How to Start a Nonprofit in Florida

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

Step 1: Name Your Florida 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 the Articles of Incorporation
Step 6: Get an EIN
Step 7: Apply for 501c3

Recommended: Start your nonprofit with Northwest for just $29 + state fees
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Starting a 501c3 Nonprofit in Florida Is Easy

A beautiful state with a tropical feel, Florida is a wonderful place to open your nonprofit organization. As of April 2023, the state has 103,722 nonprofit organizations that call Florida home. Those organizations bring in $129 billion in revenue annually and hold assets of over $320 billion.

One of the best things about nonprofits in Florida is their ability to help people find work. Over two million people living in the state of Florida work at a nonprofit, showing just how important that help is. 

The majority of these nonprofits are located in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville. North Port and Tallahassee also have thousands of nonprofits, as does Deltona, Cape Coral, Lakeland, and Palm Bay. 

These nonprofits are helpful in their local communities and beyond — and 142 of them provide jobs for 1,000 or more people at one time. Major employers in the state include:

  • Love the Golden Rule
  • The Nemours Foundation
  • Baptist Health
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Large organizations, including Moffitt Cancer Center and OneBlood, bring in millions of dollars in revenue. In fact, 175 of the nonprofits in Florida bring in over $100 million in revenue annually. Still, it all adds up, and smaller nonprofits are also responsible for bringing in significant revenue. Around 22,457 of them bring in under $250,000 annually, but every little bit counts.

The common types of nonprofits in Florida include religious organizations, foundations, and educational institutions found in the state. The least common nonprofits include medical, scientific, and social science research centers, followed by civil rights and public safety organizations. 

Everyone who opens a nonprofit has specific goals to meet, and choosing the right area for your business is a good way to help you get there over time. But, before you do, you need to set up your organization the right way.

To start a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization in Florida, you must first start a nonprofit in Florida 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 Florida Nonprofit

To get started with your nonprofit, the first step is to choose a name that is in compliance with Florida’s rules and regulations. You’ll also want to select a name that is easy for others to remember, so donors and potential members can find you easily.

You can look through our How to Name a Nonprofit in Florida guide to find out more about naming your nonprofit the right way. 

1. Follow the naming guidelines set by the state:

  • Don’t choose a name that could seem like you’re a government organization or affiliated with one. 
  • Include “corporation,” “incorporated,” “Corp.,” or “Inc.”
  • Avoid using the words “company” or “Co.

There are official guidelines that you can check as you determine which name you want to use.

2. Is the name currently available in Florida? You can’t use another business’s name — do a name search on the Florida SunBiz website.

3. Is there a URL available for purchase? It’s our recommendation to choose a URL for your web domain. While you might not want to create a website now, you do need to get your URL to prevent others from using it. 

After getting your URL and securing the name you want, reach out to a professional business to help finalize the business formation process. Our recommendation is to contact:

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Florida

You have to select a Florida registered agent for your nonprofit.

What is a registered agent? A registered agent can be either a business or an individual responsible for accepting legal documents on your business’s behalf. Your registered agent serves as a point of contact with the state of Florida. 

Who is able to become a registered agent for my nonprofit? You can use any resident Florida or Florida-based business, like a registered agent service, as your registered agent. You can also elect to be your own registered agent or to use someone who works with your company.

Read our How to Choose a Registered Agent for your Florida Nonprofit for a closer look at how to find and elect your agent.

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 Florida 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.

Florida 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 Florida nonprofit board of directors, read our full guide.

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

Before you can apply for 501c3 status, your nonprofit needs to establish its bylaws and conflict of interest policy.

What’s a bylaw? Bylaws determine the rules for how you will run your nonprofit.

What’s a conflict of interest policy? A conflict of interest policy makes sure that those working with the nonprofit, such as officers or the board of directors, only make decisions that are in the nonprofit’s best interests rather than those that benefit themselves. 

TIP: When you have your first organizational meeting, you’ll have to establish your board of directors and officers. At that meeting, don’t forget to adopt your bylaws and conflict of interest policy, as well. 

Step 5: File the Florida Articles of Incorporation

To register your nonprofit, you will need to file the Articles of Incorporation with the State of Florida. 

To ensure that your nonprofit is eligible to apply for 501c3 status, in the Articles 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 Articles of Incorporation

Option 1: File online with Florida SunBiz.

File Online

– OR –

Option 2: File by mail.

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $70

Mail to:
Department of State
Division of Corporations
P.O. Box 6327
Tallahassee, FL 32314

To learn more, read our Florida Articles of Incorporation guide.

Step 6: Get an EIN

What is an EIN? An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a specific number that is used to identify businesses. People who start businesses can use an EIN in place of their personal Social Security number. 

Why do I have to get an EIN? 

EIN numbers are important identifiers. Without them, you will not be able to do these or other things on your business’s behalf: 

  • Open a business banking account
  • Hire employees to work with your business
  • File taxes (federal or state)

Getting your EIN: Use our EIN Lookup to learn more about getting an EIN. You’ll need to take steps to seek an EIN from the IRS after you’ve formed your company. Fortunately, it’s easy and free — and you can request it online or by mail. 

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 Articles 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 Florida. Use our Florida 501c3 lookup table to find all Florida 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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