Starting a Nonprofit

The Center does not assist organizations with the application for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

We can help you understand the process to gain 501(c)3 status and offer a number of helpful resources.

Every day, individuals like you are inspired to start a nonprofit to help serve your community. Starting and sustaining a nonprofit are not easy tasks, but we applaud your commitment to helping others. With more than 3,500 registered nonprofits in Greater Toledo alone, launching a sustainable nonprofit can be a difficult proposition.

Before you fill out a single form, we encourage you to watch this video presented by attorney Craig Burns of Marshall Melhorn. In this encore presentation will give you a deeper understanding of nonprofits, 501(c)(3)s, and public charities, and what laws and reporting requirements apply to them.

  • When does it make sense to form a new nonprofit?
  • How do I form a new nonprofit?
  • What are my ongoing responsibilities with a new nonprofit?
  • What alternatives are there to forming a new nonprofit?

Next, it is essential you can answer 3 BIG Startup Questions before you even file your paperwork.

You probably have a dream for the nonprofit you are thinking of starting. Most people can tell us what they want to do and how they want to help.

The 3 BIG Questions can be harder to answer but it is critical you can answer all three before you invest time and money to form a new nonprofit.

Answering the questions is not a legal requirement but it is a smart thing to do if you want to launch a successful nonprofit. For example, if your answer to the question “Where will the money come from” is grants, you have more research to do. What funders will fund your programs? Do they fund start-up nonprofits? Who will write your grant proposals?

Take some time and go through the worksheets to check off what yo know and what you still need to know. You can download your copy here.

You will find links below to resources to help you run a successful nonprofit once you launch one. Submitting your filings is the easy part. It takes a lot to successfully run a nonprofit.


The term “nonprofit organization” is a tax designation; it’s not about how little profit you make. In truth, you can’t be sustainable unless you raise more money than you spend. 

The National Council of Nonprofits has compiled a collection of valuable tools including questions to ask before starting a nonprofit, filings you’ll need to complete at the federal and state level, and the standard policies and procedures that your new nonprofit will want to have in place.

Where to Start?

The National Council of Nonprofits has compiled a comprehensive set of resources to help you work successfully through the five steps listed above. 
Click here

Note:  The Center for Nonprofit Resources cannot help you file your forms or start your nonprofit.
Other Powerful Tools
The Center provides a number of resources to help run a nonprofit successfully.  Areas include 

Board Governance
Finance and Legal Matters
Human Resources
Management and Leadership
Marketing and Social Media
Planning and Evaluation
Technology for Nonprofits

From  3 Tips to Consider if You Want to Start a Nonprofit
From The Nonprofit Quarterly: To 501(c)(3) or Not to 501(c)(3): Is That the Question?

Alternative ways to accomplish the work you are passionate about…

Join an existing 501(c)(3) organization. Study the list of nonprofits already active in the same subject and geographic area and join their efforts. You may find a current tax-exempt organization willing to act as a fiscal sponsor for the program you want to start. How does this work? A newly formed nonprofit finds another nonprofit (one that is already tax-exempt and generally has a similar mission) that agrees to accept the administrative responsibility of receiving charitable gifts on behalf of the sponsored organization – see more at:

Research similar organizations in your area that are doing the work you would like to do. Consider becoming a volunteer, a board member or even a staff member and find out what it takes to run a program and/or a nonprofit organization. Visit C4NPR’s Job Center for opportunities. 

Create a special program at an existing organization. Meet with area nonprofits to explore creating a special project or initiative and negotiate your involvement. They may even be able to write your project into a grant and get funds to help it become a reality.

Open a donor-advised fund at a Foundation like  Greater Toledo Community Foundation, so that you can make tax deductible donations to the fund and direct those funds to nonprofits that are doing good work in the sectors you are most passionate about. A donor-advised fund offers the opportunity to create an easy-to-establish, flexible vehicle for directed charitable giving, as an alternative to starting your own foundation or organization.

Start a local chapter of a national or regional organization, where the headquarters acts as the nonprofit fiscal agent.

Perhaps a 501(c)(3) isn’t the right tax designation for youCheck out this page on the IRS website to read more about other types of tax-exempt organizations.