How to Start a Nonprofit in New Jersey


Starting a nonprofit organization can be challenging, especially if you’re a first-time founder. But in New Jersey, there are a few steps you can take to make the process go smoothly and ensure that your organization is operating in compliance with state and federal laws. We’ll walk you through all of these steps below so that when it’s time to open those doors on day one, you’ll know exactly what to do!

Decide on a mission and name for your nonprofit.

Deciding on a mission statement will help you stay focused, and it’s also required for incorporation. A good mission statement should include the group’s name, purpose, and how it plans to accomplish its goals.

Once you’ve decided on a mission statement and other details like location, start thinking about what kind of name would best suit your organization. The general rule of thumb when choosing one is that it should be easy to spell—and even easier to say (people tend not to remember long names). You may want to look at existing nonprofits in your area as well as some popular companies around town (for example McDonald’s vs Mac Donalds) if possible domain names are already taken by others outside New Jersey

Create a business plan.

A business plan is a document that describes the organization’s mission, goals and objectives. It includes details about its staff and volunteers, budget, services offered, marketing strategies and plans for future growth. A business plan should also include information on how the organization will deal with key issues such as fundraising or financial management policies.

The first section of your business plan should be titled “Executive Summary” and include:

  • The name of your nonprofit organization;
  • Its purpose;
  • How it will accomplish its goals;
  • What programs are planned (if applicable);
  • How long you expect to operate (if applicable);

The second section should be titled “Company Overview” and include:

  • A description of your experience in fundraising or working within nonprofits;
  • Your areas of expertise that could benefit this project;

Register with the state of New Jersey.

Registering with the state of New Jersey is the first step to starting a nonprofit. While this may seem like an easy and straightforward process, it is actually a lot more complicated than you might expect. To register with the state as a nonprofit, you need to fill out and file several forms with the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). You will also have to pay fees for these forms, which range from $50 per year up to $1,000 per year depending on your organization’s revenue model.

Complete the required IRS forms.

Now that you have incorporated your nonprofit, the IRS will expect to receive some forms from you.

  • Form 1023: This is the form that asks for all of the details of your organization and why it should be tax-exempt. The IRS will review this application carefully before approving or denying your tax-exempt status.
  • Form 990: All nonprofits are required by law to file a yearly report with the IRS that includes information about their income sources and expenses during the previous year (the fiscal year). It also includes details about any compensation paid to officers, directors and key employees during that time period along with contributions made by donors who gave more than $5,000 in cash or property during a single year (the fiscal year). If an organization spends more than $500 on lobbying activities during one calendar year (the fiscal year), then they need not file an annual return unless specifically requested by a state agency such as New Jersey’s Division of Taxation or Department of Treasury

Apply for federal tax exemption status.

Tax exemption status means that the federal government has granted your organization a 501(c)(3) designation for its activities. This allows you to receive tax-deductible donations, and it also means that you’re eligible for other benefits such as access to grant funding. Before applying for federal tax exemption status, make sure that your organization is already in compliance with all state regulations.

The process of applying for federal tax exemption status involves filing Form 1023 along with supporting documentation proving eligibility. Once they receive this information, they will review it and either approve or deny your request within six months (though in reality, it can take longer). There are two ways to submit forms: electronically via e-file or by mailing them in paper form via postal mail.

Once approved, your nonprofit will be officially recognized as tax-exempt!

Develop corporate bylaws and policies.

To develop your corporate bylaws and policies, you should consider the following:

  • Who will be involved in the process?
  • What is the purpose of these documents? (For example, if your nonprofit is a small group of volunteers who want to raise money for an event, your bylaws will likely be very different than if it’s an incorporated nonprofit with multiple employees.)
  • Where can they be found after they are created? (This could be anywhere—perhaps as part of minutes from a meeting or attached to emails.)

It’s also important to consult with an attorney before finalizing any documents because there may be certain aspects that need special attention according to state law.

There are many steps to starting a nonprofit in NJ but it can be done!

Before you can open the doors of your organization, there are several important steps to take. The first is to write a mission statement that includes the purpose of your nonprofit organization and who it serves. It’s also important to write a business plan for your organization—this will help ensure that you’re on track with your efforts and goals in addition to receiving grant funding. As part of your business plan, you’ll need to create an executive summary that highlights what makes your nonprofit unique and how it stands out from its competitors. Next, establish a board of directors for your organization; this group will be responsible for providing guidance as well as strategic direction throughout its lifespan. After this stage, submit an application for federal tax exemption status by completing Form 1023 (or 1024 if requesting a determination letter) and acquiring an IRS determination letter confirming non-profit status if applicable state filing requirements are met (NJ does not require filing). Finally register with the New Jersey Department Charities Registration Unit within 30 days after incorporation or creation date (whichever comes first) pursuant to N.J State Nonprofit Corporation Act Sections 25:8A-1 et seq., including having corporate bylaws and policies in place prior thereto along with proof thereof being filed with said agency


Starting a nonprofit in NJ is not easy or quick, but it can be done. The process may seem overwhelming at first, but there are resources available to help you along the way. Don’t give up!

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