How to Start a Nonprofit in Connecticut

To start a nonprofit in Connecticut and get 501c3 status, follow these steps:

Step 1: Name Your Connecticut Nonprofit
Step 2: Choose Your Registered Agent
Step 3: Select Your Board Members & Officers
Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy
Step 5: File Nonstock Certificate of Incorporation
Step 6: Get an EIN
Step 7: Apply for 501c3

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Starting a 501c3 Nonprofit in Connecticut Is Easy

There are nearly 22,600 nonprofit organizations in Connecticut. If you’re interested in opening your own nonprofit, then having one in a popular location or in a specific industry may be your goal. With so many nonprofit organizations in the state, there are lots of statistics you can look at to decide what kind of nonprofit is right for you.

For example, the majority of nonprofits are unsurprisingly headquartered in some of the state’s largest metro areas, with 7,337 in Lansing, 6,740 in Bridgeport, and 5,085 in New Haven. Those three metro areas have nonprofits that bring in the majority of the revenue obtained by nonprofits, earning nearly $13 billion, over $15 billion, and around $17.5 billion, respectively. 

Not all nonprofits start off as large corporations, so if your plans start small, you’re in good company — around 6,043 of the nonprofits in the state bring in under $250,000 in revenue annually. Only 58 bring in more than $100 million annually. 

Some of the largest nonprofits in the state include:

  • Save the Children Federation
  • AmeriCares Foundation
  • Hartford Hospital
  • ZOOM Foundation

The type of nonprofit you want to run may depend on the niche you prefer, but you should also look at which areas of the city or state need assistance. For example, there are 3,335 organizations working as educational institutions of some kind, but there are only 23 that focus on social science research. Medical research nonprofits are also limited in Connecticut, as there are only 92 in the state. 

Starting a nonprofit requires you to take several important steps before you open your doors or begin to accept donations. Take these steps before doing anything else, so you can be sure you’re following the state’s rules and regulations.

To start a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization in Connecticut, you must first start a nonprofit in Connecticut according to the rules of the state and then apply for 501c3 status with the IRS.

Learn more about 501c3 eligibility in our What is a 501c3 guide.

Want to form a nonprofit elsewhere? Check out our other How to Start a Nonprofit guides. Also, check out our best nonprofit formation services review.

Step 1: Name Your Connecticut Nonprofit

You’ll want to name your Connecticut nonprofit as the first step toward opening your organization. Choose a name that is easy for visitors, guests, and donors to remember. Also, choose a name that meets the state guidelines.

To learn more about the naming requirements, take a look at our How to Name a Nonprofit in Connecticut page.

1. Follow the naming guidelines:

  • The name of your organization must be different enough from other businesses in Connecticut to be distinguishable
  • The name of your organization has to include “Inc.,” “Ltd.,” “Incorporated,” or “Company”

You can find all of the Connecticut General Assembly’s naming guidelines for domestic nonstock corporations on their website.

2. Is the name available in Connecticut? Do a name search on the State of Connecticut website to be sure that the name hasn’t been taken by another business yet.

3. Is the URL available? One thing we suggest is making sure you can get your business name as a web domain. Though you might not plan to make your own website, taking the URL for yourself now can prevent others from using it (and guarantee it’s yours if you do decide to take your business online). 

Once you’ve verified that you have the name you want and have obtained your URL, it’s time to find a professional service to work with to finish out the Connecticut nonprofit formation process. Our suggestion is to choose a company with a focus on customer service. You should also choose one with extensive experience, such as:

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Connecticut

Your nonprofit is required to select a Connecticut registered agent to work with your organization.

What is a registered agent? A registered agent is an individual or business entity responsible for receiving important legal documents on behalf of your business. Think of your registered agent as your business’ point of contact with the state.

Who can be a registered agent? A registered agent can be a registered agent service, which is authorized to transact business in Connecticut, or a resident of the state. You can choose who (yourself included) takes this role if you’d like.

For more information on choosing a registered agent, take a look at our guide: How to Choose a Registered Agent for your Connecticut Nonprofit.

