How to Start a Nonprofit in North Carolina?


Starting a nonprofit organization in North Carolina can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it can also be a rewarding one. A nonprofit organization is a legal entity that operates for the benefit of the public, rather than for the benefit of its owners or shareholders. This guide will provide an overview of the steps you'll need to take to start a nonprofit in North Carolina.

Research and Planning

The first step in starting a nonprofit organization is to research and plan. It is important to have a clear idea of what your nonprofit will do, who it will serve, and what kind of impact it will have. This research will help you create a mission statement and a business plan. It is important to conduct a thorough research on the existing non-profit organizations in your area and their activities, this will help you identify the gap in the community and how your non-profit can fill it. Also, you should research on the legal and financial requirements for starting a non-profit in North Carolina. A well-written business plan will outline your non-profit's goals, strategies, and projected budget, which will be helpful when applying for grants and fundraising.

Choose a Name and Register

The second step is to choose a name and register it with the state. The name of your nonprofit must be distinguishable from other names already in use, and it cannot contain any restricted words or phrases, such as "bank" or "insurance." Once you have chosen a name, you'll need to register it with the North Carolina Secretary of State's office. It is important to conduct a name search to ensure that the name you have chosen is not already taken by another non-profit in the state. After you have registered your non-profit's name with the state, you should also check if the name is available as a web domain, this will be important for your non-profit's online presence.

Obtain Tax-Exempt Status

The next step is to obtain tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This can be done by filing Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This form must be filed within 27 months of the date of your nonprofit's formation. Obtaining tax-exempt status from the IRS is an important step for your non-profit as it means that your non-profit will be exempt from federal income tax and donors can claim a tax deduction for their donations to your non-profit. It also allows your non-profit to apply for grants and other funding opportunities that are only open to tax-exempt organizations.

Create Bylaws and Hold Organizational Meeting

Once your nonprofit has been registered with the state and obtained tax-exempt status from the IRS, you'll need to create bylaws and hold an organizational meeting. Bylaws are the rules and regulations that govern the operations of your nonprofit. They should be reviewed and adopted by your board of directors at an organizational meeting. Bylaws are important for your non-profit as they provide a framework for the governance of your non-profit. They should include the purpose of the non-profit, the composition of the board of directors, the procedure for electing the board of directors, and the responsibilities of the board of directors. It is important to ensure that your bylaws are in compliance with the state laws.

Obtain the required Licenses and Permits

Depending on the nature of your nonprofit's operations, you may need to obtain certain licenses and permits. For example, if your nonprofit will be soliciting donations, you'll need to register with the North Carolina Secretary of State's office and comply with all applicable state and federal laws. Additionally, if your nonprofit will be providing a service or selling a product, you may need to obtain business licenses or permits. It is important to research and understand the specific requirements for your nonprofit's operations to ensure that you are in compliance with all laws and regulations.

Establish a Board of Directors

The final step in starting a nonprofit in North Carolina is to establish a board of directors. A board of directors is responsible for the overall direction and management of the nonprofit. They should be made up of individuals who have a vested interest in the nonprofit's mission and are committed to its success. It is important to have a diverse board that represents different backgrounds and perspectives to bring different ideas and insights to the non-profit.


Starting a nonprofit organization in North Carolina can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it can also be a rewarding one. By following these steps, you can create a nonprofit that makes a positive impact on your community and the world. It is important to remember that starting a non-profit is a continuous process and the non-profit will need to regularly review and update its policies, bylaws, and operations to ensure that it is in compliance with the state laws and regulations and is able to achieve its mission effectively.