How is Zeffy free?
How is Zeffy free?
Zeffy relies entirely on optional contributions from donors. At the payment confirmation step - we ask donors to leave an optional contribution to Zeffy.
Learn more >
Nonprofit management 

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

March 25, 2024

Looking to start a nonprofit in Ohio but don’t know where to begin?

In this blog, we’ll cover everything there is to know about starting a nonprofit organization in Ohio from the ground up—from choosing a name and obtaining an EIN number to starting your fundraising for free.

11 steps to create a nonprofit in Ohio

Step 1. Choose a name

One of the most important steps to starting a nonprofit in any state is selecting a name for your organization. When considering what you’d like to call your nonprofit, consider questions like:

Once you’ve selected the name, be sure to check the Ohio Secretary of State's website to ensure that it’s unique and not already in use by another organization in the state. 

Step 2. Appoint an Incorporator and a Board of Directors

Next, you’ll need to assemble a board of at least three directors, per Ohio state rules. It’s best to choose individuals who share your passion and bring diverse expertise to the table. They’ll be helping to guide your organization's strategic direction and decision-making processes, so it’s important to choose wisely.

You’ll also need to have at least one Incorporator. This person will sign the articles of incorporation on behalf of your organization.

Step 3. Write bylaws

Once you’ve assembled your leadership team, it’s time to hold a meeting.

At this meeting, you’ll create bylaws, which are essentially internal rules and procedures that will guide your nonprofit's operations. These might include:

All of this will help your organization run smoothly.

Step 4. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

The next step involves applying for an EIN number which is necessary for opening a bank account and for tax reporting purposes. 

To apply for an EIN from the IRS, visit the IRS website and fill out Form SS-4.

Step 5. Incorporate your nonprofit

Like most states, Ohio requires nonprofits to file Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State to formally establish their nonprofit as a legal entity. 

This document typically includes essential information about your organization, such as its name, purpose, duration, registered agent, and initial board of directors. The fee to file the Articles of Incorporation is $99 (an additional $100 for expediting).

Step 6. Federal and state exemption

Next, you'll need to apply for tax-exempt status at both the state and federal levels. Each has different required forms and rules for completion.

Step 7. Register for charitable fundraising

Nonprofits in Ohio that plan to solicit charitable contributions from the public (which is usually most nonprofits) must register with the Ohio Attorney General's Charitable Law Section. Moving forward, you’ll need to file an annual report every year, too.

Step 8. Appoint a registered agent

The next step is to designate a registered agent for your nonprofit. This person will serve as the official point of contact and receive legal documents and official correspondence on behalf of the organization. 

The registered agent can be anyone you trust, but must have a physical address in Ohio where legal documents can be served during regular business hours. This individual or entity can be a member of your board of directors, a trusted volunteer, or a professional registered agent service. 

Step 9. Apply for other business licenses

Like most states, Ohio requires that nonprofits abide by separate, additional rules and regulations if they intend to use bingos or raffles as part of their fundraising activities. For more information and to acquire the necessary permits, visit the Attorney General’s website. 

Step 10. 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! 

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

So not only can nonprofits start fundraising in minutes, and with just about all the tools they need, they don’t have to pay any upfront, monthly, or hidden fees — ever. In fact, Zeffy has helped 10,000+ nonprofits throughout North America raise over $200M and has never charged any of them a cent in fees.

Step 11. Remain compliant 

Like in most states, Ohio requires that all nonprofits stay up to date on specific rules and regulations in order to continue operating as legal charities. In the state of Ohio, nonprofits are required to:

Learn how this Ohio nonprofit raised over $52,000 (and saved $2,000+ in fees)

Reclamation Ministry is a local Ohio nonprofit dedicated to helping women who have experienced sexual harm health through faith. A beloved group in Ohio, Reclamation Ministry is always looking to expand its reach, make more impact, and help more women heal within a dedicated faith-based community.

However, Reclamation Ministry, like many nonprofits, recently faced challenges in their fundraising efforts: they needed a solution to help them spread the word about their mission in order to collect donations for their programs, all while avoiding fees. Specifically, Reclamation Ministry was seeking donations to support meetings, and educational resources, and cover the costs of starting a nonprofit. But many fundraising sites came with hefty price tags: costly upfront or monthly fees, processing fees, and more. Until they found Zeffy — the 100% free fundraising and donation platform.

With Zeffy, Reclamation Ministry created a custom donation form, designed to simplify the donation process and enhance the donor experience. With secure payment processing, customizable donation amounts, recurring donation options, and donor tracking capabilities, Reclamation Ministry was able to share its message far and wide and collect essential donations without paying a cent in fees.

Since using Zeffy — the completely free fundraising platform for nonprofits — Reclamation Ministry has raised $52,000 and saved $2,600 in fees.

Frequently asked questions

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

When starting a nonprofit in Ohio, it’s important to consider a few fees”

If you’re looking to start a nonprofit with no money, it’s crucial to use budget-friendly resources. With Zeffy, new nonprofits can cut down on their upfront expenses with free marketing and engagement tools, donation forms, event ticketing and management software, and more. 

How long does it take to start a nonprofit in Ohio?

The timeline for starting a nonprofit in Ohio can vary depending on many factors. But on average, it typically takes several months to complete all necessary steps, obtain tax-exempt status from the IRS, and register with state authorities. It’s important to budget for extra time, too, in case delays occur. 

How many directors do you need for a nonprofit in Ohio?

Ohio law requires nonprofit corporations to have a minimum of three directors. However, organizations may choose to have more directors to bring diverse perspectives and expertise to the board. 

How do I start a nonprofit organization by myself?

To start a nonprofit organization by yourself, you need to:

It’s  important to note that you will need to hire at least three directors, per Ohio state laws.

Start making an impact 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.

Starting a nonprofit in the United States?

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

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

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

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

How to Start a Nonprofit in California [2024 Guide]