How to Start a Nonprofit in Indiana


The process of starting and running your own nonprofit can be challenging. But the rewards of being able to make an impact in your community are worth the hard work.

Decide on a mission and the purpose of your nonprofit

Once you have determined the type of nonprofit you want to start, come up with a mission statement that describes your goals and vision for the organization. A good mission statement should clearly define what your purpose is and how it will make a difference in the world. You may also consider developing a vision statement, which is similar but more specific than a mission statement; this helps guide decision-making and ensure that everyone working for the non-profit knows where they are headed as an organization. It can be helpful to look at examples of other organizations’ mission statements while developing yours so that you do not inadvertently plagiarize someone else’s work or create something too vague (or too similar) to theirs.

Choose a nonprofit structure

The first step to starting a nonprofit is choosing the right structure for your organization. Nonprofit organizations can be formed as public charities, private foundations or 501(c)(3) corporations. The most common type of nonprofit structure is the public charity:

  • Public Charities are 501(c)(3) organizations that are tax-exempt and eligible to receive federal funds and gifts from other charitable organizations. They can engage in lobbying or advocacy activities that benefit their mission on a local or national level, but they may not participate in political campaigns on behalf of specific candidates for public office. These organizations must either have at least $5,000 worth of assets when they file their annual report(Form 990), or they must pay an annual tax on their net investment income if they have $500 or more worth of investments at any point during the year.* Private Foundations are nonprofit groups organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes.* Tax Exempt Organizations such as Nonprofits don’t need to file reports each year like other companies do; however, all nonprofits must apply annually for recognition by filing Form 1023/1024.

Form a board of directors

One of the first steps to starting a nonprofit is to form a board of directors. The board of directors is a group of people who are elected to oversee the operations of the organization and make decisions about its direction and policies. The board may also be called an executive committee, board of trustees or trustees, or directors.

Create your articles of incorporation

The first step in starting a nonprofit is to create your articles of incorporation. These aren’t the same as the articles you write about the direction of your company, but rather they’re a document that establishes your nonprofit as a legal entity and is filed with the Indiana Secretary of State.

You must obtain approval from the state before you can begin your Indiana nonprofit operation. You’ll need to review and edit their template carefully before submitting it, because there are strict guidelines on what information must be included in each section of this important document. It should include:

  • The name of your organization (this cannot be changed once submitted)
  • A statement explaining its purpose or mission (you’ll want this to be as specific as possible)
  • Its address

Create bylaws and an operating agreement

An operating agreement is a written document that describes how your nonprofit’s board of directors and members will operate. The bylaws are rules that govern the internal structure of the organization. They outline how you will run meetings, vote, make decisions and more.

Creating bylaws and an operating agreement is an important step in starting a nonprofit because it helps you create clear guidelines for how your organization operates. It also acts as a documentation of who owns what assets in case there are disagreements within your organization down the road when someone wants to leave or if there is a dispute over money from an estate sale or other event happening within your group’s lifespan.

Registering your Nonprofit.

You must register your organization as a nonprofit organization before you can raise funds. Registering with the SOS is a legal requirement.

In order to register, your nonprofit:

  • Must be formed as either an Indiana non-stock corporation or an Indiana professional association
  • Must not have been revoked or dissolved by a court
  • Must not have had its registration cancelled by the Secretary of State

Apply for federal tax-exempt status.

You’ll need to apply for federal tax-exempt status. You can do this through Form 1023. This application takes about nine months and requires a lot of paperwork—in some cases, you may have to describe every social media account you’ve ever made.

Once your application is complete and filed, there’s little that you can do but wait for them to approve or deny it (which only happens in about one per cent of cases). If they deny your request or give an unfavourable ruling, they’ll send you letters explaining their decision and giving recommendations on how to amend your application so that they will approve it in future attempts.

Creating a nonprofit can be challenging, but it’s worth it.

Creating a nonprofit can be challenging, but it’s worth it. Nonprofits have a lot of benefits, including:

  • Tax-exempt status and other financial benefits
  • The ability to apply for grants and other funding sources (e.g., government programs)
  • An opportunity to make an impact on your community by providing services or resources that wouldn’t otherwise exist in your area

The biggest challenges when starting a nonprofit are:

  • Raising funds for startup costs and ongoing expenses like salaries, rent/mortgage payments, etc. The first step is figuring out how much money you’ll need over what period of time in order to stay afloat long-term. Keep in mind that even if people don’t donate towards fundraising efforts directly through cash donations or events like bake sales or auctions at local businesses; they may still help indirectly by sharing information about the cause on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter as well as on their own blogs or websites where readers will learn more about why this cause matters so much! You can encourage others who believe strongly about supporting causes close to hearts to join together both financially support missions with similar interests but also encourage them each time someone else does something creative new initiative (such as organizing volunteer opportunities).


We hope that this guide helps you to start your own nonprofit and make a positive impact in your community.

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