How to Start a Nonprofit in Maine

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

Step 1: Name Your Maine 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 Maine Is Easy

Maine is a relatively small state, which is why it’s home to only 10,096 nonprofits. However, despite the smaller number, these nonprofits employ 143,738 people and bring in over $16 billion in revenue annually. 

By far, Maine’s nonprofits are primarily based in Portland (3,982), with hundreds also calling Bangor (930) and Lewiston (676) their home as well. That being said, there are nonprofits based online and in other places throughout the state. 

So, what about hiring for roles within these nonprofits? Approximately, 25 of the nonprofits in the state employ over 1,000 people, but 1,525 employ 10 or fewer people. This is important to consider because it means that the majority of nonprofits support at least one person seeking employment. 

Important employers in the state include:

  • MaineHealth
  • Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems 
  • MaineGeneral Health
  • The University of New England
  • President and Trustees of Colby College

These are larger organizations with a need for more employees. 

In terms of income, 26 nonprofits in the state bring in at least $100 million in revenue. Around 2,298 bring in $250,000 or less, but there is a wide range between. If you’re looking to earn a high amount of revenue, consider one of these niches as a nonprofit:

  • General hospital
  • Senior residential care facility
  • Finance organization
  • Fraternal society

Each of these is a larger type of organization that tends to earn well, but you can do well in any industry with the right plan.

With all this in mind, it’s time to get started forming your nonprofit.

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

Before you can open your nonprofit, you need to choose a name. Follow the Maine naming requirements and make the name easy to search for so potential members and donors can find you.

Check out our How to Name a Nonprofit in Maine guide for more information.

1. Follow the naming guidelines of the state:

  • The name of your organization needs to:
    • Be differentiated from other businesses that are already in Maine. (Your name shouldn’t make it easy to confuse them with your nonprofit)
    • Avoid using grossly offensive terminology or words in your business name
    • Avoid misleading anyone about the organization’s purpose. It shouldn’t suggest that the organization was formed for any other reason than what was listed in the Articles of Incorporation

Interestingly, in Maine, your business doesn’t have to include any corporation identifiers like “Inc.,” “Ltd.,” “Incorporated,” or “Company” in its name.

Check out the Maine Revised Statutes for all the rules regarding the name of your Maine-based organization.

2. Is the name currently available within the state of Maine? Perform a name search on the State of Maine website to check for the name’s availability.

3. Is the URL available for purchase? Check to see if you can get your business’s name as a web domain. You might not plan to have a website now, but if you want one in the future, you’ll need this URL. Getting a URL now prevents others from taking it, too.

After verifying that you can get the name you want and purchasing the URL, it’s time to ask a professional service to complete the Maine nonprofit formation process for you. Our recommendation is:

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Maine

Every nonprofit in Maine is required to nominate a registered agent for their organization.

What is a registered agent? Your registered agent will accept legal documents on behalf of your business. They’re the main point of contact with the state government.

Who can be a registered agent for your company? You can elect to use a corporation, such as a registered agent service, or a resident of Maine. You can choose an individual from your business or be the registered agent yourself. 

Learn more with our How to Choose a Registered Agent for Your Maine Nonprofit guide.

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 Maine 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.

Maine 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.

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

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

You will not be eligible for 501c3 status until your nonprofit creates:

  1. Bylaws 
  2. A conflict of interest policy

What are bylaws and conflict of interest policies?

Bylaws are a set of rules that define the operating procedures of the nonprofit.

Your conflict of interest policy is the collection of rules established to make sure decisions made by the officers or board of directors won’t benefit individuals rather than the nonprofit. 

Note that during your first organizational meeting, you’ll need to establish your board of directors as well as all officers. You also need to adopt the bylaws and conflict of interest policy. 

Step 5: File the Maine Articles of Incorporation

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

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

File Form MNPCA-6 by Mail With the Maine Secretary of State

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $40

Mailing Address:
Department of the Secretary of State
Division of Corporations, UCC, and Commissions
101 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0101

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

Step 6: Get an EIN

What is an EIN? Your nonprofit’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN) number serves as a sort of Social Security number for your business. This makes it identifiable for tax purposes.

Why do I need an EIN? An EIN is how the IRS keeps tracks your nonprofit. It’s also needed for:

  • Tax purposes
  • Hiring
  • Getting banking accounts

How do I get my nonprofit’s EIN? The great thing about an EIN is that it’s totally free. You can apply online or send the IRS a request via mail to get yours once your nonprofit is formed. Review our EIN Lookup guide to learn more.

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