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How to Form a Tennessee Nonprofit Organization

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Choosing a name for your nonprofit is important and each state has varying guidelines. A Tennessee nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from names of other organizations operating within the state. You can do a preliminary check for name availability by using the Business name Availability database on the Division of Business services website. It’s not a requirement that you check or reserve your name.


One or more persons may act as incorporator(s) of a TN nonprofit and you must have at least three directors. Assemble a group of like-minded people who will work together to accomplish the goals of your nonprofit.


Create bylaws for your Tennessee nonprofit. These will help direct the focus of the nonprofit, as well as dictate how directors and other officers will be elected.


You will need to fill out a Charter for a Nonprofit Corporation form (also known as the Articles of Incorporation). This can be done online, or printed and mailed. You will need to include the name of your corporation, the name and Tennessee address of your registered agent, and other required names and addresses. There is a $100 filing fee for the Charter. If mailing it in, send to Secretary of State’s Office.


After filing the Articles hold an organizational meeting. Vote on adopting the bylaws, elect officials, and appoint directors.


You can submit Form 1023 for your TN nonprofit in order to obtain 501c3 tax-exempt status with the IRS. Nonprofit organizations can also apply for sales tax exemption in Tennessee. You will also want to obtain an EIN from the IRS as well.


In Tennessee, the Charitable Solicitations Act requires that organizations that plan on soliciting donations and contributions within the state register with the Charitable Solicitations Division before soliciting. Your TN nonprofit organization will need to renew this registration each year.


You must file an annual report annually by the first day of the fourth month after the close of your nonprofit’s fiscal year. An annual report notice will be sent to your business address. The fee is $5.

How much does it cost to start a TN nonprofit?

It costs $100 to file your Charter for a Nonprofit Corporation form (basically your nonprofit articles of incorporation); $5 for your annual report; and $100-$300 for your annual charity renewal based on your yearly gross revenue.

How long does it take Tennessee to process my forms?

It takes Tennessee about five days to process your Charter for a Nonprofit Corporation if sent by mail, and two days if submitted online.

Will my nonprofit need a registered agent within the state?

Tennessee nonprofit organizations are required to have a registered agent. This means someone who will accept official documents on behalf of your TN nonprofit (for example: lawsuits). The Tennessee registered agent is required to have a Tennessee street address and have someone there to receive documents during business hours. Northwest Registered Agent can provide this service for you, gimmick-free. We pride ourselves on our transparency and top-of-the-line customer service. We can be your Tennessee registered agent for only $125 yearly.

Should I be specific about the purpose of my nonprofit corporation?

If you’ll be applying for federal 501c3 tax exempt status, the IRS has outlined recommend language to use throughout the document, and since the main goal of the IRS in determining tax exempt status is decide whether a nonprofit organization actually has a charitable purpose, you should definitely be as specific as possible. Once you have federal tax exemption, you can move on to Tennessee tax exemption.

Will I need to register my TN nonprofit as a charity?

Before soliciting donations in Tennessee, your nonprofit in required to register with the Charitable Solicitations Division. Tennessee charities have to file with the division annually.

What are the annual requirements for my TN nonprofit?

Your nonprofit needs to file their Tennessee annual report by the first day of the fourth month after the close of your fiscal year. Annual report notices are sent to the business address. The notice will include the control number you need to file the report online. Your nonprofit will need to renew its charity registration annually with the Charitable Solicitations Division. You can download the forms from the Division webpage or file the Charity Renewal online. The Federal 990 form must be attached.

Tennessee nonprofit filing resources:

File TN nonprofit charter online

Tennessee contact information:

Division of Business Services
Attn: Annual Report
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue
Snodgrass Tower, 6th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: (615) 741-2286

TN Division of Charitable Solicitations
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue
Snodgrass Tower, 8th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: (615) 741-2555

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