Nonprofit DBA California is when a nonprofit business located in California registers to trade or "do business as" an alternative name from which it formed. In California, you must register the new name with the local County Clerk or Recorder. Often a DBA will also be referred to as a "fictitious business name." Your business name is a valuable asset, and as a nonprofit business founder or board of directors, you may decide that a new name is necessary.

Reasons Why You May Need a DBA

There are a number of reasons why you may need a DBA as a nonprofit business in California:

  • If you do not wish to use the original legal company name to do business
  • If you plan to shorten the company name or make it easier to remember
  • If the founder wishes to keep their personal name out of the company name
  • If a different name would be suitable for a particular business project

DBA registration is quite inexpensive and fairly straightforward. If your nonprofit organization is working across the country, you may want to register in multiple states. In some states, a nonprofit may be exempt from DBA requirements. However, in other states, the business may not be able to enforce agreed contracts until the DBA registration, potentially facing a penalty if it tries to do so. If you are unsure whether you need to legally register a DBA it is wise to seek counsel.

How to Register a Nonprofit DBA in California

  • There must be no other fictitious business name that is the same or similar to yours within the area.
  • You can conduct a California DBA search.
  • You can search via the California Secretary of State website to check the database of other existing local business names.
  • You must also verify that the new DBA name does not infringe on any other business trademark rights.
  • You can search the Patent and Trademark Office database for any existing trademarks.
  • The new DBA name must be quite different to your original legal name.
  • The new DBA name must not in any way mislead the public.
  • You must avoid the use of certain words and phrases.
  • You can reserve a name with a Name Reservation Request which lasts 60 days.
  • The necessary DBA forms are obtained from the local County Clerk or Recorders office.
  • The nonprofit organization may appoint an agent to be responsible for all legal documents.
  • All forms must be completed correctly with all current legal names and addresses.
  • To receive tax-deductible donations, you must contact the IRS for determination of exemption as a public charity.
  • Fee's will vary depending on the office.
  • In California, it is necessary to publish a DBA statement in the local newspaper within 30 days of the forms being filed, and this must appear every week for four consecutive weeks.
  • No more than 30 days after final publication, you must file an affidavit of publication obtained from the newspaper with the County Clerks or Recorders office.

Tips for Once You Have a Nonprofit DBA Registered

  • Businesses using a DBA can still have contracts under the original business name enforced against them.
  • For tax filings, the IRS will require that both the legal name and DBA name are listed.
  • You may use either name when writing checks, but it is advised that the name on the check match the name on the contract.
  • You may use either name when depositing a check at the bank, but your bank may also set specific rules.
  • All corporate policies should include the DBA name.
  • Some corporate policies may need a Form 990 attached from now on.
  • You may have letterhead with the DBA name for particular projects but its advised to be clear that the DBA is part of the organization.
  • There is no legal requirement for you to use the new DBA on promotional materials.

While a simple name change or side project name registration may seem straightforward, it can be easy to make mistakes. A professional on hand to advise you with your Nonprofit DBA California registration will help to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

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