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How to start a nonprofit

How to start a nonprofit in Georgia in 13 steps [2024 guide]

April 9, 2024

Starting a nonprofit in Georgia is an exciting and rewarding experience, but it also requires a lot of effort and work.

If you’re looking to start a nonprofit in Georgia but don’t know where to begin, we’ve got you covered. In this blog, we’ll explain exactly how to do it — from choosing your name and applying for tax-exempt status to starting your fundraising efforts from scratch.

13 steps to create a nonprofit in Georgia

Step 1. Research plan

When considering starting a nonprofit in Georgia from scratch, it can be hard to know where to begin. When deciding to take on the endeavor, it is important to get clear on a few fundamental things, including:

  • Community needs: Consider what problems you want to address or what positive changes you want to make.
  • The market: Research nonprofits in Georgia land that work in similar areas or address similar issues. Identify any gaps or needs that your nonprofit could address.
  • Your goals: Clarify your nonprofit's specific goals and objectives. Determine what you hope to achieve in the short term and long term.
  • Your mission statement: Write a clear and concise mission statement that articulates who you are, what you do, and who you serve.
  • Feedback: Seek feedback from stakeholders, potential beneficiaries, and members of your community to ensure that your mission statement accurately reflects community needs.

Step 2. Name your organization

Once you’ve determined your organization’s core mission and goals, it’s time to name your nonprofit. Not only is this step in the process important for marketing and branding purposes, but it’s also a crucial part of the legal process of starting a nonprofit in Georgia. 

When deciding on your organization’s name, be sure to choose a name that:

  • Reflects your mission and goals
  • Describes what you aim to do
  • Is easy to spell and pronounce
  • Offers room for future growth

You’ll also need to include the “corporation,” “incorporated,” “company,” “limited,” or their abbreviations. Once you've entered your name, you’ll need to search for it on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website to ensure that it hasn’t already been taken by another entity in the state.

Step 3. Identify an Incorporator and a Board of Directors

Once you’ve determined your organization name and confirmed that it is not already in use, it’s time to create a leadership team.

Identifying an Incorporator and a Board of Directors is not only a strategic decision that can help make your nonprofit a success, but it’s a required one in Florida. 

Nonprofits must recruit one Incorporator who will be responsible for signing the Articles of Incorporation. And, you must assemble a board of at least one director who will help guide your nonprofit through strategic decision-making. However, it’s important to note that the federal government prefers that nonprofits have at least three board members who are at least 18 years old, though they do not have to reside in the state.

When choosing your leadership team, be sure to select people who are trustworthy, dependable, and bring a skillset to the table. Whether they’re already a member of your organization or a trusted volunteer, they’ll help you make crucial decisions about your charity.

Step 4. Appoint a registered agent

Appointing a registered agent is a vital step when forming a nonprofit in Georgia. In essence, a registered agent acts as a reliable point of contact for legal matters. This designated individual receives important documents and official correspondence on behalf of your nonprofit, such as legal notices and tax forms. 

The registered agent must be located in Georgia and available during regular business hours to receive legal correspondence and communication.

Step 5. File the Articles of Incorporation

One of the most crucial steps in starting a nonprofit in Georgia is filing the Articles of Incorporation with the Georgia Secretary of State. By filing this application you’ll officially establish your nonprofit as a legal entity. 

This document typically includes your nonprofit's name, purpose, duration (which is usually perpetual), initial registered agent, and other basic information required by the state. You can file online or by mail (which costs around $100).

In order to File the Articles of Incorporation, you’ll also need to to file a Transmittal Information Form.

Step 6. Publish notice of incorporation

Once you’ve filed the Articles of Incorporation, nonprofits in Georgia must also publish the intent of incorporation within one business day.

It typically costs $40 for each publication.

Step 7. File an initial report

Next, your Georgia nonprofit must file an initial report, within 90 days of filing the Articles of Incorporation. In order to remain compliant in the state of Georgia, you’ll need to file this annually as well.

Step 8. Obtain an EIN

In Georgia, like in other states, nonprofits are required to obtain an EIN, or Employer Identification Number. An EIN is like your organization's social security number. It's used for tax purposes, including opening bank accounts, hiring employees, and applying for tax-exempt status. 

To get an EIN, you can apply online using the IRS Form SS-4 on the IRS website or submit it by mail. The application process is free, and you'll receive your EIN shortly upon approval. 

