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How to start a nonprofit

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

February 20, 2024

Starting a nonprofit in Texas 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.

The 10 steps for starting a nonprofit in Texas

Starting Texas nonprofits, like in any other state, requires a few necessary steps. Mainly, the process includes following both state and federal rules and regulations. 

Step 1: Choose the right type of nonprofit 

501(c) 3 organizations are the most common type of nonprofit. When people hear “charity,” this is the kind of organization they think of. However, there are lots of different charitable organizational classifications.

When starting your own nonprofit, you’ll need to consider which is best for you. The decision will impact the structure, governance, and operations of your organization. 

In Texas, as in many other states, there are several common types of nonprofit entities to consider. Some of the main options include:

When choosing the right type of nonprofit organization for your needs, you’ll want to consider your mission, long-term goals, and tax-exempt needs.

Step 2: Choose a name

While choosing a name for your nonprofit might not seem like a big to-do, it’s a crucial step. 

When selecting a name, you’ll need to ensure that it complies with Texas state laws and is not already in use by another entity. You can check the availability of your desired name through the Texas Secretary of State's website.

And, of course, you’ll need to ensure that the name reflects your mission, values, and goals.

Step 3: Recruit your team

In Texas, you cannot start a nonprofit on your own. In fact, you’re required to recruit at least three directors as well as other board members. 

When assembling a board of directors, 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.

Typically, those who want to start a nonprofit in Texas will need to recruit: 

Step 4: 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 Texas, 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 normal 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 5: Incorporate your nonprofit

Next, you’ll need to file Articles of Incorporation with the Texas Secretary of State to establish your nonprofit organization as a legal entity officially. When completing Form 202, include information such as the nonprofit association name, purpose, registered agent, and initial board of directors.

Form 202, or The Certificate of Formation for a Nonprofit Corporation, can be applied for by mail, fax, online, or in person for a $25 fee.

Step 6: Obtain 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 7: Draft nonprofit bylaws

With your board, develop bylaws that outline the internal rules and procedures for operating your nonprofit organization. Include provisions for governance, membership, meetings, decision-making processes, and other key aspects of organizational management.

Step 8. File for tax exemptions

Next, you’ll need to file for tax-exempt status on both the federal and state level.

Step 9. Follow compliance

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

However, part of being a registered charity in Texas requires ongoing compliance. Ensure that your nonprofit organization complies with all applicable state and local regulations governing nonprofits in Texas. 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! 

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 meeting with your board of directors to determine exactly how you’ll meet your goals. This might include:

How much does it cost to start a nonprofit in Texas?

Form needed Cost

Tax-exempt application

IRS Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ

$275 - $600

Incorporation fee

Form 202



Form SS-4


Legal fees



When creating a nonprofit in Texas, there are a lot of factors that can impact your costs. However, there are some common expenses associated with starting a charitable organization like: 

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

In short, yes, you can make a living by starting your own nonprofit. However, when it comes to paying yourself a salary, there are a few things to keep in mind:

→ If you want to start a nonprofit organization with no money, check out this guide.

Best practices for starting a nonprofit in Texas

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:

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 websites 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.

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.

Develop a business plan

A well-thought-out plan will help you stay focused and organized as you navigate the challenges of starting a nonprofit. This might include mapping out your:

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 Texas nonprofit raised over $94k — and saved $4k in fees with Zeffy

Jack Jack’s Pack Street Dog Rescue, based in central Texas, helps rescue, rehab, and reunite/rehome lost, dumped, and abused dogs.

Like most nonprofits, this charitable organization was determined to make a lasting impact in the animal community by hosting an online fundraiser. 

However, to do so required the right tools and technology — mainly software that would allow them to create a custom donation form that could be shared through channels social media and email. Plus, Jack Jack’s organization wanted to provide donors with multiple ways to give, including the option to give recurring donations and one-time contributions. 

The most difficult part is that they needed all of these tools for free. 

With Zeffy, Jack Jack’s was able to raise just shy of $100,000 using Zeffy’s customizable donation forms and donation management tools. The best part? It cost them $0 to do it.

Unlike other platforms, which charge nonprofits thousands of dollars in fees, Zeffy doesn’t charge charitable organizations a cent. Meaning that all the money raised goes directly to the cause‚ and in this case, to helping needy animals recover and heal.

Launch your nonprofit in Texas with Zeffy

Starting a Texas nonprofit corporation requires time, money, and strategy. From filing for federal tax exemption to remaining compliant, 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 wtih a free fundraising platform for nonprofits. 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.

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