Non Profit Organization
Recommendations on becoming a 501(c)(3) Non Profit Organization
While it is possible to have USPS® not-for-profit mailing privileges without being formally incorporated as an IRS non profit organization (and we have several clients who qualify as such under fairly strict USPS® approval guidelines), it’s a wise idea to incorporate if you plan on doing recurring not-for-profit appeal, save-the-date or newsletter mailings.
This leads us to one of Cornerstone Services, Inc.’s (CRST’s) unheralded duties: assisting unincorporated groups in becoming incorporated as a formal non-profit organization in the State of New York (with IRS 501(c)(3) designation). Since the process of forming a corporation is a state-by-state endeavor, for simplicity reasons (and proximity), we’re going to focus on New York State here. Cornerstone doesn’t charge for this guidance as we’ve found ways of making this application process straight-forward for charitably-minded philanthropic groups and individuals.
Here are our recommendations for forming a New York State tax-exempt non profit organization.
If you're already incorporated as a non profit organization, learn how to get approved to mail at Non Profit postage rates.
The easiest way may be simply to contact an attorney who helps organizations incorporate on a regular basis. Locally, we have two strong recommendations with whom we have had excellent experience. Please feel free to speak with either:
Ms. Carolyn E. Hansen, Esq.
Attorney at Law
Mr. Arthur L. Gellert, Esq.
Attorney at Law
Even if you are out-of-state, they may still be able to help. Not all attorneys want to deal with the process of incorporation, or will be affordable to say the least. Both Carolyn and Art are dedicated to charitable causes in their communities and both have agreed to receive your inquiries on our behalf.
There are several online resources. Although we are technically not recommending you go this route – mostly because of difficulty in undoing any mistakes you might make in the process of incorporation. That said, you may consider reviewing:
Nolo.com provides do-it-yourself resources and a network of affiliated lawyers; they seem to “walk the talk” and have depth of experience in their craft.
NWRA seems to appreciate our own caution and interestingly declines formally to provide direct support “…due to the bureaucracy and complicated nature of forming a nonprofit corporation in the state of New York”. Wow – they get it. Nonetheless, their link here is actually really helpful, so certainly review this NYS specific page as well.
This isn’t exactly a recommendation, but we figured it would have made your list for obvious reasons – they pay for top ranking on Google. This probably means you will be paying top dollar, but given their public profile, it might not hurt to see for yourself.
New York Council of Non-Profits, Inc. provides a “Fundamental Steps” *.pdf listed on their site which is quite useful. NYCON’s mission is to provide assistance not just for its members but also for charitable organizations operating in New York State. Their services may not be free (for non-members), yet especially for usual circumstances surrounding your incorporation, they could be of great help. We have found the staff to be very experienced and friendly, willing to take outside-the-organization questions with great care and courtesy. Therefore, you could always start here first.
You could always go directly to the New York State (or any state) or its Department of State, Division of Corporations to do this yourself. Here, there are sublinks to everything you will need such as a Fillable Certificate of Incorporation Form, Filing Instructions and a Name Availability database. Once again, our caution is only to ensure that you get it right the first time; undoing a mistake (and we’ve seen it!) is time-consumptive and might involve legal assistance. Further, it takes time and would also delay your subsequent filing of USPS® not-for-profit mailing privileges.