Step 9. Create bylaws

Next, you’ll need to call a meeting with your board to draft bylaws that align with your mission and comply with Georgia nonprofit laws.

Bylaws are the rules and procedures that govern how your nonprofit operates. They outline the structure of your organization, the responsibilities of the board and officers, how meetings will be conducted, and how decisions will be made. 

When creating your bylaws, be sure to:

  • Use clear and concise language: Make the language easy to understand for all board members and stakeholders. Avoid jargon and overly complex language.
  • Make them comprehensive: Your bylaws should cover all essential aspects of your organization's governance, including board structure, officer roles, meeting procedures, decision-making processes, and conflict resolution mechanisms.
  • Alignment bylaws with mission and values: Ensure that the bylaws reflect and support the goals of the organization. 
  • Consider flexibility: Include provisions that allow for amendments to the bylaws as the organization evolves and grows.
  • Outline board structure and responsibilities: Clearly define the board of directors, its qualifications, terms of office, and responsibilities.
  • Determine meeting procedures: Detail the frequency, notice requirements, quorum, voting procedures, and more. 
  • Address finances: Establish guidelines for budgeting, accounting, and reporting requirements. 
  • Create a conflict of interest policy: Include a conflict of interest policy that requires board members and officers to disclose any conflicts of interest and abstain from voting on matters in which they have a personal or financial interest.
  • Include dissolution procedures: Include provisions for the process of distributing assets and winding up affairs in accordance with state law and IRS regulations.

Step 10. Apply for federal and state tax-exempt status

  • Apply for federal tax-exempt status: To qualify for federal tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, you'll need to submit IRS Form 1023, IRS Form 1023-EZ, or IRS Form 1024 the IRS. 
  • Apply for state tax-exempt status: Georgia does not offer sales or tax exemption. However, the state does offer a few exemptions for specific organizations. For a full list of these exemptions, contact the Georgia Department of Revenue.

Step 11. Register for charitable fundraising 

If you intend to seek donations in Georgia as part of your fundraising strategy — as most nonprofits do — you’ll need to officially register as a charity with the Georgia Secretary of State, which costs $35.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily cover games of chance. Typically, nonprofits must apply for additional permits for raffles, bingos, etc.

Step 12. Start fundraising 

Once you’ve filed all of the appropriate forms and established the necessary regulatory foundation for your nonprofit, it’s time to start fundraising. 

First, build a fundraising plan that outlines your goals, strategies, and tactics. Plus, be sure to consider how you’ll cultivate donor relationships. Then, Put your fundraising plan into action by launching campaigns, events, and appeals to solicit donations and support. Keep track of your fundraising efforts and evaluate their effectiveness over time.

One of the best ways to start your nonprofit, and begin bringing in funds and connecting with donors, is by using a free all-in-one donation platform, designed specifically for charities. Unlike other platforms, Zeffy offers free marketing and engagement tools, event ticketing and management, raffle and auction tools, and so much more — without charging nonprofits a cent.

So not only can nonprofits start fundraising in minutes, but they don’t have to pay any upfront, monthly, or hidden fees, ever. In fact, over 10,000 nonprofits use and love Zeffy for its powerful but simple —and always free—software designed to help make the world a better place.

Step 13. Stay compliant 

As a legal nonprofit in the state of Georgia, you’ll need to remain compliant with federal and state rules and regulations throughout the year. This includes:

  • Maintaining records: Keep accurate and up-to-date records of your nonprofit's activities, finances, and governance. This includes meeting minutes, financial statements, tax filings, and other important documents.
  • Filing annual reports: File annual reports with the IRS to maintain your nonprofit's legal and tax-exempt status.
  • Staying informed: Stay informed about changes to Georgia state laws and regulations affecting nonprofit organizations. Attend training sessions, workshops, and webinars to learn about best practices and compliance requirements.

Start your nonprofit for free with Zeffy

We're excited to announce that Zeffy is finalizing its nonprofit incorporation feature, and we’re looking for proactive individuals to participate in our beta program. If you're looking to start a nonprofit in the United States and meet our specific criteria, we want to hear from you!

To enter the program, simply answer a few questions so we can assess your eligibility. Fill out the Google Form and, if you align with the right qualifications and we still have places available in our next test group, we’ll reach out to you very soon.

