Wondering how to start a nonprofit in Iowa? It begins with choosing a name and moves through a process of decision-making and legal paperwork. The steps are:

  1. Choose a name.
  2. Find incorporators and directors.
  3. Assign a registered agent.
  4. Prepare the articles of incorporation.
  5. File the articles of incorporation.
  6. Apply for an Employer Identification Number.
  7. Begin storing records for the nonprofit.
  8. Set up the policies and governing documents for your nonprofit.
  9. Schedule and hold a meeting with the board of directors to establish organizational matters.
  10. Apply for tax ID numbers and accounts in Iowa.
  11. File your 501(c) application.
  12. File Iowa tax exemption applications.
  13. Register your nonprofit to enable fundraising efforts.
  14. File applications for other business licenses and permits as required by law.

Naming Your Nonprofit

The name you choose for your nonprofit is part of establishing its brand. The name is also required for incorporating your nonprofit in Iowa. The name you choose can't be in conflict with a legal name held by any other Iowa registered entity. You need to confirm the availability of your chosen nonprofit organization's name, and you need to be sure that all state requirements for naming a nonprofit have been met.

Directors and Incorporators

The incorporator of a nonprofit is the person whose signature appears on the Articles of Incorporation. Each nonprofit organization has to have at least one, but a nonprofit can also have more than one incorporator. Directors in an Iowa nonprofit make up the governing body of the organization, and they are to be personally invested in the nonprofit's success and mission. The requirements for an organization's director or directors in Iowa are:

  • There must be at least one director, but to form a committee, there must be at least two directors.
  • Each director must be a person.
  • Each director must serve a one-year term.

There's no requirement that a director be a member of the organization, and there's no requirement in regard to residency.

Registered Agent Responsibilities

Registered agents are the parties who accept responsibility for receiving legal notices on behalf of your nonprofit. The requirements for a registered agent in Iowa are that they must be located physically within the state and must keep an office that's open during traditional business hours.

Articles of Incorporation

Your Articles of Incorporation can be faxed in, sent by mail, or filed online along with a $20 filing fee. There are specific language requirements from the state for your Articles of Incorporation. The IRS also has some specific requirements that the organization checks for when you file for your 501(c)(3) exemption. Making sure the requirements are met from the beginning helps ensure you won't have to change the document later, and it reduces the risk of your 501(c)(3) application being rejected.

The Importance of Accurate Recordkeeping

Official documents start pouring in from the moment you launch your nonprofit. Keeping the documents organized in one spot from the beginning can save you frustration and problems later on. There are lots of documents to keep track of when starting a nonprofit, including:

  • Your corporate bylaws.
  • Minutes from meetings.
  • Your 501(c)(3) determination letter.
  • Your Employer Identification Number letter.

A nonprofit records kit can simplify the task of managing all these important documents.

Bylaws for Your Nonprofit

The bylaws for your nonprofit describe how it will be managed. This document serves as an operating manual for your nonprofit, and it's important that it exhibits consistency with your Articles of Incorporation as well as legal matters. At the first meeting of the board of directors, the bylaws will be reviewed and ratified. From that time forward, they are similar to a roadmap describing how the nonprofit will proceed.

First Board of Directors Meeting

A number of organizational issues need to be handled at the first board of directors meeting. These issues include approving bylaws, establishing a policy about conflicts of interest, electing directors, appointing officers, and resolving approvals for things like opening a bank account. All of these topics must be carefully recorded in the meeting minutes.

Tax Exemption Application Forms

The IRS provides Form 1023, Form 1023-EZ, and Form 1024 to use when applying for tax exemptions.

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