To learn how to start a nonprofit in NJ, you'll want to be sure to check the requirements specified by the New Jersey Secretary of State office. Starting a nonprofit might look slightly different in each state, but the basic tasks remain the same. To get started, you'll need to:

  • Choose a name
  • Appoint directors
  • Choose a registered agent
  • Register with the state.

New Jersey Nonprofits

Nonprofits are supposed to meet the needs of their communities in some way. Before starting your own nonprofit, make sure there is actually a need for your organization and that there is not one already in place meeting that same need.

As 501(c)(3) organizations, nonprofits are formed for literary, scientific, religious, educational, or charitable purposes. They also benefit from state and federal tax exemptions in most cases. Nonprofits can also apply for grants and take donations. They do not pay employer taxes or corporate income tax. Under the structure of a nonprofit organization, the directors are protected from liability.

Once you've decided to start a nonprofit in New Jersey, you'll need to make sure to mark the following things off your to-do list.

Name Your Organization

First, choose a name for the organization. This isn't just required by the state when you register the nonprofit, but it's also how donors and those you serve will find you. Be sure that the name reflects the organization's goals and mission.

The name of a new nonprofit must be distinguishable from other organizations already formed in the state. You'll need to check New Jersey's business name search database to see if your desired name is available for use. If you find it's available, you can reserve it. Don't forget to check the URL address availability for your name as well. Online presence is crucial to the success of many nonprofits, so make sure you'll be able to launch a website.

Nonprofits in New Jersey must meet a few name requirements. The name has to include one of the following words (or its abbreviation):

  • A New Jersey nonprofit corporation
  • Incorporated
  • Corporation.

Recruit Incorporators and Initial Directors

Next, you'll want to recruit other incorporators and directors. The incorporator signs and files the articles of incorporation for the nonprofit. Every nonprofit must have at least one incorporator, but it can have more. The initial directors should also be appointed. These are stakeholders in the organization and they will govern the affairs of the nonprofit.

The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) requires that a nonprofit has at least three directors who are not related to one another. Be sure to know what the age requirements for directors are in your state. Also, some states require the directors of an organization to be residents of the state. Thankfully, New Jersey has easy requirements: Directors of nonprofits in New Jersey must be at least 18 years old and do not need to be U.S. citizens or New Jersey residents.

Director terms only last for one year, and then the nonprofit will need a majority vote from the stakeholders to either re-elect the director or to bring in a new one. There needs to be at least one director of a New Jersey nonprofit. Officers are also required. For your nonprofit, you'll need to choose a:

  • President
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer.

Appoint a Registered Agent

Registered agents receive legal documents on behalf of businesses and organizations. New Jersey requires registered agents to have in-state addresses and an office that holds regular hours of business. This agent will help you manage:

  • State filing and tax forms
  • Legal notices
  • Service of process.

File Articles of Incorporation

Once you've decided on the basic setup for your organization, you'll need to file articles of incorporation before you can officially act as a nonprofit in the state. Articles of incorporation for a nonprofit will include information such as:

  • Organization name
  • Purpose of the organization
  • Process for trustee election
  • Registered agent information
  • Trustee information
  • Incorporator information
  • Intended duration of the organization (if not perpetual)
  • Process for asset distribution.

Apply for Charitable Solicitation

To be legally allowed to ask for donations, you'll need to apply for charitable solicitation status. Many states require this application to be completed annually to remain in good standing. Make sure the state has approved you before soliciting any state residents or businesses.

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