How to Start a Nonprofit in South Carolina


First and foremost, you need to decide why you want to start a nonprofit. Is it for personal fulfilment or do you have an idea for a social cause? Perhaps it’s both, but that’s the most common reason people get into nonprofits. If this is your first time starting a nonprofit, you might also want to speak with an attorney or other expert about some of the legal aspects involved. The purpose of this guide is not to give legal advice (though we can refer you to a professional who can), but rather just to provide some basic information on how to get started with your new organization.

Choose a Name for Your Nonprofit

Make sure that the name of your nonprofit organization is easy to remember, spell, and pronounce. It should be something that people can easily recall when they hear it. Also, you will want to make sure that the name does not infringe on any trademarks or other companies’ intellectual property rights. For example, if your nonprofit agency focuses on helping victims of domestic violence and there is another organization with the same name in another state, this could cause confusion down the road.

Be sure not to use acronyms or numbers as part of your nonprofit’s name because these are harder for the general public to grasp quickly (i.e., “The American Red Cross” vs “The American National Red Cross”).

File the Certificate of Incorporation

Once you’ve checked in with the Division of Revenue to make sure that the name you want to use isn’t already taken, it’s time to file your Certificate of Incorporation. You can do this by visiting the Secretary of State’s website and filling out a few simple steps:

  • 1) Choose where you want your nonprofit to be based—this is usually Charleston or Columbia, but it doesn’t matter as long as your state allows nonprofits in that area.
  • 2) Enter your name and address information into their forms so that they know who they’re dealing with (don’t worry about making mistakes here—you can always fix them later).
  • 3) Check boxes confirming whether you have any employees or contractors if your company has ever been involved in litigation before if there are any legal proceedings pending against it now (like lawsuits), if there are any bonds filed against it currently or previously (meaning someone else has guaranteed payment for some activity), etc., then click “submit.”

Prepare Bylaws

Bylaws are the rules of an organization, and they’re usually included in a nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation. Bylaws outline how decisions will be made, what happens if someone resigns or dies, how meetings are conducted and more.

So why do you need bylaws? Well, without them, you’d have no idea what to do when something comes up in your organization that needs some answers—like how long should the board member’s term be. Or where should the board meet? Or who has voting rights on issues? Having your answers written down in advance (in legal language), it’ll make things much easier for everyone involved when questions come up during meetings or otherwise.

Identify and Appoint Directors

Directors are the leaders of your nonprofit. An organization can have up to five directors, or they can be an even number if you choose to have a different number of directors on each committee. You may appoint a volunteer or paid staff member as one of the directors, but they must meet the state’s qualifications for being a director.

To appoint new board members and officers:

  • Write out their proposed roles and responsibilities clearly in the bylaws or other official governance documents (e.g., nonprofit corporation articles). This will help you avoid confusion later on when it comes time for these individuals to take action at meetings or events.
  • Put together a list that names all current board members along with their contact information and email addresses so that new volunteers can easily get in touch with them about upcoming projects or events where help is needed most urgently–and so existing volunteers can pass on this information when asked how best someone else could get involved in their work too!

File the Articles of Organization

The next step is to file the Articles of Organization. The form is available from the South Carolina Secretary of State’s website or from a professional with experience filing articles (many attorneys and accountants can help with this).

Once you have completed and filed your articles, it will take about 20 days for them to be processed.

Hold Your First Board Meeting

Your board of directors should meet to organize and assign responsibilities. This is one of the most important steps in forming your nonprofit organization, and it’s a good idea to hold the meeting in person so that everyone can hear each other clearly and avoid the possibility of misunderstandings arising from written correspondence.

Your first agenda item should be reviewing applicable statutes or charters for your state, county or city regarding nonprofit organizations (if there are any). The second agenda item should be discussing how you want your organization to operate—what its purpose is, what types of activities will be performed by volunteers, who will lead those activities and when they’ll happen. You’ll need officers with various titles such as president, vice president or secretary and treasurer. These terms may vary depending on the size of your board; however, these titles are generally reserved for positions where more than one person serves at once (such as two vice presidents). It’s also a good idea at this point in time if possible because it will help determine if an executive director position needs to be filled within five years after starting operations as required by IRS regulations!


You’ve taken your first steps toward starting a nonprofit in South Carolina by reading this guide. Now you’re ready to take the next step and file for incorporation. In order to do that, you’ll need to appoint directors and hold your first board meeting as soon as possible after incorporation. As a final note: it’s crucial that you maintain good records at all times and keep accurate financial information so that you can be sure everything is up-to-date with state authorities.


Now that you are a nonprofit, it’s time to start fundraising! Your board members will have their work cut out for them as they start their new organization.

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