How to Start a Nonprofit in New York


Starting a nonprofit organization is an enormous undertaking, with many steps to take and responsibilities to shoulder. But the rewards can be great if you’re prepared for it. This guide will walk you through the steps of starting a nonprofit in New York City and help you avoid some common pitfalls along the way.

Form an organizing committee.

Now that you’ve gathered the initial information needed to start a nonprofit, it’s time to form an organizing committee. An organizing committee is a group of people who will help guide your nonprofit through its infancy and ensure it stays on track. It’s important to have this support because starting a nonprofit is difficult and can be stressful—you’ll have little time for yourself as you establish your mission, board members and volunteers, set fundraising goals, hire staff, etc.

Assembling an effective organizing committee isn’t easy: members must possess the knowledge required for their roles in order for them to make sound decisions about how best to proceed with launching your organization. They should also share similar values as yours so they’ll be able to work well together toward common goals (and not bicker over petty disagreements). Most importantly though: every person on this team needs his/her say in decisions made throughout this process—because if there’s one thing worse than being alone at the top of your fledgling organization it’s being surrounded by “yes” men who are too afraid (or lazy) speak up when something needs changing!

Write a mission statement.

An effective mission statement should be short and to the point. It should be positive, specific, written in the present tense and in the third person. It should also be concise and clear.

The following are examples of some common problems:

  • “We will provide relief services to people who need them.” This is too broad; it doesn’t explain how you are providing relief services or what kind of relief services you are providing.
  • “We will feed hungry families.” This is vague; it doesn’t explain who you’re feeding or why they’re hungry (or if they really are).
  • “Our mission is to help women in poverty.” This doesn’t explain what type of help you’ll do for these women or how exactly you plan on doing so – does this mean that all female-identified individuals living below a certain income level qualify for your help? By not being specific about whom your organization serves, what its goals are, or how those goals will be achieved, potential donors may think that your organization isn’t focused enough on helping one particular group or cause – which may discourage them from giving money!

Write bylaws.

Once your organization has been incorporated, it’s time to write bylaws. The bylaws are the rules that govern your nonprofit organization. They’re like a constitution—they explain what kinds of things the board can do and what kind of decisions they need to make.

The process of writing bylaws is similar to drafting a contract: you’ll want them to be clear, concise, and understandable by everyone involved in running your nonprofit (not just lawyers). Make sure you have an attorney review and approve them first!

Conduct a name search.

Before you go any further, it’s important to make sure that your organization’s name hasn’t already been taken. A quick internet search will reveal whether any other organizations are using the same name as yours and whether anyone has registered with the government using that particular moniker. It’s also crucial to check if anyone is using your desired nonprofit name on social media (or anywhere else online). If so, it may be possible to reach out and work something out with them—but there are no guarantees.

File the certificate of incorporation.

To start a nonprofit organization in New York, you will need to file a certificate of incorporation with the state. This document helps establish the existence and legality of your nonprofit organization.

  • What is a Certificate of Incorporation?

A certificate of incorporation is an official record in which the state Department of State (DOS) certifies that a corporation has been created under New York law. The DOS issues this document upon receiving certain documents from an applicant for incorporation as well as payment for filing fees and other requirements outlined on their website.

Apply for federal tax-exempt status.

Once you’ve determined how to structure your nonprofit, the next step is to apply for federal tax-exempt status. You’ll need this in order to receive donations and open a bank account.

If you’re thinking about applying for state tax-exempt status as well, make sure you wait until after your federal application has been approved. The IRS will not allow you to organize as a non-profit while still working towards getting your federal tax-exempt status approved by them first!

File Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ.

After you’ve completed and submitted your application, the IRS has 60 days to determine whether it will accept or reject it.

If the IRS approves your application, you’ll receive a letter of recognition that lets you start collecting donations. If not, they’ll tell you what needs to be changed before they can approve your application.

Apply for state tax-exempt status with the New York Department of Taxation and Finance.

You can apply for state tax-exempt status with New York Taxation and Finance through the Electronic Municipal Information Center (EMIC). It is important to note that while EMIC will accept the application, the actual exemption determination takes place at the county level, so you must submit your application to both EMIC and your local county government.

The submission process is fairly straightforward: You fill out some paperwork and submit it to both entities. You’ll need to provide proof of your nonprofit status (e.g., a copy of your IRS determination letter), but most applications are approved within two months after they’re submitted.

Obtain local property tax exemptions from the city or county where your organization will be located.

Before you can apply for a property tax exemption, you must decide what kind of exemption will be most beneficial to your organization. There are two kinds of exemptions available:

  • A full exemption covers the entire building (in addition to whatever land is necessary).
  • A partial exemption covers only part of the building (and no land).

This choice is important because it will affect how much money your organization saves in taxes every year. If you choose to apply for a full property tax exemption, your organization will save more money if its structure is larger than the average building in that area. In New York City’s case, buildings over 12 stories tall can qualify for such an exemption. However, if your nonprofit owns multiple properties throughout the city—or even just one large plot—you should consider applying for a partial exemption instead.

Register to do business in New York State with the Department of State, Division of Corporations, and One Commerce Plaza (if you are required).

You are required to register with the Department of State, Division of Corporations, and One Commerce Plaza (if you plan to solicit funds or goods in New York State).

If you plan to solicit funds or goods from any other state, you should also register with your home state.

Starting a nonprofit is an enormous undertaking but the rewards can be great if you’re prepared for it.

Starting a nonprofit is an enormous undertaking. You need to be prepared for the long-term commitment and challenges that come with it. It can be rewarding, but not easy.

It takes a lot of time and effort, so you need to be ready for the long haul. You’ll have to think about what kind of work your organization does, who will run it and how much money you’ll need on hand before you start hiring employees or buying supplies. There are lots of different kinds of nonprofits out there: some focus on saving animals from shelters; others help children who are sick or struggling at school succeed in life through art programs; still, others give back by cleaning up after natural disasters like hurricanes or floods occur in communities throughout New York State.”


Starting a nonprofit is an enormous undertaking but the rewards can be great if you’re prepared for it. It’s important to remember that the process of starting a nonprofit can take time and require many steps. That being said, we hope this article has given you some insight into what it takes to get started on your mission!

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