How to Start a Nonprofit in Georgia

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

Step 1: Name Your Georgia 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

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Form Your Nonprofit

Starting a 501c3 Nonprofit in Georgia Is Easy

Getting your nonprofit started in Georgia is simple, but it can be helpful to look at some statistics and information about the organizations already open and running in the state. 

For example, did you know that there are over 57,396 organizations already running in Georgia? These organizations earn over $79 billion in revenue and have employed over 480,000 people across the state. 

If you’re not sure where to open your nonprofit, keep in mind that Atlanta has the most nonprofits, with 37,304 in total. Augusta has the next greatest number of nonprofits at only 1,953. So, if you’re looking to serve an area that doesn’t have many nonprofits, avoid going to Atlanta. Alternatively, go to Atlanta to help the largest population. 

And, if you’re hoping to work with a lot of people, you may be able to. At least 74 of the nonprofits in the state have over 1,000 employees. In fact, most nonprofits in the state have one or more employees.

The nice thing about opening a nonprofit is that you can choose to serve an underserved industry. The areas that might need more support include scientific, medical, and social science research. Public safety organizations are also few in number comparatively, as are civil rights and social justice organizations. 

However, no matter what you do, you can position your business to set a good example and to help those who need it. Before you start, remember that you need to set up your organization based on state and local law.

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

Before you can start your nonprofit, you need to choose a name for it. However, there are naming requirements that you’ll need to meet. You should also choose a name that members and donors can remember and find easily. 

Find out more by reading the following How to Name a Nonprofit in Georgia guide.

1. Adhere to the naming guidelines for your state:

  • Include “corporation,” “incorporated,” “company,” “limited,”  or an abbreviated form of those words in the name of your nonprofit.
  • Keep your name short: 80 characters or less. 
  • If you choose a name with “bank” or “banking,” then you need written permission from the Department of Banking and Finance.
  • If your name includes “insurance,” “fidelity,” or “assurance,” you have to get permission from the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.

Read through the Secretary of State’s official guidelines before you name your company, and you’ll avoid any issues with its name violating rules or regulations in the state.

2. Is the name available or taken by other businesses in Georgia? Perform a name search on the State of Georgia website to make sure the name hasn’t already been taken. 

3. Is the URL ready for you to buy? We suggest getting your web domain. Although you might not be ready for a website now, choosing a URL can save time later. It also prevents others from using it. 

After you decide on a URL and have chosen a name for your business, it’s time to select a professional service to complete the remainder of the Georgia nonprofit formation process. We believe you should choose a company with a great record of good customer service and experience, such as:

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Georgia

Your nonprofit is required to have a Georgia registered agent for legal purposes. 

What is a registered agent? A registered agent acts as your business’s point of contact with the state and will accept legal documents on your business’s behalf (such as tax information).

Who can be my business’s registered agent? A registered agent needs to be a corporation or individual that is based in (and a resident of) Georgia, such as a registered agent service that is authorized to run in Georgia. You can also choose to be a registered agent yourself or to have someone from your business work as your registered agent. 

Still not sure about choosing a registered agent? We’ve put together this guide to help: How to Choose a Registered Agent for your Georgia 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

While Georgia only requires nonprofit corporations to have at least one board member, the IRS requires nonprofits to have at least three directors to be eligible for 501c3 status. The majority of directors should not be related to each other.

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

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

You won’t be eligible for 501c3 status until your nonprofit creates its bylaws and conflict of interest policy. 

What are a nonprofit’s bylaws? A nonprofit’s bylaws are any and all rules that regulate how the company operates. 

Why would you want to have a conflict of interest policy? Your conflict of interest policy is important because it restricts the board of directors or the officers from doing anything that may not benefit the nonprofit.

NOTE: During your first organizational meeting, you will need to assign your board of directors and officers. At this time, you should also adopt the bylaws and conflict of interest policies. 

Step 5: File the Georgia Articles of Incorporation & Transmittal Form

To register your nonprofit, you will need to file the Articles of Incorporation and a Transmittal Information Form with the State of Georgia. 

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 the Georgia Secretary of State

File Online

– OR –

OPTION 2: File by Mail

Download Form

Use Page 3 for nonprofit corporations.

State Filing Cost: $100 online and $110 by mail

Mailing Address:
Office of Secretary of State Corporations Division
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SE
Suite 313 West Tower
Atlanta, GA 30334

Note: Paper filings must include a Transmittal Information Form

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

Step 6: Get an EIN

What is an EIN? Either your Employer Identification Number (EIN) or a Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN) will need to be used to make your organization recognizable to the federal government. You’ll use this instead of using your own Social Security number when you found your nonprofit.

Why would you need to use an EIN? You have to have an EIN to do several things, including:

  • To pay taxes
  • To hire employees
  • To open a bank account for your business

How do I get an EIN for my company? The only way to get an EIN is by finishing the establishment of your nonprofit. Once your company is formed, you can ask the IRS for an EIN online or by mail. We’ve put together this helpful EIN Lookup guide to give you more information on what to do next. 

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 Georgia. Use our Georgia 501c3 lookup table to find all Georgia 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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