Knowing how to start a nonprofit organization for youth is an excellent way to help your community. With a bit of basic planning and connecting with the right people, your community can rest easy knowing there are proper resources to help troubled youth.

Starting a nonprofit organization for youth is typically aimed at those who are labeled as being at-risk; this means they have been referred by school counselors or community agencies due to issues with their behavior. They are often in trouble with the law or at a high risk for dropping out of school. Some of them are even involved in gangs.

Steps to Setting Up Your Youth Organization

When you start organizing your nonprofit, you will need to pick a name for the organization and make sure that it is not used by another entity in your state. Also, if your organization plans to operate in other states, you will need to make sure the name is not registered in those states as well.

A lot of states will have an online database you can search to see which names are already in use. If you have a name picked out, but you aren't ready to incorporate the organization, you can still lay claim to it by filing an application and reserving the name. You will need to contact your Secretary of State to learn more.

Once you are ready to incorporate, though, there are several steps you must follow. First, you will need to contact a lawyer that is experienced in helping set up nonprofit entities. You will also need to select a board of directors and take the appropriate steps to apply for a 501(c)(3), which is necessary for nonprofit organizations.

The exact process that you will have to follow will depend on the state you are setting the organization up in. Usually, you will need to have a minimum of three people on your board of directors; these people will volunteer their time and provide community oversight. They will also act as organizers of the corporation.

You will also need to file a document called Form 1023; this document has to be filed with the IRS. Once the filing is approved, you will then receive a letter that certifies your tax-exempt status. This certification is of the utmost value because many grant-makers will mandate you have it in order for them to provide you with funding.

Tips for Putting Together a Board of Directors

When picking people to be on the board of directors, it's a good idea to have a variety of people, like a lawyer, a parent of a child in the community, a banker, and even blue-collar workers. In addition, it can be helpful to have a certified public accountant on the board. Having a diverse range of people will help serve as a strong backbone for the organization.

Importance of Defining the Mission of Your Nonprofit Youth Organization

It is also pertinent that you clearly define the need of your organization when you form it. If you find there is another organization that is already meeting this need, you will want to come up with a different mission. The goal is to provide a service that is not yet available in your community.

You Must File Articles of Incorporation

Before you can set up a bank account in the name of your organization, you must become a legal entity. You can do this by filing an article of incorporation. You will need to identify the state authority whom you need to file this document with, and more importantly, you must make sure your articles of incorporation are consistent with any state regulations, guidelines, and laws.

For example, some states will require a nonprofit organization to have more than one founder, while others only mandate a single founder. Some states also differ in the number of people that must be on the board of directors.

On the articles of incorporation, you will likely need to provide the following pieces of information:

  • Name of the organization
  • Its principal office location
  • Its purpose
  • Its activities, especially those that are inconsistent with its status as a tax-exempt entity

Do You Need Certain Licenses?

In some states, it is required to acquire certain licenses if you are going to provide services to youth. You will need to research the laws of your state to determine which licenses, if any, that you must obtain to operate your organization.

If you need help with knowing how to start a nonprofit organization for you, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.