Learn how this Georgia-based nonprofit raised +$84,000 for free

WBS Charity Foundation is a Georgia-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting military veterans and their families. This beloved nonprofit is supported by an enormous community that comes together through both in-person and online events.

In order to fund its mission and programs and make the world a better place, WBS needed an innovative, user-friendly solution for easily accepting donations online. However, in their search for a platform that would help them do this, they found that most custom donation form builders were expensive and charged costly processing fees. That is until they found Zeffy, an entirely free donation platform for nonprofits.

With Zeffy, WBS was able to create a custom donation form in just a few clicks and embed it right on their website. They were also able to offer supporters the option to give one time or monthly and receive an automatic donation receipt for their records.

With Zeffy, WBS was able to continue doing what it does best without worrying about costly monthly or processing fees. In fact, this Georgia nonprofit has raised +$84,300 and saved over $4,000 in fees since using Zeffy.

How to start a nonprofit in Georgia FAQs

How much does it cost to start a nonprofit organization in GA?

Starting a nonprofit in Georgia involves various costs. Here's a quick breakdown:

  • Incorporation fees: Filing the Articles of Incorporation ranges from 100 or $110, depending on the filing method. You’ll also need to pay $40 for each published notice of incorporation.
  • Initial report: You’ll need to pay a $30 filing fee for filing your initial annual report.
  • Georgia charitable registration: You must pay a $35 filing fee to legally solicit solicitations from the public.
  • Registered agent services: If you use a professional registered agent service instead of appointing an individual, you may have to pay fees ranging from $50 to $300 per year.
  • Legal and administrative costs: Additional costs can be incurred for legal assistance in drafting bylaws, preparing tax-exempt status applications, and meeting other legal requirements.
  • Operational expenses: While not directly related to startup costs, ongoing operational expenses (office rent, staff salaries, etc.), can add up quickly.

To reduce upfront expenses, be sure to use completely free fundraising software like Zeffy. With no upfront costs, hidden fees, or even processing fees, Zeffy is the perfect solution for any nonprofit looking to start making an impact while spending as little as possible.

How do I start a nonprofit with little money?

Starting a nonprofit organization with no money requires strategic planning. To cut down on costs, consider: 

  • Using volunteers: Leverage volunteers for administrative, fundraising, or program work, to reduce the need for paid staff.
  • Seeking out in-kind donations and grants: Ask for donations of goods and services from businesses, individuals, or other organizations to support your nonprofit's activities (think office space or equipment). And, research grant opportunities to generate free financial support for your nonprofit's mission.
  • Leveraging partnerships: Look for potential partners, such as other nonprofits or community organizations, who might want to collaborate on shared goals.
  • Taking advantage of free tools and platforms: Be sure to use fundraising and donor engagement tools that are completely free to use, like Zeffy. That way, you’ll never have to worry about hidden fees and can get started making an impact right away — without paying a cent.

How long does it take to get a 501c3 in Georgia?

The time it takes to obtain 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in Georgia can vary depending on several factors. On average, the process can take anywhere from a few months to over a year. 

Here's a breakdown of the timeline and factors that can affect the processing time:

  • Application preparation: The time it takes to prepare and gather all necessary documents for the 501(c)(3) application can vary depending on the complexity of the organization and the completeness of the documentation. This step can take a few weeks to several months, depending on the organization's readiness.
  • IRS processing Time: Once the application is submitted to the IRS, the processing time can vary depending on the volume of applications received and the complexity of the organization's situation. 

Overall, obtaining 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for a nonprofit organization in Georgia can take anywhere from approximately three months to over a year. 

Can an LLC be a nonprofit in Georgia?

Yes, in the state of Georgia, an LLC can be a nonprofit.

Start fundraising for free with Zeffy

Whether you’re a brand new nonprofit looking to get your fundraising up and running, or an established one looking for new tools and features to make even more impact, Zeffy is one of the best all-in-one solutions for all of your nonprofit needs.

From event tracking and management to marketing and engagement tools, custom donation forms, and even the ability to create an online shop or nonprofit membership association, Zeffy offers everything you need without charging a single fee.

Simple and powerful — and packed with free support whenever you need it — Zeffy ensures that your donor’s gifts are going right to the cause, and nowhere else.

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