How to Start a Nonprofit in Oklahoma?


Starting a nonprofit organization in Oklahoma can be a rewarding experience for those who are passionate about making a difference in their community. However, the process of starting a nonprofit can be overwhelming and time-consuming. This guide will provide you with a step-by-step overview of how to start a nonprofit in Oklahoma, including the legal requirements and best practices for getting your organization up and running.

Define Your Mission and Purpose

The first step in starting a nonprofit in Oklahoma is to clearly define your mission and purpose. Your mission should be a statement that explains the reason for your organization's existence and the impact you hope to have on your community. Your purpose should be a more detailed explanation of the specific activities and programs that you will undertake to achieve your mission.

Conduct a Feasibility Study

Before starting a nonprofit, it's important to conduct a feasibility study to determine if there is a need for your organization and if it is financially viable. This step involves researching the community and assessing the potential for funding and support.

Choose a Name and Check for Availability

Once you have defined your mission and purpose and conducted a feasibility study, you can choose a name for your organization. It's important to check the availability of the name by searching the Oklahoma Secretary of State's business name database. The name must be distinguishable from existing business names and cannot include certain words such as "corporation" or "incorporated."

File for Tax-Exempt Status

To be recognized as a nonprofit organization, you must file for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In Oklahoma, this is done by filing Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This form must be accompanied by a detailed description of your organization's activities and financial information.

Register with the Oklahoma Secretary of State

Once your organization has been recognized as tax-exempt by the IRS, you must register with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. This is done by filing Form NP-1, Application for Registration of Charitable Organization. This form must be accompanied by the organization's articles of incorporation, which must be filed with the Secretary of State's office.

Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits

Depending on the nature of your organization, you may need to obtain certain licenses and permits to operate in Oklahoma. These may include a sales tax permit, a business license, and a charitable organization registration. Create Bylaws and Hold an Organizational Meeting The final step in starting a nonprofit in Oklahoma is to create bylaws and hold an organizational meeting. Bylaws are the rules and regulations that govern the organization and outline the responsibilities of the board of directors. At the organizational meeting, the board of directors will be elected and the bylaws will be adopted.

Best Practices for Starting a Nonprofit in Oklahoma

In addition to following the legal requirements for starting a nonprofit in Oklahoma, there are a few best practices that can help ensure the success of your organization.
  • Get professional help: Starting a nonprofit can be a complex process, and it's important to get professional help from an attorney or accountant who is experienced in nonprofit law.
  • Build a strong board of directors: The board of directors is responsible for the overall direction and management of the organization, so it's important to build a strong board with a diverse set of skills and experience.
  • Develop a sustainable business model: It's important to develop a sustainable business model that will ensure the long-term viability of your organization. This includes identifying potential sources of funding, such as grants, donations, and fundraising events, as well as developing a budget and financial plan.
  • Create a marketing plan: A marketing plan is crucial to building awareness and support for your organization. This includes developing a brand and messaging, identifying target audiences, and creating a communication plan to reach those audiences.
  • Build partnerships: Building partnerships with other organizations, businesses, and individuals in the community can help increase the impact of your organization and provide additional resources and support.
  • Comply with all laws and regulations: It's important to comply with all state and federal laws and regulations related to nonprofits, including those related to fundraising, lobbying, and reporting.


Starting a nonprofit in Oklahoma can be a challenging process, but with the right planning and support, it can also be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. By clearly defining your mission and purpose, conducting a feasibility study, registering with the appropriate state and federal agencies, and following best practices, you can successfully establish your organization and make a positive impact on your community.