Plan

A business plan is a document that outlines your organization's mission, goals, and strategies for achieving them. It should also include information on your organization's structure, staff, and budget. A business plan will help you stay organized and focused as you work to establish your nonprofit. It will also be a valuable tool for communicating your organization's plans and goals to potential donors and partners. The business plan should include a detailed description of your nonprofit's mission, goals, and objectives, as well as a description of the problem or issue your organization aims to address. It should also include information on the target population you plan to serve, as well as details on your organization's structure, staff, and budget. Additionally, the business plan should include a marketing and fundraising strategy, outlining how you plan to generate support for your organization.

Establish Policies and Procedures

Establishing policies and procedures is essential for ensuring that your nonprofit is run in an efficient and effective manner. These policies and procedures should cover everything from financial management to volunteer management to operational procedures. For example, a financial management policy should outline how funds will be collected, tracked and spent. Volunteer management policy should outline the process for recruiting, training and managing volunteers. Operational procedures should include guidelines for day-to-day activities such as meetings, communication and decision-making. It is also important to regularly review and update these policies and procedures to ensure they are still relevant and effective.


In conclusion, starting a nonprofit in Massachusetts is a significant undertaking that requires careful planning and attention to detail. By following the steps outlined in this blog post, you can ensure that your organization is established and run in a manner that is compliant with all legal requirements and best practices. Remember to seek help and guidance when needed, and take the time to research and develop relationships with potential funding sources and partners. With the right planning and dedication, your nonprofit organization can make a real difference in the lives of those it serves.