Starting a Nonprofit

1. Consider that accomplishing all the steps to starting a nonprofit generally takes from six to nine months or more

Status depends on how long the IRS takes to review your application for tax exemption. The cost is $575-1025 or more in filing fees, not including any professional fees for an attorney or accountant.


2. Read the free booklet

This document was developed by University of Richmond School of Law students in 2005. It takes you step-by-step through the Virginia incorporation and the IRS filings. This resource answers many of your general questions about the process of starting a nonprofit organization.

Please note, “Starting a nonprofit…” was written prior to the introduction of the IRS Form 1023-EZ and includes a legal disclaimer that should be reviewed prior to reading the free resource.


3. Attend the seminars and trainings at the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence
  • Starting A nonprofit: This course offers a nuts-and-bolts foundation for launching a nonprofit organization and shepherding it through its first year, focusing on the legal and regulatory requirements of startup and operation in Virginia.
  • Nonprofit Crash Course: This course covers the core aspects of nonprofit management, including board development, fundraising, vision and strategy, and marketing. This is designed as a pragmatic course with plenty of on-the-ground practical application
  • Building Blocks for nonprofit Board Members: This course covers the legal duties of nonprofit board members and provides an overview of best practices in nonprofit governance.
  • Courses and Calendar: Check out our course offerings!


4. Obtain a Copy of How To Form a nonprofit Corporation

Anthony Mancuso, Attorney
June 2015, 12th Edition

5. Register with the Commonwealth of Virginia State Corporation Commission as a nonstock corporation
  • Virginia State Corporation Commission
    Office of the Clerk, P.O. Box 1197
    Richmond, VA 23218
    Phone: 804-371-9733 or 1-866-722-2551 (toll free in Virginia) or 804-371-9206 (TDD)
  • Forms and Fees related to Virginia Nonstock Corporations
  • Step by Step Guide to Incorporation from NOLO Law

For an overview of laws in Virginia applicable to tax exempt organizations, including filing requirements, see:


6. Prepare bylaws for your nonstock corporation

You also need to prepare bylaws for your nonprofit that conform to Virginia law concerning nonstock corporations. The bylaws outline the procedures used for holding meetings, electing Officers and Directors, lengths of terms, appointing committees, and taking care of other corporate business. The bylaws do not have to be filed with the State, but will be needed to hold the organizational meeting of the Board and for requesting tax exempt status from the IRS.


7. Request EIN (employer identification number)

To apply to the IRS for exempt status, 501c3, you’ll need to first incorporate and request an employer identification number (EIN), even if you do not have any employees.

See Form SS-4 Application for Employer Identification Number, and its related instructions to learn how to obtain an EIN. You may also obtain an EIN via telephone, by calling 1-800-829-4933, or by applying online.

8. Register with the VA Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Every charitable organization which intends to solicit contributions in the State of Virginia must be registered with the VA Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Registration should take place prior to beginning any fundraising efforts.

For an overview of the registration process:
VA Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

To see the Form 102, Registration Statement for a Charitable Organization:
Form 102, Charitable Solicitation Registration

9. Apply to the IRS for tax exempt status


The IRS also has a customer service department for nonprofit organizations—pick up Form 1023 at your local IRS office or reach their Tax Exempt specialists by calling (877) 829-5500.

See Application Process for a step-by-step review of what an organization needs to know and to do in order to apply for recognition by the IRS of tax-exempt status. Frequently asked questions about applying for exemption generally, and Form 1023 and Form 1023-EZ specifically, are also available.

User Fees
Organizations whose gross receipts average less than $10,000 per year will pay $400. Others pay $850. When the Cyber Assistant becomes available (see below), applicants who use it will be eligible for a reduced User Fee of $200.

Cyber Assistant
The IRS has been developing Cyber-Assistant, a Web-based software program, designed to help 501(c)(3) applicants file a complete and accurate application for exemption (Form 1023) and improve the quality and consistency of exemption applications. Unfortunately, software testing has revealed some problems requiring correction prior to public launch, and the IRS must delay the release of Cyber-Assistant beyond this calendar year. Accordingly, the IRS will continue to accept and process all applications using our existing processes and the current user fees will remain in effect for this calendar year.


Additional resources

Nonprofit Start-Up Resources for Virginia: Foundation Center
Starting a Nonprofit Organization: Center for Nonprofit Excellence, Charlottesville

Thank you to OneOC for generously providing the framework for this resource page.