Updated November 11, 2020:

A non-profit LLC California entity is a legal business structure comprised of a group or association to make the business eligible for tax exemption. When comparing a limited liability company to a non-profit business, the main difference is the non-profit has obtained tax-exempt status and it serves the public interest. 

Information for Forming a California Non-Profit LLC

  • To form a California non-profit, you must first form a non-profit corporation following Section 5000 et.seq. of the California Corporations Code. 
  • Most non-profits are formed for a specific reason such as educational, charitable, literary, religious, or scientific purposes, which makes the non-profit eligible for state and federal tax exemptions. They are filed as are 501(c)(3) organizations.
  • Choose the initial directors for the non-profit. California law states a non-profit board of directors may have only one director. The IRS, on the other hand, is unlikely to grant an organization 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit that has only one director. Most non-profits have multiple directors ranging from three to 25 in the role.
  • The individuals who are chosen to serve as directors should fully understand their duties and responsibilities, which includes acting in the best interests of the organization while providing guidance and oversight to the activities of the organization, its officers, the finances, and staying in compliance with the law.
  • Select a name for your California non-profit.
  • California allows the adoption of a name if it is not too similar to a name already registered with the Secretary of State of California and as long as the name is not misleading to the public. 
  • It must not infringe on the trademark rights of another person. To check this, run a search at the U.S. Patent and Trademark website or use one of the search engines. You may want to confer with an attorney to ensure you are not infringing on the rights of another person and to protect your own rights from other parties.
  • Use the Business Search option on the Secretary of State (SOS) website to check name availability. While this serves as a way to check, it is not official. You may also mail a Name Availability Inquire letter to the SOS.
  • It's possible to secure the name by reserving it by filing a Name Reservation Request. The name is reserved for 60 days during which time another corporation will not be able to register the same name. 
  • Prepare the articles of incorporation for your non-profit. The articles contain basic information about the non-profit. It also includes an area to state the purpose of the non-profit. Providing a broad and thorough purpose for the non-profit lessens the need for amendments to the articles of incorporation in the future. 
  • To receive tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service and the state, the articles must contain certain language. This includes the statement of purpose that must meet the requirements of the IRS; a statement the non-profit will not be part of any prohibited legislative or political activity; a provision for assets upon dissolution; and the organization of the non-profit upon dissolution.
  • Create a set of bylaws in compliance with California law. The bylaws will cover such things as the basic provisions for the management practices of the non-profit's activities as well as the affairs of the corporation. If the non-profit has members with the authority to vote, include provisions regarding their rights and processes. 
  • It is not necessary to file the bylaws with the Secretary of State. They are for internal record keeping. 
  • File the articles of incorporation along with the applicable fee with the Secretary of State. 
  • Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS.
  • File the Application for Recognition of Exemption, Form 1023, with the IRS. This form must be filed to obtain federal tax-exempt status. The current filing fee for Form 1023 is $850 for all organizations except for those considered small. The smaller organizations have projected annual gross receipts of less than $50,000 and $250,000 in total assets. Organizations considered smaller are eligible to use Form 1023-EZ for filing. 
  • File for the California state tax exemption. Do this at the State of California Franchise Tax Board website using Form 3500A. 

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