How to Start a Nonprofit in Maryland

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

Step 1: Name Your Maryland 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 Maryland Is Easy

Starting your own nonprofit in Maryland is simple, but you may want to take a look at some statistics and information to decide what kind of nonprofit you want to open (and where you want to open it). For instance, there are already over 40,482 nonprofit organizations in Maryland. Of them, 18,231 are located in Baltimore. Other areas, like Cumberland and Hagerstown, have fewer nonprofits at 471 and 991, respectively. 

The great thing about nonprofits is the propensity for them to create new jobs for the local market. In Maryland, several employers are home to hundreds, if not thousands, of employees. The nonprofits with the most employees include:

  • General hospitals
  • Fraternal societies
  • Developmentally disabled centers
  • Universities
  • Senior residential care facilities

You’ll also be interested to know that of the nonprofits in the state, over 100 of them bring in over $100 million in revenue. The highest-earning nonprofits include:

  • Private foundations
  • Hospital systems
  • Fraternal societies
  • General hospitals
  • Universities

If you are hoping for strong earnings with your nonprofit, opening one in those industries might be the right choice for you.

Some specific nonprofits you’ll find in Maryland include:

  • The American Boat and Yacht Council
  • Goodwill Industries International
  • National Association of Community Health Centers
  • Achieving the Dream
  • NAACP Empowerment Programs

These and other organizations are not only popular but have good revenue streams. 

If you want to work in an underserved industry, consider a nonprofit in medical research, scientific research, or social science research. While smaller in number, these still bring in millions (or billions) of dollars annually — that is something to think about as you aim to help people. 

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

When you start a nonprofit, you have to choose a name. Make sure that your new name meets the Maryland naming requirements and is easy for potential donors or members to find. 

Take a look at our How to Name a Nonprofit in Maryland article for additional guidance.

1. Follow the naming rules set by the state:

There is one main rule in Maryland: You have to include one of these with your business’s name: “Company” (but not with “and” before it), “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” or “Limited.”

The Maryland Attorney General offers official guidelines you can go over.

2. Is the name still available in Maryland? Do a name search on the State of Maryland website to see if the name you want is still available. If not, you may have to choose a different name for your company.

3. Is the URL open for purchase? Many nonprofits like to run a website with a personalized web domain. Although you might not plan to build a website yourself, it’s a good idea to buy the domain in case you want one in the future. Additionally, getting your URL now prevents others from taking it. 

After getting your business name and URL, it’s time to chat with a professional organization that can help you finalize the Maryland business formation process. We suggest:

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Maryland

You are required to nominate a Maryland registered agent to represent your nonprofit.

What is a registered agent? Your registered agent is your business’s main point of contact with the state. They will also accept legal and federal tax documents on your business’s behalf. 

Many people and entities can become registered agents, including:

  • registered agent service
  • You
  • A colleague working with the nonprofit
  • Businesses authorized to perform work in Maryland
  • A resident of the state

Do you need help choosing a registered agent for your nonprofit? Take a look at our How to Choose a Registered Agent for Your Maryland 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

While Maryland 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.

Maryland also requires that the nonprofit’s officers include:

  • A president
  • A secretary
  • A treasurer

With the exception of the president and any vice presidents, officers can hold multiple titles if the bylaws allow for it.

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

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

Before you’ll become eligible for 501c3 status, your nonprofit has to adopt bylaws and a conflict of interest policy.

  • Bylaws: Rules that dictate the way the organization will be run. 
  • Conflict of interest policy: A policy that makes sure all decisions made by those working with the nonprofit, such as the board of directors or officers, are in the best interests of the nonprofit rather than for their individual gain. 

NOTE: You need to adopt your bylaws and conflict of interest statement during your first organizational meeting. This is the same meeting during which you’ll assign roles to officers or create your board of directors. 

Step 5: File the Maryland Articles of Incorporation

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

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 State of Maryland.

File Online

– OR –

Option 2: File by mail.

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $170

Mail to:
State Department of Assessments and Taxation
Charter Division
301 W. Preston Street; 8th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21201-2395

To learn more, read our Maryland 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). It’s used by the IRS (among other state departments) to identify your nonprofit as a unique entity.

In short, you need an EIN for your nonprofit. Having an EIN allows you to open a bank account as your nonprofit or hire people to work for you. You can also pay taxes under the EIN instead of using your personal SSN.

To get an EIN, reach out to the IRS after you form your business. The IRS will give you an EIN for free — just apply by mail or online. See our EIN Lookup guide for more details.

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