How to Start a Nonprofit in Rhode Island


Starting a nonprofit is a big undertaking. From drafting a mission statement to registering with the state and federal government, there are many steps you’ll need to take before you can officially begin your work toward fulfilling your organization’s goals. In this article, we’ll cover what you need to do in Rhode Island to start a nonprofit. We’ll also discuss how other states may differ in their laws for nonprofits and give some tips on what questions to ask when working with an attorney or accountant.

Write a mission statement.

A mission statement is a short and concise description of the purpose of an organization. It should be easy to understand and memorable, clear, concise and inspiring. A good mission statement should be easy to remember because it is your organization’s reason for existing. Your mission statement will also help guide fundraising efforts by informing potential donors why they should give money to your cause.

Complete the articles of incorporation.

The articles of incorporation are the legal document that establishes a nonprofit organization. They explain the name, purpose and location of your new nonprofit, as well as who runs it (the board of directors).

You will need to fill out this form and file it with the Secretary of State in Rhode Island. Don’t worry about getting all your information right; you can always update it later if necessary. The only thing you absolutely have to include is:

  • The name of your new nonprofit organization
  • Its purpose (what it does)
  • The names and addresses of those signing on behalf of themselves or their institution

Apply for nonprofit status.

  • Apply for nonprofit status. You need to file an application with the IRS, called Form 1023. You can apply for an exemption using the paper form or a fillable electronic version. The application must be filed within 27 months of the date your organization was formed unless you qualify as a new organization under section 501(c)(3) that was created on February 17, 2017, in which case you have until December 31st 2020 to file your first application without needing more information than above mentioned–however; this deadline may change depending on what sort of entity type you are planning to create! Once you’ve submitted your paperwork successfully there should be some kind of letter granting tax-exempt status sent back within 6 months time frame via the U.S. mail service delivery system – though sometimes it takes longer due to factors outside your control like weather conditions causing delays etcetera…

Name your Board of Directors.

If you’re going to start a nonprofit, then one of your first steps is naming the Board of Directors.

A Board of Directors is a group of people who govern an organization and oversee its overall direction. They are often elected by other members or appointed by those in power. The board’s legal role is usually defined in the organization’s bylaws—the rules that govern how things work at the non-profit level. Boards can be divided into smaller committees with different responsibilities as well, such as fundraising or planning events.

The best way to choose your board members is through networking with people who know other people in your community who have skills or interests that could benefit your organization. Once you have found some potential candidates, ask them if they would be interested in serving on your board before making it official!

Create bylaws.

The next step is to create bylaws. These are the rules that govern your organization, and they should be approved by your board of directors.

Bylaws are written in plain language and include provisions for how to hold meetings, elections, and other organizational procedures. They also specify the length of a term for officers such as president or vice president; this ensures stability in leadership positions. If you’re uncertain about what should go into your bylaws, check with an attorney who specializes in nonprofit organizations for guidance on what’s required under Rhode Island law. Most importantly: make sure you update them annually!

Obtain federal tax-exempt status.

As a 501(c)(3) organization, you can accept tax-deductible donations. You may also apply for grants, conduct fundraising events and solicit in-kind donations. To apply, you’ll need to fill out IRS Form 1023 and submit it with supporting documentation regarding your organization’s purpose and activities.

Once your application is approved by the IRS, you’ll receive a letter informing you that your federal tax-exempt status has been granted. The IRS will send this notification to both you and the Rhode Island Department of Revenue (DOR).

  • What is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit? A nonprofit organization that meets certain requirements set by law can be classified as “tax-exempt under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code,” according to Internal Revenue Service guidelines.* How do I start my own nonprofit? There are several steps involved in starting an official non-profit:

Obtain state tax-exempt status.

  • Apply for state tax-exempt status.
  • Obtain a federal tax identification number from the IRS and apply for a determination letter from the IRS confirming your federal tax-exempt status.


The takeaway from this article is that starting a nonprofit in Rhode Island is a complex process, but you can make it easier by taking your time and doing the necessary research. In addition, you should consider hiring an experienced attorney to help navigate the legal requirements for incorporation.

To learn more about why you should start a nonprofit in Rhode Island, reach out to us at+1-833-332-2322 or leave an email at We’re available 24/7 and would love to help.


Now you have the tools to start a nonprofit in Rhode Island!

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