Starting a Nonprofit

Is there a cause you’re particularly passionate about? Or an unmet need in your community? Wanting to start a nonprofit is wonderful, but it’s also a big commitment of time and money. If you’re interested in starting a nonprofit, here are some steps to get you started.

This is just an overview with resources from pros across the sector. We encourage you to check with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office of Public Charities or Not-for-Profits with specific questions and look through Harbor Compliance’s Nonprofit Startup Guide. Additionally, Lawyers Clearinghouse hosts bi-monthly Nonprofit Incorporation Workshops. There are also a ton of great experts in our Business Directory and additional information in our Resources Page.

1. Research, research, research.

This is the first step we recommend to everyone.  You’ll want to make sure that what you’re proposing is the right solution for your community. Has it been tried before? If so, how’d it go? Are there other nonprofits already doing similar work? If so, it may be best to join forces rather than duplicating efforts.

You’ll also want to spend some time researching business and funding plans as well as any related real estate or business costs in your area.

2. Start to build your nonprofit.

Now that you’ve done all the research, start creating those plans mentioned above. Don’t forget to draft your mission statement, and determine your organizational structure, plus marketing and fundraising objectives.

You’ll also need to identify the incorporators to build your Board of Directors.

3. Do your paperwork.

If your organization isn’t yet recognized as tax exempt, or you’d prefer to operate under an existing nonprofit, you can choose to have your organization fiscally sponsored. 

Make sure the name of your new nonprofit isn’t already in use. You can check here. You’ll then need to appoint a registered agent–a legal appointee located in MA.

You’ll then want to make sure all your paperwork is filed. This includes getting a MA State Tax Identification Number, applying for 501(c) tax exemption, applying for MA Tax Exemption, and registering with the Attorney General and for Charitable Solicitation / Fundraising. You can find the forms on Harbor Compliance’s website as well as through the Attorney General’s Office of Public Charities.

4. Get going! 

Once all your paperwork is completed, and all your plans are in order, you’re ready to go! Start thinking about short- and long-term plans such as fundraising, programs, staff, board meetings, annual filings, etc.

We also hope you’ll join MNN to gain an immediate network of hundreds of nonprofits across the state, an experienced advocate working on your behalf at the state and national level, and discounts on trainings and services. Click here to learn more about MNN membership.

There are also a ton of great experts in our Business Directory and additional information in our Resources Page. If you have a resource or tool you think might be a good fit for this or any of our resource pages, you can submit it here.


These Resource Pages contain external links. The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network is not responsible for the privacy policies or content of these links. MNN does not endorse the products or services provided by these links.