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How to Start a Non-Profit in Oklahoma

Posted by Jonathan Krems | Dec 14, 2023 | 0 Comments

In today's Freedom Friday blog and email newsletter, I'm going to talk about a topic that I've talked about before, and it bears repeating.  At least once or twice a year, I get asked to help form a non-profit organization, or some other miscellaneous type of organization, too.  Earlier this year, I helped an existing non-profit organization go to the next level, and I would anticipate one or two requests of a similar nature next year.  So, because it's the holidays and the giving season, I'm talking about how to start a non-profit in Oklahoma in today's Freedom Friday blog and email newsletter.

First of all, if you're looking to start a non-profit by yourself, or on your own, you can't do that in Oklahoma because under Oklahoma law, you're required to have at least three (3) “incorporators” to start a non-profit and form your initial board of directors.  If you do have at least (3) people to start your non-profit, here are five (5) steps to start a non-profit in Oklahoma:

1.  Define Your Purpose

The first step to start a non-profit in Oklahoma is to define your purpose.  This is because you need to be able to articulate a charitable purpose to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status.  It's important to hire an attorney to assist you with this first step because the charitable purpose statement must be included with your Certificate of Incorporation and/or your bylaws, both of which are required to be submitted with your application for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

2.  Choose the Name for Your Non-Profit

The second step to start a non-profit in Oklahoma is to choose the name for your non-profit.  This is also an important step because you can't choose a name used by another non-profit, or even for a for-profit business.  There are a lot of options here, but it's always best to consult with an attorney who can guide you through this part of the process and conduct a name search with the Oklahoma Secretary of State.  You might also consider a name which can be trademarked, so you might also ask your attorney to do a trademark search for the name, as well.

3.  Choose a Business Entity for Your Non-Profit

The third step to start a non-profit in Oklahoma is to choose a business entity for your non-profit.  You might think this is an easy step because you're choosing a “501(c)(3)” as a business entity, but “501(c)(3)” is only a tax designation with the IRS, but it's not an actual business entity.  In Oklahoma, most non-profits are formed as a nonprofit or nonstock corporation.  In some limited circumstances, you can form an LLC, but you will need to meet 12 additional requirements with the IRS (most of which will not apply).  If you form a non-profit corporation with the Oklahoma Secretary of State, you will need to list three (3) incorporators because you can't form a non-profit by yourself, it is a team sport.

4.  Draft the Bylaws for Your Non-Profit

The fourth step to start a non-profit in Oklahoma is to draft the bylaws for your non-profit.  Your non-profit's bylaws should be drafted by an attorney, and then signed by your board of directors.  Not only should your bylaws include your purpose statement, but they should also define the responsibilities of your board of directors, and the roles of each officer of your non-profit.

5.  Maintain Business Formalities

The fifth step to start a non-profit in Oklahoma is to maintain business formalities.  This is important because it is crucial to separate the assets of the non-profit from your own personal assets, or from the assets of other for-profit businesses.  The non-profit should obtain its own EIN number from the IRS and have its own bank account.  It's also vital to document everything, especially the minutes of each board meeting.

Thinking about starting a small business?  Or maybe your business is having issues with contracts, leases, business partners, collection issues, or experiencing other barriers to growth?  Please contact me at [email protected] to schedule a FREE strategy session.

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About the Author

Jonathan Krems

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Attorney of Liberty Legal Solutions, LLC, a law firm dedicated to building, protecting, and defending the business and personal interests of our clients in Oklahoma.  Jonathan's primary practice areas are business law, contracts and agreements, business liti...


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