How to Start a Nonprofit in Idaho

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

Step 1: Name Your 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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Starting a 501c3 Nonprofit in Idaho Is Easy

Idaho is the home of 9,703 organizations of various kinds that bring in over $8 billion in revenue annually. If you’re interested in opening your own nonprofit, this is a place you might want to consider for yours. 

Idaho doesn’t have many major cities, but like most states, the majority of business activity occurs around its metro areas. For example, most people work or live in Boise, Coeur d’Alene, or Twin Falls. Those are also the places with the most nonprofits (3,876, 970, and 582, respectively). Boise, by far, has the highest-earning nonprofits, and they bring in over $6.12 billion in annual revenue. 

There are six nonprofits in the state that have created over 1,000 jobs — and there are 10 that have over $100 million in earnings annually. Still, most nonprofits start small. In fact, 1,947 Idaho nonprofits earn less than $250,000 annually. If you’re just getting started and don’t expect a high-revenue year, you’re not alone.

If you’re not sure which industry you want to open your nonprofit in, there are plenty to choose from. Consider supporting a specific area that has few nonprofits or choosing an industry that is underserved. For example, there are only 304 health organizations, 11 social science research centers, 29 medical research organizations, and 31 scientific research centers. 

Some of the prominent nonprofits that are based in Idaho include:

  • Idaho Youth Ranch
  • J.R. Simplot Company
  • Gritman Medical Center
  • North Canyon Medical Center
  • Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health

Yours could be the next one on the list. Before you open your doors, though, you’ll need to establish your nonprofit the right way and make sure you’re ready to help those around you.

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

Before you can open your nonprofit, you’ll need to choose a name that meets the state’s naming requirements. Choose a name that others can search for and remember easily, so donors and potential members can find you. 

You can find out more about the specific requirements for naming your nonprofit here: How to Name a Nonprofit in Idaho.

1. Follow the naming guidelines set by the state:

The first requirement is to use one of these terms in the name of your nonprofit: 

  • Corporation 
  • Incorporated
  • Company
  • Corp. 
  • Inc.
  • Ltd. 

Make sure to go over the Secretary of State’s official guidelines for more information on how to name your Idaho-based organization.

2. Is the name already taken in Idaho? Many other organizations are already in the state. You can’t use the same name, so use the name search on the State of Idaho website to determine if you can use the name you want. 

3. Is the URL available for purchase? You need to purchase your business name’s web domain. While you might not be intending to make a website, you should still buy the URL to prevent others from using it in your place.

After you get the URL you want and you have a name that fits your organization, it’s time to meet with a professional who can help with the Idaho business formation process. We recommend:

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Idaho

The next step is to choose a registered agent for your nonprofit. This is required

What is a registered agent? A registered agent is a business or individual that accepts legal documents on behalf of your business. Essentially, it works as the main point of contact between your business and the state. 

Who can be your business’s registered agent? You have a few choices. You can nominate yourself or someone working for your nonprofit if you (or they) are a resident of the state. You can also use a registered agent that may include any other resident or business within Idaho. To take away the confusion, most people go with a registered agent service that is authorized to do business in Idaho. 

Use our guide to choosing a registered agent for your Idaho nonprofit to get started.

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 Idaho 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.

Idaho also requires that the nonprofit’s officers include:

  • A president
  • A secretary
  • A treasurer

Officers can hold multiple titles if the bylaws allow for it. Religious nonprofits do not need officers.

To learn more about electing an Idaho nonprofit board of directors, read our full guide.

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

You will only be eligible for 501c3 status after your nonprofit establishes these two documents:

  1. Bylaws 
  2. Conflict of interest policy.

What are your bylaws, and why do you need them? Bylaws are the rules by which you’ll operate and run your organization.

What is the purpose of your conflict of interest policy? Having a conflict of interest policy makes sure that those running your organization don’t make decisions that are harmful to the nonprofit while benefiting themselves. It makes sure the board of directors and any officers only make decisions in the best interests of the nonprofit. 

NOTE: You will establish your board of directors and officers during your first organizational meeting. At that time, you will also need to adopt the conflict of interest policy and bylaws you plan to use. 

Step 5: File the Idaho Articles of Incorporation

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

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 with the Idaho Secretary of State’s online portal.

File Online

– OR –

Option 2: File by mail.

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $25

Mail to:
Office of the Secretary of State
450 N 4th Street
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720-0080

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

Step 6: Get an EIN

What is an EIN? EIN stands for “Employer Identification Number,” also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN). This is the number that businesses use to help the federal government identify them as their own individual entities. Think of an EIN as your nonprofit’s Social Security number.

You will need an EIN to:

  • Create a business banking account for the nonprofit
  • Hire employees
  • Pay taxes to the state or federal government as your business

How to get an EIN: To get your EIN after forming your nonprofit, reach out to the IRS by mail or online. You can get an EIN for free. For more information, take a look at our EIN Lookup guide.

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