Updated November 10, 2020:

Knowing how to start a nonprofit organization for veterans is essential for individuals who want to start a nonprofit to make a positive impact on the veteran military community.

Individuals who start non-profit organizations often do so for heartfelt reasons. Nonprofits are created to address community or social needs, and making money is certainly not at the top of the list of priorities. However, the nonprofit organization can be set up in a way that reduces costs, especially taxes, leaving more funds to achieve the nonprofit's goals and objectives.

Military families are often the first to see the issues and needs of the military community, especially when it comes to veteran needs. Nonprofit organizations for veterans are created to solve these needs or create avenues through which these needs are brought into the spotlight.

Let's take a look at the steps to take when starting a nonprofit for veterans.

Defining Your Objective

There are a lot of great nonprofits out there. A cursory Google search shows over 47,000 nonprofits registered with the IRS that cater to the military community. To stand out from the crowd and make your organization unique, you need to identify the needs of the veteran community and look for ways to address these needs. Explicitly defining your objectives will help you develop your organization's vision and mission statements.

If there are other veterans affairs nonprofits in your area that are successful at what they do, you should take a close look at their operations and see where improvements are needed. If one or more of these organizations are already working on the same project you want to undertake, it may be a good idea to join or collaborate with them.

Developing Your Mission and Vision Statements

At this point, you should take the time to put your nonprofit ideas on paper and develop a mission statement that fully expresses your intent. You should draft short- and long-term goals as well as a vision plan.

Many people think that vision statements and mission statements are one and the same. However, they are different and you will need both. A mission statement is a public statement that explains the reason for your organization's existence and helps motivate you, your employees, and volunteers. The vision statement is private and serves as a call to action.

Long- and Short-term Goals

Once you've developed your mission and vision statements, defining your goals and objectives should be easy. Basically, your long-term goal is a more exhaustive and explicit version of your vision statement.

Short-term goals are an aggregation of actionable tasks that ultimately culminate in the realization of your organization's mission and vision statements. They address the steps you need to take after creating your nonprofit. Your short-term goals will help you decide who and what you need in terms of employees, volunteers, and donations.


To turn your social entrepreneurship idea into a reality, you must establish your nonprofit by incorporation. Incorporating your nonprofit comes with a lot of benefits. It ensures that you are not personally liable in the event of a lawsuit. You can also use the incorporation documents to apply to the IRS for nonprofit/tax-exempt status.

You can file for incorporation at the state level through the Secretary of State. The following are the requirements for incorporating a nonprofit:

  • An available, legal business name.
  • A board of directors. Most states require at least three members: a president, vice president, and secretary/treasurer.
  • Article of incorporation. This document explains the existence of your organization and must contain statements declaring nonprofit status. It must include the names and contact information of the board of directors, a legal business address, and the name and contact information of your registered agent.

Once you have submitted your application, your state will send you a time-stamped approval letter that you will need when you apply for tax-exempt status with the state and federal government.

Register with the IRS

You should then contact the IRS to obtain an EIN (employer identification number) indicating your tax-exempt status and follow the state procedures to obtain a state tax ID number.

If you need help starting a nonprofit organization for veterans, you can post your legal need on the UpCounsel marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers on its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from prestigious law schools like Yale Law and Harvard Law and usually have 14 years of legal experience, including work on behalf of or with companies like Airbnb, Menlo Ventures, and Google.