How to Start a Nonprofit in South Dakota?


Starting a nonprofit organization in South Dakota can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it can also be a complex and time-consuming process. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the steps involved in starting a nonprofit in South Dakota and offer some tips for making the process as smooth as possible.

Determine the Purpose of Your Nonprofit

The first step in starting a nonprofit in South Dakota is to determine the purpose of your organization. This will involve identifying a specific need or problem in your community that your nonprofit will aim to address. Some examples of common nonprofit purposes include providing services to underserved populations, promoting education or the arts, and protecting the environment. It is important to note that the purpose of your nonprofit must align with one of the tax-exempt purposes recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These include charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, and certain other purposes that are beneficial to the community.

Choose a Name and Conduct a Name Search

Once you have determined the purpose of your nonprofit, the next step is to choose a name for your organization. The name you choose should be unique and not already in use by another organization in South Dakota. You can conduct a name search by visiting the South Dakota Secretary of State website and searching the business name database. This will help ensure that your chosen name is available for use and does not infringe on the rights of another organization.

File for Incorporation

After you have chosen a name for your nonprofit and conducted a name search, the next step is to file for incorporation. This will involve filing articles of incorporation with the South Dakota Secretary of State's office. The articles of incorporation must include the following information: The name of the nonprofit The purpose of the nonprofit The names and addresses of the incorporators The names and addresses of the initial board of directors Any other information required by the Secretary of State

Obtain Tax-Exempt Status

Once your nonprofit is incorporated, the next step is to obtain tax-exempt status from the IRS. This can be done by filing for tax-exempt status using Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. It is important to note that obtaining tax-exempt status can be a complex and time-consuming process. It is recommended that you seek the assistance of an attorney or accountant with experience in nonprofit law to help you with this step.

Create Bylaws and Hold an Organizational Meeting

Once your nonprofit is incorporated and has obtained tax-exempt status, the next step is to create bylaws and hold an organizational meeting. Bylaws are a set of rules and regulations that govern the internal operations of your nonprofit. They should include information on membership, meetings, elections, and other matters related to the governance of your organization. The organizational meeting should be attended by the initial board of directors and should be used to adopt the bylaws, elect officers, and take any other necessary actions to formally organize your nonprofit.

Register with the South Dakota Secretary of State

After your nonprofit is incorporated, you will need to register with the South Dakota Secretary of State. This will involve filing an annual report and paying an annual fee. This step is important to keep your nonprofit in good standing with the state of South Dakota.


The final step in starting a nonprofit in South Dakota is fundraising. This will involve identifying potential sources of funding for your organization and developing a fundraising strategy. Some common fundraising methods for nonprofits include grant writing, fundraising events, and soliciting donations from individuals and businesses. One important thing to keep in mind when fundraising is that your nonprofit must comply with all state and federal laws related to fundraising. This includes registering with the state attorney general's office and providing disclosures to donors as required by law. It's also important to keep good records of all donations and fundraising activities, as these may be required for tax purposes and to maintain compliance with state and federal laws. In South Dakota, you can also apply for the South Dakota Nonprofit Grant Program offered by the South Dakota Community Foundation. This program provides funding to nonprofit organizations that are providing services to the citizens of South Dakota. To be eligible, your organization must be a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit and have been in operation for at least one year.


In conclusion, starting a nonprofit in South Dakota requires careful planning, attention to detail, and a commitment to compliance with state and federal laws. However, with the right approach and the right support, you can successfully launch a nonprofit that makes a positive impact on your community.