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Nonprofit management 

How to Start a Nonprofit in North Carolina [2024 Guide]

February 20, 2024

Starting a nonprofit in North Carolina requires careful planning, strategy, and a whole lot of forms. To learn how to launch your own charity, follow these 10 steps and best practices.

How to start a nonprofit in NC in 10 steps

Step 1: Choose a name

Selecting a name for your organization is a crucial first step in starting a nonprofit. When deciding yours, be sure to consider:

Step 2: Recruit Directors and Incorporators

When forming your own nonprofit in North Carolina, you’ll need to assemble a board of directors. When recruiting them, be sure to choose wisely. These candidates will need to be committed to your organization's mission and bring diverse skills and perspectives to the table. Plus, they need to be reliable and trustworthy.

Incorporators

Responsibilities: Incorporators are responsible for preparing and filing the articles of incorporation, which includes providing basic information about the nonprofit, such as its name, purpose, and registered agent.

Directors

Step 3: Appoint a Registered Agent

You'll also need to appoint a registered agent. A registered agent is an individual or entity designated to receive legal and official documents on behalf of the nonprofit organization.

In NC, all nonprofit corporations are required to appoint a registered agent who has a physical address (not a P.O. Box) in the state. The registered agent must be available during regular business hours to receive legal and official correspondence, such as service of process (lawsuits), tax notices, and other important documents regarding state tax exemption.

Step 4: File Articles of Incorporation

Next, you’ll need to file for articles of incorporation. This is the legal document that formally establishes your nonprofit as a corporation in the state of North Carolina. To do so requires basic information like:

Step 5: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Next, you’ll need to apply for a federal employer identification number from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). An EIN is a unique nine-digit number used to identify your organization for tax purposes, including opening a nonprofit bank account and applying for tax-exempt status. To do this, you’ll need to fill out the Form SS-4. This application process is free, and you can complete it at any time. 

If your federal employer identification number application is approved, you'll receive your EIN immediately upon completion of the online application process. If you applied by mail, fax, or phone, it may take several weeks to receive your EIN by mail.

Step 6: Create nonprofit bylaws

Bylaws are the rules that govern how your nonprofit will operate. They typically outline procedures for holding meetings, electing officers, and making decisions. 

To create bylaws, be sure to:

Step 7: Set up financial systems

Establishing sound financial management practices is essential for the long-term success of your nonprofit. This includes setting up accounting systems, budgeting, and financial reporting procedures.

Contact the bank to find out what documents are required to open a nonprofit bank account. Typically, you'll need to provide the following:

Step 8: File for Federal and State Tax Exemptions

Next, North Carolina nonprofits need to file for tax-exempt status on both the federal and state level:

Step 9: Stay compliant

Once you’ve submitted all of the correct paperwork, and everything has been approved during the formation process, you’re ready to start making an impact.

However, part of being a registered charity in NC requires ongoing compliance. Ensure that your nonprofit organization complies with all applicable state and local regulations governing nonprofits in North Carolina. This may include filing an annual report (Form 990), maintaining proper records, and adhering to charitable fundraising and solicitation laws.

Step 10: Start fundraising

Once you’ve completed all the necessary paperwork and legal requirements, it's time to get started fundraising!

Once your nonprofit organization is established, focus on building capacity and sustainability. Develop programs and services that align with your mission, cultivate relationships with donors and supporters, and implement sound financial management practices to ensure the long-term success of your organization.

This might involve an organizational meeting with your board of directors to determine exactly how you’ll meet your goals and as well as discuss:

→ Check out our guide on how to raise money as a nonprofit. Or explore our best fundraising ideas.

How much does it cost to start a Nonprofit in North Carolina?

Form needed Cost

Tax-exempt application

IRS Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ

$275 - $600

Incorporation fee

Form 202

$60

EIN

Form SS-4

$0

Legal fees

N/A

Varies

When starting a nonprofit in North Carolina, it’s wise to understand how much it might cost. Before jumping in, consider expenses like:

Can you make a living by starting your own nonprofit in North Carolina?

A nonprofit CEO can receive compensation for their work through a salary, just like any other employee of the organization. However, there are specific processes and considerations involved in determining and approving CEO compensation at a nonprofit.

 Here's how it typically works:

→ Check out our guide if you are looking to start a nonprofit with no money.

Best practices for starting a nonprofit in North Carolina

Thoroughly research your mission

Before starting a nonprofit, conduct research to ensure there is a genuine need for your services or programs in your community. To define your mission and objectives, consider questions like:

Build a strong board of directors

When creating your required Board of Directors, it’s essential to choose them wisely. When recruiting, be sure to consider if they:

Plus, be sure to establish clear term limits for board members. Implement a succession plan to ensure smooth transitions when board members complete their term.

Seek professional advice and support

Don't hesitate to seek advice and support by hiring professionals, such as attorneys, accountants, and nonprofit consultants, who can provide guidance on legal documents, and financial and operational matters.

Or, tap into your existing network to see who might be able to help provide feedback and guidance for free.

Use nonprofit-friendly technology

When creating your nonprofit, and assembling all of your fundraising activities and programs, it's essential to choose technology that is built for nonprofit use. Though lots of fundraising and donor management softwares have nonprofit tools, they’re not specifically designed for charitable use. 

A nonprofit-specific platform can offer nonprofits tons of crucial features, like:

And, when considering what technology to use, be sure to consider the price. Most fundraising and donor management sites can cost a lot — taking away from both your ability to make an impact, and pay yourself. 

Instead, choose an online platform that is 100% free.

Find out how this North Caroline nonprofit saved over $4,000 in fees with Zeffy

The Etowah Valley Preservation Society, a North Carolina-based nonprofit’s mission to protect Etowah, needed a fundraising solution that would help them raise money, and reach new supporters. 

in order to accomplish the task, they needed software that would allow them to create custom donation forms and websites that would accept donations online easily, while offering supporters multiple different payment options. Plus, they wanted to be able to share their mission far and wide and motivate supporters with a campaign thermometer and a donor board. 

And, they wanted to do it all for free

The solution? Zeffy — the 100% fee-free all-in-one fundraising solution.

Unlike other fundraising software that charges nonprofits thousands of dollars in fees, Zeffy is the only platform hard doesn’t charge nonprofits a cent. For The Etowah Valley Preservation Society, this was essential. Without having to pay any fees, 100% of the donations they received could go directly to the cause — and not a cent less.

In total, Preservation was able to raise over $80,000 and save over $4,000 in fees.

Launch your nonprofit in North Carolina with Zeffy

Starting a North Carolina nonprofit corporation requires time, money, and strategy. From filing for federal tax-exemption to maintaining compliance, running your own charity is a lot of work — but well worth it in the end.

Once your nonprofit is up and running, Zeffy can help you fundraise for free. From managing donors to creating text-to-donate campaigns, nonprofits can organize all of their charitable activities in one central place — without ever having to pay a cent in fees.

Starting a nonprofit in the United States?

How to Start a Nonprofit: A Definitive Guide [2024]

How to Start a Nonprofit Organization with No Money in 6 Steps

How to Start a Nonprofit in Texas in 10 Steps [2024]

How to start a nonprofit in Ohio in 11 steps [2024 Guide]

How to Start a Nonprofit in California [2024 Guide]