How to Start a Nonprofit in Ohio?


Starting a nonprofit organization in Ohio can be a rewarding experience, as it allows you to make a positive impact on your community while also fulfilling a personal passion. However, starting a nonprofit can also be a complex process, with many steps that must be taken in order to ensure compliance with state and federal laws. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the steps that you need to take in order to start a nonprofit in Ohio.

Define Your Mission and Goals

The first step in starting a nonprofit in Ohio is to define your mission and goals. Your mission statement should be a clear and concise statement of the purpose of your organization, and should be used to guide all of your activities. Your mission statement should answer the following questions: What does your organization do? Who does it serve? And what are the specific outcomes you hope to achieve? Your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). This means that they should be clear and specific, with a measurable outcome, and a specific timeline for achieving them. This will help you to stay focused and on track as you work to establish your organization.

Choose a Name and Register with the State

Once you have defined your mission and goals, the next step is to choose a name for your organization. This name should be unique and not already in use by another organization. It's also a good idea to conduct a trademark search to ensure that your proposed name does not infringe on any existing trademarks. You will then need to register your organization with the state of Ohio. This can be done by filing articles of incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State. This process will also require you to choose a registered agent, and to pay a filing fee. Obtain Federal Tax-Exempt Status After registering with the state, you will need to obtain federal tax-exempt status for your organization. This can be done by filing Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption, with the IRS. This form must be accompanied by a $600 fee, and can take several months to process. Obtaining tax-exempt status will enable your organization to be exempt from federal income tax, and will allow donors to deduct their donations on their federal income tax returns.

Create Bylaws and Operating Procedures

Once your organization is registered and has received tax-exempt status, you will need to create bylaws and operating procedures. Bylaws are the rules and regulations that govern the internal workings of your organization, while operating procedures outline the day-to-day activities of your organization. Both of these documents should be created in consultation with legal counsel to ensure compliance with state and federal laws. Your bylaws should include information such as the structure of your organization, how board members will be elected and serve, and how meetings will be conducted. Your operating procedures should outline how your organization will handle day-to-day tasks such as finances, human resources, and volunteer management.

Build a Board of Directors

The next step in starting a nonprofit in Ohio is to build a board of directors. This board will be responsible for the overall governance of your organization and should include members who have a wide range of skills and experiences. The board should also include at least three members who are not related to each other. Building a diverse board will bring different perspectives, skills, and connections to the table. It's also important to have a mix of people with nonprofit experience and those who bring a fresh perspective.

Fundraising and Grant Writing

In order to sustain your nonprofit, you will need to secure funding through various means such as fundraising, grant writing, and sponsorships. Fundraising can include events, campaigns, and soliciting donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. Grant writing involves applying for grants from foundations and government agencies to support your nonprofit's mission and programs. It's essential to have a fundraising plan that outlines how you plan to raise money, what events you will hold, and what strategies you will use to reach donors.

Maintain Compliance and Transparency

Finally, it is important to maintain compliance with all state and federal laws and regulations, as well as to maintain transparency in all financial and organizational matters. This includes filing annual reports with the state and IRS, and maintaining accurate financial records. It's essential to stay current with all laws and regulations that pertain to nonprofits, including those related to fundraising, lobbying, and political activities. Your organization should also have a clear and transparent financial management system in place, including regular audits and financial statements. It's also important to maintain transparency in your operations and decision-making. This includes being open and honest with donors, stakeholders, and the public about your organization's activities, finances, and governance. By maintaining compliance and transparency, you can build trust and credibility with your donors, stakeholders, and the public, which will help you to achieve your mission and goals.


In conclusion, starting a nonprofit in Ohio is a complex process that requires careful planning and attention to detail. However, by following these steps and working with legal and financial professionals, you can successfully start a nonprofit that makes a positive impact on your community. With a clear mission and goals, a solid organizational structure, and a diverse board of directors, you can build a sustainable organization that will continue to make a difference in the lives of those you serve.