How to Start a Nonprofit in Ohio

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

Step 1: Name Your Ohio Nonprofit
Step 2: Choose Your Statutory 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 Ohio Is Easy

There are 73,871 nonprofit organizations located in Ohio. This includes organizations such as religious organizations, educational institutions, human service organizations, and a wide range of other nonprofits. 

Combined, Ohio nonprofits employ more than 1 million people in the state and generate over $141 billion in revenue each year. Ohio nonprofits also have assets totaling $290 billion in value. 

Religious organizations are the most common type of nonprofit in Ohio, accounting for 11,382 of the state’s 73,871 nonprofit organizations. Educational institutions come in second with 10,137 organizations, and foundations come in third with 6,725 organizations. 

However, health organizations bring in the most revenue of all Ohio nonprofit categories. Each year, nonprofit health organizations in Ohio generate an average total revenue of almost $75 billion. Religious organizations come in second, generating over $13 billion in average yearly revenue, and educational institutes come in third at more than $10 billion. 

Health organizations also employ the largest number of workers, with 458,278 people employed at Ohio nonprofit health organizations. Human service organizations employ the second most at 123,861 employees, and religious organizations employ the third most at 121,022 employees.  

As for where most Ohio nonprofits are located, Columbus is home to more nonprofits than any other Ohio city, with 15,333, followed by Cleveland with 14,154 and Cincinnati with 10,359. 

These stats show that there are plenty of successful nonprofits that call Ohio home. If you would like to form your own Ohio nonprofit and get started making a positive difference in your community, state, and potentially the world at large, you can get your company up and running quickly with just a few simple steps. 

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

One essential step when forming an Ohio nonprofit is choosing a name for your organization. In addition to choosing a name that will attract potential members and donors, it’s also necessary to choose a name that will comply with Ohio business name requirements.

For more info on how to name an Ohio nonprofit, check out our How to Name a Nonprofit in Ohio guide.  

What are the naming requirements for Ohio nonprofits? There are several state-mandated requirements you must follow when naming an Ohio nonprofit, including: 

  • The name must be distinguishable from the names of other Ohio businesses
  • The name must not include words or terms that are considered slurs or profanity 
  • The name must not include terms that are associated with financial institutions such as “bank,” “bank and trust,” “trust,” or “trust company” (unless approval is obtained from the superintendent of financial institutions)

You can check out the Secretary of State’s official guidelines to see a complete list of rules for naming an Ohio-based organization.  

How do I check if a name is available? You can check the availability of potential business names by conducting a business name search on Ohio’s Secretary of State website. 

If you are planning to create a website for your nonprofit, you will want to make sure that the business name you choose will be available as a web domain. Even if you don’t intend to create a website right away, you may still wish to purchase your domain name ahead of time before it is acquired by someone else.

After choosing a name for your Ohio nonprofit and securing a web domain, you can hire a business formation service to complete the process of forming your nonprofit. Be sure to choose a high-quality service with decades of experience and a commitment to customer satisfaction. 

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Step 2: Choose a Statutory Agent in Ohio

Ohio nonprofits are required to nominate a statutory agent for their organization. This is typically known in other states as a registered agent.

What is a statutory agent? A statutory agent is an individual or business entity that is authorized to receive legal documents on behalf of your nonprofit. Your agent will act as your nonprofit’s point of contact with the state, receiving and forwarding legal and tax documents for your organization. 

A statutory agent must be a resident of Ohio or a corporation, such as a registered agent service, that is authorized to conduct business in the state. You also have the option to choose someone within your company to act as its registered agent, including yourself. 

If you need more help choosing a statutory agent, be sure to check out our complete guide on Ohio nonprofit registered agents.

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 Ohio 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.

Ohio 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 an Ohio nonprofit board of directors, read our full guide.

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

In order to apply for 501c3 status, a nonprofit organization in Ohio, you will need to create bylaws and a conflict of interest policy for your company: 

Bylaws are a set of rules that outline your nonprofit’s operating procedures, including its rules, protocols, and management structure. 

Conflict of interest policies contain a collection of rules that are designed to ensure that any decisions made by your nonprofit’s board of directors and officers benefit the organization and not individual members. 

NOTE: Both bylaws and your conflict of interest policy should be adopted during your nonprofit’s first organizational meeting when directors and officers are officially appointed. 

Step 5: File the Ohio Articles of Incorporation

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

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 Ohio Secretary of State

File Online

– OR –

OPTION 2: File Form 532B by Mail or In Person.

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $99

Mailing Address:
Secretary of State
P.O. Box 1390
Columbus, OH 43216

Office Address:
Client Service Center
22 N 4th Street
Columbus, OH 43215

To learn more, read our How to File Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation in Ohio guide.

Step 6: Get an EIN

What is an EIN? Every organization in Ohio needs to acquire an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN). You can think of an EIN as a Social Security number for your business, as your organization’s EIN will be used for identification purposes. 

Nonprofits in Ohio are required to have an EIN before they are able to:

  • Open a business bank account for the organization 
  • File federal and state taxes
  • Hire employees 

How do I get an EIN? You can request an EIN for your Ohio nonprofit from the IRS free of charge. This can be done on the IRS website or by mail. To learn more about getting an EIN for your organization, 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 Ohio. Use our Ohio 501c3 lookup table to find all Ohio 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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