How to Start a Nonprofit in Oklahoma

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

Step 1: Name Your Oklahoma 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 Certificate of Incorporation
Step 6: Get an EIN
Step 7: Apply for 501c3

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Starting a 501c3 Nonprofit in Oklahoma Is Easy

As of April 2023, there are 21,013 nonprofit organizations located in the state of Oklahoma — and that number is constantly growing. These nonprofit organizations span the spectrum from religious organizations to foundations to educational institutes and numerous other categories. 

The largest category of nonprofits in the state is religious organizations, with 4,846 religious organizations located in the state. Educational institutions are the second-largest category at 2,852 organizations, and foundations are the third-largest at 1,822. 

While religious organizations may make up the largest number of nonprofits in Oklahoma, it is health organizations that bring in the most revenue. Every year, nonprofit health organizations in Oklahoma earn a total average of over $4 billion. In second place are religious organizations, with more than $2.7 billion in average yearly revenue, and educational institutions come in third, with around $2 billion in average yearly revenue. 

Health organizations also employ the largest workforce of Oklahoma nonprofits, with 37,211 employees working at nonprofit health organizations in the state. Human service organizations come in second with 24,276 employees, and educational institutions come in third with 19,901 employees. 

Statistics such as these highlight the fact that there are plenty of thriving nonprofits located in Oklahoma. If you’re ready to get started, there are a few steps you’ll need to complete first. 

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

Choosing a name for your Oklahoma nonprofit is an important decision. For one, your business name will have a big impact on its branding and ability to attract members/donors. 

For more info on choosing the best name for your Oklahoma nonprofit, check out our How to Name a Nonprofit in Oklahoma guide. 

It’s also important to choose a name that complies with the state’s statutes. So, in Oklahoma, nonprofit names must include “association,” “company,” “corporation,” “club,” “foundation,” “fund,” “incorporated,” “institute,” “society,” “union,” “syndicate,” “limited,” or one of the abbreviations “co.,” “corp.,” “inc.,” “ltd.,” or a similar abbreviation. These words can be in other languages, provided that they are written in “Roman characters or letters.”

You can check out the Oklahoma Statutes for more information on Oklahoma business name requirements. 

State Name Availability: To check the availability of a business name in Oklahoma, you can conduct a name search on the State of Oklahoma website.

URL Availability: Along with ensuring that the name you are considering isn’t already taken, it’s also a good idea to make sure the name is available as a web domain name using a tool such as Even if you don’t plan on creating a website for your organization right away, it’s still a good idea to secure your domain before someone else purchases it. 

Once you’ve settled on a name and URL for your organization, we recommend using a business formation service to complete the process of forming your Oklahoma nonprofit. There are several great services for you to choose from, but our top recommendation is Northwest. 

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Oklahoma

Nonprofit organizations in Oklahoma are required to select a registered agent. A registered agent is an individual or business entity that serves as the go-between between your company and the state, receiving important legal documents on your behalf. 

A registered agent can be anyone who is a resident of Oklahoma, including someone within your company or yourself. You can also choose a registered agent service that is authorized to do business in Oklahoma to act as your company’s registered agent. 

If you need help deciding which of these options is the best choice for your company, you can check out our complete guide on How to Choose a Registered Agent for Your Oklahoma 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

While Oklahoma 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.

Oklahoma does not have any specific officer requirements, meaning titles are left up to the nonprofit to determine in its bylaws.

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

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

Before you are able to apply for 501c3 status, your nonprofit organization will be required to adopt bylaws and a conflict of interest policy. 

Bylaws are the legally-binding rules that an organization uses to operate. These rules outline the organization’s operating procedures and internal management structure. 

A conflict of interest policy establishes rules that are designed to prevent an organization’s board of directors and officers from putting their own interests ahead of the company. 

Both bylaws and your conflict of interest policy should be adopted during your nonprofit’s first organizational meeting when you appoint directors and officers. 

Step 5: File the Oklahoma Certificate of Incorporation

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

To ensure that your nonprofit is eligible to apply for 501c3 status, in the Certificate 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 Certificate of Incorporation

Option 1: File online with the State of Oklahoma.

File Online

– OR –

Option 2: File by mail.

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $25

Mail to:
Secretary of State
Colcord Center
421 N.W. 13th
Suite 210/220
Oklahoma City, OK 73103

To learn more, read our How to File a Nonprofit Certificate of Incorporation in Oklahoma guide.

Step 6: Get an EIN

The next step to forming your Oklahoma nonprofit is to acquire an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your organization. 

What is an EIN? An EIN or Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN) is used to identify your company for legal and tax purposes. You can think of an EIN as a Social Security number for business entities. 

Organizations in Oklahoma are required to have an EIN before they are able to hire employees, file federal and state taxes, or open a business bank account. This makes acquiring an EIN an essential step for Oklahoma nonprofits. 

Oklahoma business owners can acquire an EIN free of charge by contacting the IRS. This can be done online or by submitting a form by mail. For more information on how to get an EIN for your nonprofit, 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 Certificate 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 Oklahoma. Use our Oklahoma 501c3 lookup table to find all Oklahoma 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. 

State of Oklahoma Quick Links