How to Start a Nonprofit in Minnesota


Nonprofits in Minnesota are a crucial part of the state’s economy and community. Nonprofit organizations provide help for those who cannot afford it, promote causes that need awareness, and make all kinds of positive changes in people’s lives. However, starting a nonprofit is not easy. There are many steps involved in getting your organization up and running, but with these tips you will be able to successfully start your own group!

Have a clear purpose for your organization.

As a nonprofit founder, you need to have a clear purpose for your organization. What are you trying to accomplish? How does that purpose align with the mission of your organization? What is the overall goal of your organization?

The best way to answer these questions will be different for every business or organization, but it’s important to know the answer in order to make sure that your nonprofit is doing what it was created for and not taking on other things. It’s also good practice because nonprofits can get into trouble if they stray too far from their original mission or purpose!

Create a Board of Directors.

Establishing a Board of Directors is the first step in setting up your nonprofit organization. A Board of Directors is a group of people who oversee the organization and make decisions on behalf of its members. The board provides guidance and help with strategic planning, sets policies, determines fundraising goals and priorities, hires staff, oversees operations and ensures that the nonprofit follows legal requirements.

The number of directors will depend on the size of your organization; however there should be at least three directors who are willing to dedicate their time to the organization full-time (or part-time if they have other obligations).

Come up with a name for the organization and be sure to register it.

The first step in starting your nonprofit is coming up with a name. The name should be unique, not too long, and easy to remember. Also, make sure the name you select has not already been registered as a trade or service mark by someone else.

You can go online and search for “nonprofit” (without quotes) and click Search for Withdrawal Candidates. If there are any existing nonprofits with this same name or similar names that ended their existence within the last five years (older records seem to get lost), then you may need to come up with something different if these are more important than registering your organization right away—or hire a professional who specializes in nonprofit formation so he/she can help you navigate this process more quickly without risking legal trouble later on down the road when someone else comes along wanting to use your chosen name or one very similar to it!

Register to obtain nonprofit status.

The first step to starting a nonprofit is getting it registered. You’ll need to file Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and then obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN). The IRS will also require you to file Form 8868, Information Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, as well as Form 990 and Form 990-N.

You can find more information about these forms at the Knowledge Base section of Trademark Avenue’s website.

Document your Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws.

It’s important to understand that the Articles of Incorporation is a legal document, and must be filed. It can be used to set up a nonprofit corporation in your state, but it should also be accompanied by Bylaws (which are essentially a set of rules).

In order to ensure that you’re creating the right documents for your organization, we recommend talking with a professional who specializes in nonprofit work or with someone at your local Small Business Development Center.

Registering in your State.

Once you have a name and chosen your board members, it’s time to register your nonprofit in your state. The process for nonprofit organizations is similar to that for corporations:

  • Fill out an Application for Certificate of Authority (Form 130).
  • Provide a copy of your articles of incorporation. If you are starting a nonprofit corporation, refer to our article on how to form this type of organization in Minnesota.
  • Submit registration fee. When submitting payment, include the words “registration” and “nonprofit” on the memo line.

The Office of Charitable Trusts will review your application by searching its database for other organizations with similar names that might cause confusion in the community or among donors. If no conflicts are found within 60 days after filing, they’ll issue a certificate authorizing your organization as one recognized by Minnesota law and provide information about what items need filing when submitting annual reports each year (more on those later).


These were the most important takeaways for me, but I’m sure there are other things that would be helpful to know.

  • Don’t be afraid to start a nonprofit
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice and money from others who are doing this work
  • If you’re not sure what your nonprofit should do or what it should look like, just start with something small (even if it’s just a Facebook page) until you figure it out!


Once your nonprofit is registered, you can begin to apply for grants and funding. If you need assistance with this process, contact a Minnesota-based attorney or accountant who specializes in nonprofits.

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