How to Start a Nonprofit in Missouri

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

Step 1: Name Your Missouri 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 Missouri Is Easy

Missouri is home to an impressive number of successful nonprofit organizations. In fact, there are currently 39,112 nonprofits located in Missouri as of April 2023. This includes foundations, health organizations, educational institutions, and dozens of other nonprofit categories. 

Combined, Missouri nonprofits generate more than $95 billion per year in average annual revenue. These companies also employ 669,973 people and own assets totaling $197 billion in value. 

The American Public Works Association, Children International, and Second Harvest Community Food Bank are a few of the state’s more well-known nonprofit organizations. Each of these three organizations brings in more than $10 million in revenue per year. 

Religious organizations make up the largest category of nonprofits in Missouri, accounting for 6,991 of the state’s 39,112 nonprofits. Educational institutions are the second-largest category with 6,248 organizations, and foundations are the third-largest with 3,051 organizations. 

Despite only numbering 1,115 organizations, nonprofit health organizations generate the most revenue, bringing in a combined average of over $35 billion. This is followed by religious organizations with nearly $25.9 billion in combined yearly revenue, and then educational institutions with almost $9.7 billion. 

With these numbers in mind, if you’re ready to start your nonprofit in Missouri, you’ll need to follow some simple steps. 

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

The first step to forming a nonprofit company in Missouri is choosing a name for your company. Along with choosing a name that is easily searchable and one that will help your company attract potential members and donors, you will also need to choose a name that complies with Missouri’s business name requirements. 

Our guide on naming a nonprofit in Missouri gives more guidelines for choosing the perfect name for your nonprofit. 

Missouri Naming Guidelines 

There are several requirements that nonprofit companies in Missouri are required to follow when it comes to choosing a business name. This includes: 

  • The company’s name must be distinguishable from the name of any other pre-existing business operating in Missouri 
  • The name cannot use words or language that imply a purpose for the company that is different from the purpose spelled out in the company’s articles of incorporation
  • For nonprofit companies, the company name does not have to include an organizational designation, such as “Inc.,” “Ltd.,” “Incorporated,” or “Company”

You can read through Missouri Revised Statutes (351.110) to see a complete list of rules on naming a nonprofit organization in Missouri.

Checking Name Availability 

You can confirm that the name you’ve chosen isn’t already being used by another company in the state by conducting a name search on Missouri’s Secretary of State website. 

In addition to making sure that the name itself is available, you’ll also want to confirm that the name is available as a web domain. This will be an important step if you plan to create a website for your nonprofit.

After securing a name and web domain for your company, you will then need to file your company with the state. You can do this yourself, but we highly recommend working with an experienced business formation service to complete this process. 

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Missouri

Nonprofit companies in Missouri are required to nominate a registered agent. Essentially, your company’s registered agent will serve as its point of contact with the state and will receive/forward any important legal documents that are sent to your company from the state. 

You can choose anyone who is a legal resident of Missouri to act as your company’s registered agent. This includes an employee of your company or even yourself. Business entities operating in Missouri can be nominated as your registered agent as well, and many Missouri business owners choose to hire a registered agent service to act as their registered agent. 

Still need help selecting an agent? Check out our helpful guide on how to choose a registered agent for your Missouri 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

Both Missouri 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.

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

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

Your company will be required to adopt bylaws and a conflict of interest policy before it is able to apply for tax-exempt status as a 501c3 nonprofit. 

  • Bylaws: Bylaws are a set of rules outlining your nonprofit’s operating procedures. This document covers considerations such as how board members are elected, the frequency and format of board meetings, and the roles and responsibilities of the company’s officers. 
  • Conflict of Interest Policy: Your company’s conflict of interest policy should contain rules designed to prevent directors/officers from making decisions that benefit themselves or other individual members rather than the company and its mission. 

Your company’s first organizational meeting — when officers and directors are officially appointed — is the meeting where its bylaws and conflict of interest policy should be adopted. 

Step 5: File the Missouri Articles of Incorporation

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

To ensure that your nonprofit is eligible to apply for 501c3, 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 Missouri

File Online

– OR –

Option 2: File by mail or in-person.

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $25

Secretary of State
Corporate Division
PO Box 778
Jefferson City, MO 65102

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

Step 6: Get an EIN

Your Missouri nonprofit will be required to get an EIN before it is able to hire employees, open a business bank account, or file taxes.

What Is an EIN? An Employer Identification Number (EIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number, is a nine-digit number used to identify your company for legal purposes. Essentially, an EIN serves as a sort of Social Security number for your organization. 

How to Get a Free EIN — You can get an EIN at no charge by requesting one from the IRS. either by mail or online. For more information on this process, check out 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 Missouri. Use our Missouri 501c3 lookup table to find all Missouri 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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