Non-profit organizations are known for helping communities thrive. They exist to help advocate or further a cause without attempting to generate profit for the benefit of those working for them. Because of this, they are popular with individuals who have the desire to help other people.

While starting your own non-profit organization can be an exciting and rewarding experience, it can also be challenging. You will have to go through the proper formation process to ensure that your operations are legal. 

Forming A Non-profit Organization In Florida

Currently, there are tens of thousands of non-profit organizations in Florida. If you are thinking of starting one, you will have to know the requirements that the state has set.

The first thing you need to understand is the 501(c)(3) corporation status. What is it exactly? Many Florida non-profits fall under this category, especially if they are educational, charitable, religious, scientific, or literary. These organizations are eligible for tax exemptions both at the state and federal levels. 

You can be a 501(c)(3) by forming a Florida non-profit corporation first then applying for tax-exempt status from the state and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). But you have to take note that incorporators have to file an Application for Recognition of Exemption form with the IRS.

What You Should Do

When forming a non-profit organization in Florida, it is best to find out first if what you want to start can serve the needs of the community. You may also have to check if no other organization is already providing the service to avoid reducing the impact of the cause in the community. It will help you make better use of your resources as well. Starting a non-profit also requires effort and may take a lot of your time, so you need to be passionate and dedicated to what you want to achieve.

Additionally, you need to follow the laws of the state where you are planning to create an organization. Here are some of the things you need to take care of if you want to form a non-profit in Florida:

·   Corporate Name – After determining the needs of your community and what you need to prepare in order to address them, you have to think of a suitable name for your corporation. It will represent the brand of your non-profit, so you have to make sure that it is distinguishable and that no other entity is already using it. You are free to conduct a name availability search. You should also follow the naming regulations of the state. Florida requires all non-profit organizations to have the word Incorporated, Corporation, Inc., or Corp. You cannot use the name until you receive the acknowledgment of your application filing from the Division of Corporations. 

·   Registered Agent – You should also appoint a registered agent. This can be an individual or a company in charge of receiving legal papers on behalf of your non-profit organization. If you undergo the formation process online, your registered agent needs to type in their name in the signature section. You have to make sure that the one you choose accepts the position. Your agent should also have a physical street address in the state and is available during normal business hours. If you choose an individual, they have to be at least 18 years old and a Florida resident. If you opt for a company, it has to have the authorization to transact in Florida.

·   Articles Of Incorporation – To form a non-profit in Florida, you will have to file Articles of Incorporation with the Division of Corporations of the Department of State. You can submit by mail, fax, in person, or online. You also need to pay the $70 fee. If you file online, you can expect the division to finish processing your formation documents within five business days. Meanwhile, processing mailed and in-person submissions may take longer. Mail, fax, and in-person filings also require a cover letter. If you want to apply for the 501(c)(3) status, you will need to attach an extra page for the IRS tax exemption.

Incorporating will provide legal protection between the non-profit organization and the members. You will need at least one incorporator to sign the articles. Your registered agent will also have to sign to prove their consent. 

Generally, the Articles of Incorporation requires the following basic information:

o   Name of the corporation

o   Principal office address, including mailing and street addresses

o   The purpose of the non-profit

o   The manner of appointment or election of directors

o   The names, addresses, and titles of at least three initial officers and/or directors

o   The name, address, and signature of the registered agent

o   The name, address, and signature of at least one incorporator who has the authority to complete and submit the Articles of Incorporation

o   The effective date of your formation (optional)

Meanwhile, to get an IRS 501(c)(3) status, you will have to use a specific language in your Articles of Incorporation. You need to include the following:

o   A statement of purpose that meets the requirements of the IRS

o   Statement that the non-profit organization will not engage in any activities not related to its exempted purposes or will not participate in any prohibited political or legislative activity

o   A dissolution clause specifying that the assets of the corporation will be dedicated to another 501(c)(3) corporation or the government in case of dissolution

You can fill out and file the form on the website of the Department of State. However, the online form does not have any of the clauses that the IRS requires. It also does not have a section where you can add the said clauses.

Florida allows you to draft your articles too. However, you have to make sure they contain the basic information that the state requires.

·   Bylaws – Your corporation also needs to prepare bylaws. Make sure these indicate the rules governing the activities of your organization, such as meetings, the election of officers and directors, and corporate formalities. Your bylaws should comply with state laws as well.

·   Board Meeting – You have to conduct a board meeting after filing the Articles of Incorporation. This first meeting, also known as the organizational meeting, will tackle the approval of bylaws, the appointment of officers, setting of an accounting period and tax year, and approving initial corporate transactions. Make sure you create minutes of the meeting.

·   Employer Identification Number (EIN) – Obtain an EIN from the IRS. This is a unique nine-digit number that will identify your organization. You will also need it in applying for 501(c)(3) status.

·   State Tax Identification Number – You will have to apply for a State Taxpayer Identification Number. Use form DR-1 and submit it to the Department of Revenue.

·   Licenses And Permits – Depending on your corporation’s activities, you may need to secure certain business licenses and permits. You can check these with your local government office.

·   Annual Report – Florida requires non-profit corporations to submit annual reports between January 1 and May 1. It comes with a $61.25 fee. 

·   Other Registration Requirements – Check if you also need to register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This is usually necessary before doing fundraising events in the state. 

Get Help

As someone who wants to extend help to more members of the community, you may be thinking of forming a non-profit organization in Florida. While you may have to take on additional responsibilities, registering with the state will allow you to obtain private or public grants and qualify for tax exemptions. It will also help protect your personal assets.

The whole process of incorporating can be a bit overwhelming. It may be best to ask help from a reliable third-party organization like DoMyLLC. Our team of experts can assist you in preparing, handling, and filing the necessary formal paperwork. We can also provide you with a personalized solution that will fit your needs. Additionally, you can rely on us if you have any queries as we offer live support for our clients. Contact us now to find out more about our services.