Step 3: Select your Directors & Officers

The directors of an organization come together to form a board of directors. This board of directors is responsible for overseeing the operations of the nonprofit. 

The president, secretary, and other members of the nonprofit who have individual responsibilities and authorities are known as officers

Both Connecticut and the IRS require 501c3 nonprofits to have at least three directors to be eligible for 501c3 status. The majority of directors should not be related to each other.

Connecticut does not have any specific officer requirements, meaning titles are left up to the nonprofit to determine in its bylaws.

To learn more about electing a Connecticut nonprofit board of directors, read our full guide.

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

Before you’ll be eligible for your 501c3 status, your nonprofit needs to establish two important documents:

  1. A list of bylaws 
  2. A strong conflict of interest policy.

What are bylaws? Bylaws outline your nonprofit’s operating procedures.

What is a conflict of interest policy? To make sure that no one in your organization does anything against the nonprofit’s best interests, you need a conflict of interest policy. This agreement explains that directors or officers must do what’s right for the nonprofit, not individuals.

NOTE: The directors and officers are officially appointed to your organization during your first meeting. You will need to adopt both your bylaws and conflict of interest policy at that time as well. 

Step 5: File the Connecticut Nonstock Certificate of Incorporation

To register your nonprofit, you will need to file Nonstock Certificate of Incorporation with the State of Connecticut.

To ensure that your nonprofit is eligible to apply for 501c3, in the Certificate of Incorporation you must explicitly state the following:

1. Purpose:

In order to qualify for 501c3 status, the organization’s purpose must explicitly be limited to one or more of the following:

Charitable, Religious, Scientific, Educational, Literary, Fostering national/international amateur sports competition, Preventing cruelty to animals/children, Testing for public safety

2. Dissolution:

You must explicitly state what the assets of the organization will be used for, and what will happen to the assets if the organization is dissolved. 

To be eligible for 501c3 status, the assets of your organization must only ever be used for purposes approved under section 501c3. 

Section 5 of this sample IRS document provides an example of these provisions required for 501c3 eligibility. 

File the Nonstock Certificate of Incorporation

OPTION 1: File Online With CT Business One Stop

File Online

– OR –

OPTION 2: File by Mail or In Person

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $50

Mailing Address:
Commercial Recording Division
Connecticut Secretary of the State
P.O. Box 150470
Hartford, CT 06115-0470

Office Address:
Business Services Division
Connecticut Secretary of the State
165 Capitol Ave., Suite 1000
Hartford, CT 06106

To learn more, read our Connecticut Certificate of Incorporation guide.

Step 6: Get an EIN

What is an EIN? To run your business, you’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN). This number is used by the government to accurately identify your business. Think of it a little like your business is its own person, and its EIN is like your Social Security number. 

Why do you need an EIN? You’ll need an EIN to:

  • Open a business bank account for your organization
  • Hire employees to help your organization 
  • Pay your state or federal taxes

How can you get an EIN? After you form your business, you can get a free EIN from the IRS. You can get it by mail or online — check out our EIN Lookup guide for more information.

Step 7: Apply for 501c3 Status

Before a nonprofit can apply for 501c3 status it must, 

  1. Elect at least 3 directors not related to each other
  2. File the Nonstock Certificate of Incorporation with the required provisions (As covered in Step 5)
  3. Adopt the bylaws and conflict of interest policy
  4. Have an EIN number

Once these four conditions have been met your nonprofit can apply for 501c3 tax-exempt status by filing Form-1023 online. 

If your application is approved, the IRS will send you a determination letter stating that your organization is exempt from federal taxes under section 501c3. 

See if your nonprofit has 501c3 status in Connecticut. Use our Connecticut 501c3 lookup table to find all Connecticut nonprofits.

FAQ: Starting Your Nonprofit

When should an organization apply for federal tax exemption?

Form 1023 must be filed within 27 months from the end of the first month your organization was created.

How long will it take for the IRS to process Form 1023/1023-EZ?

Soon after sending your application you should receive an acknowledgment of receipt of your application. 

If your application is simple and complete, IRS will send your determination letter within 180 days for Form 1023.

If you have not heard from them by that time you can call (877) 829-5500 to inquire about your application. 

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