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What is a Nonprofit?

A nonprofit organization is a legal entity that is organized and operated for a collective or public purpose other than for profit. Nonprofits are typically formed to serve a specific community or cause, such as education, healthcare, social services, or environmental protection.

Types of Nonprofits

There are many different types of nonprofits, but some of the most common include:

  • Charities: Charities are nonprofits that raise money to support a specific cause, such as cancer research or poverty relief.

  • Foundations: Foundations are nonprofits that make grants to other organizations or individuals.

  • Public charities: Public charities are nonprofits that are exempt from federal income tax.

  • Private foundations: Private foundations are nonprofits that are not exempt from federal income tax.

  • Religious organizations: Religious organizations are nonprofits that are organized for religious purposes.

How to Start a Nonprofit

Starting a nonprofit can be a complex process, but it is possible to do it yourself. The first step is to choose a name for your organization and file articles of incorporation with your state. You will also need to obtain a tax ID number from the IRS. Once you have taken care of these legal requirements, you can start to develop your nonprofit's mission, goals, and programs.

Legal Issues for Nonprofits

Nonprofits are subject to a number of legal requirements, including:

  • Fiduciary duty: Nonprofit directors and officers have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the organization.

  • Conflict of interest: Nonprofit directors and officers must avoid conflicts of interest.

  • Solicitation of contributions: Nonprofits must comply with state and federal laws governing the solicitation of contributions.

  • Charitable solicitation laws: Nonprofits must comply with state and federal charitable solicitation laws.

  • Tax laws: Nonprofits must comply with federal and state tax laws.


Starting a nonprofit can be a rewarding experience, but it is important to be aware of the legal requirements involved. If you are considering starting a nonprofit, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney who specializes in nonprofit law.


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