How To Start A Nonprofit In Florida
To start a nonprofit corporation in Florida, begin by filing nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations. You can file your articles online or by mail. The articles of incorporation cost $70 total to file. But truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.
Hire Northwest to start your Florida nonprofit, and you can benefit from the free use of our Florida business address and limited free mail forwarding. Additionally, all of our services come with Privacy by Default® and the ongoing assistance of our local Corporate Guides®.
Starting a Florida Nonprofit Guide:
- Choose your Florida nonprofit filing option
- File the FL nonprofit articles of incorporation
- Get a Federal EIN from the IRS
- Adopt your nonprofit’s bylaws
- Apply for federal and/or state tax exemptions
- Apply for any required state licenses
- Open a bank account for your FL nonprofit
- Submit the FL nonprofit annual report
Florida Nonprofit Filing Options
Free PDF Download
Download the Florida nonprofit Articles of Incorporation. Fill out the form and submit to the state.
Do It Yourself Online
Our free account and tools will walk you through starting and maintaining a Florida nonprofit. All for free.
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FL Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Requirements
To incorporate a Florida nonprofit, you must complete and file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Florida Division of Corporations. See the document below and click on any number to see what information is required in the corresponding section.
Your nonprofit’s name must contain a corporate suffix (“Corporation,” “Corp.,” “Incorporated,” or “Inc.”), and the name must be distinguishable from other organizations on file with the State of Florida. Florida’s Division of Corporations no longer provides name reservations and preliminary name searches, but you can search the state’s records yourself at the Division’s website.
Include the street address and mailing address (if different) of your nonprofit’s principal place of business, and keep in mind that whatever street address you put down goes onto the public record. When you sign up for Northwest’s registered agent service, you can list the Tampa, FL, street address of our office in place of yours.
Florida wants a detailed description of your nonprofit’s purpose (and gives you plenty of room on the form to write it). If your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status, be sure to include the specific tax-exempt language required by the IRS.
Briefly indicate how your nonprofit will elect and appoint its directors.
You have the option to list the names, addresses, and titles of your nonprofit’s directors or officers (at least three).
Include the name and Florida street address of your nonprofit’s registered agent. Your registered agent is the individual or business (like Northwest!) authorized to accept services of process (legal notices) on your nonprofit’s behalf. Florida requires an organization’s registered agent to officially accept the position by signing and dating the articles of incorporation.
Include the name and address of at least one incorporator. An incorporator is simply a person authorized to complete, sign, and submit your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation. Hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, and we’ll be your incorporator.
Your organization’s effective date is simply the date of its official creation, which is usually just the date the Division of Corporations processes the articles of incorporation. However, Florida gives nonprofits the option to push the effective date back five days prior to the actual filing date or 90 days after—you just need to indicate the effective date on your articles of incorporation. Most nonprofits leave this section blank.
How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate a Florida Nonprofit?
Florida charges a $70 in combined fees to file nonprofit articles of incorporation, a total that includes a $35 filing fee and a $35 designation of registered agent fee. Hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, and your total cost, which includes a full year of registered agent service, is $295.
How Long Does It Take to Start a Florida Nonprofit?
If you file online, Florida will process your articles within about 5 business days (mailed filings, of course, may take a bit longer). When you hire Northwest to form your Florida nonprofit, we’ll file your articles online, and you can expect a response from the state within 5 business days.
Does a Florida Nonprofit Need a Registered Agent?
Yes, Florida requires a nonprofit corporation to appoint and maintain a registered agent to receive service of process (legal notices) from the state, which is why your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation must list your registered agent’s Florida street address.
You’re allowed to list yourself as the registered agent, but we think it’s wiser to go with a registered agent service like Northwest. Why? Because most people can’t manage and grow a new nonprofit if they can’t leave the office during normal business hours, and “staying put” is exactly what the state expects of a registered agent. You would also have to deal with the fallout of listing your residential or office address on your articles of incorporation, a publicly available document. That fallout usually includes excessive junk mail, solicitors showing up at your door, and extra fees paid to the state if you ever need to change the location of your nonprofit’s registered office.
These problems disappear when you hire Northwest, where we do the waiting instead of you, where you get to list our Tampa office address on your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation (in place of your own), and where you get the comfort of knowing that a professional registered agent service is always there to receive legal notices and official state mail on your behalf. At Northwest, we have the infrastructure in place to scan and send any official state documents we receive on the day we receive them.
Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)
A federal employer identification number (a FEIN or EIN) is a must for any new nonprofit trying to navigate its finances, solicit donations, or apply for federal and state tax exemptions. Your Florida nonprofit can get an EIN from the IRS as soon as the state approves your Articles of Incorporation. Apply through the IRS website, or you can save yourself the trouble entirely by adding our EIN service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.
Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws
Starting a successful nonprofit means getting everyone in the organization on the same page, and bylaws are what make that possible. Will your nonprofit have voting members? How long is a director’s tenure? What are the officers’ responsibilities? What if your nonprofit needs to suspend a director? Questions like these get addressed in your bylaws, and without them your nonprofit’s directors and officers can’t really guide the organization at all. Most nonprofits adopt their bylaws at the organizational meeting (the first meeting of the directors after incorporating) and before seeking 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS.
It’s tough to write bylaws, but Northwest can help. When you hire us, you’ll get access to our template for writing nonprofit bylaws, as well as numerous other free nonprofit forms to help your nonprofit start successful and stay successful. Why? Because we want you to sign up for our registered agent service year after year, and that requires that your nonprofit stays in business and continues to grow. Your success is our success.
Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions
Your nonprofit will pay federal income taxes, like any business, unless it obtains federal tax-exempt status from the IRS. This involves submitting an Application for Recognition of Exemption to the IRS to demonstrate that your organization qualifies as one of around two dozen different types of exempt organizations described under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. Since most nonprofits get formed for charitable purposes, the majority of new nonprofits seek 501(c)(3) status for public charities and private foundations.
If your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, make sure your articles of incorporation include the special tax-exempt language required by the IRS. This language, which includes a statement of purpose and a provision governing what happens to your nonprofit’s assets if it ever shuts down, is designed to make sure your nonprofit is dedicated exclusively to the pursuit of one or more tax-exempt purposes recognized by the IRS.
Things get more complicate at the state level. In general, your nonprofit will pay the Florida reemployment tax if it consistently has more than four employees, but 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, if already recognized by the IRS, are usually exempt from the state’s corporate income tax. It is also possible to get a sales and use tax exemption (at least on purchases) if the nonprofit obtains a Consumer’s Certificate of Exemption.
Apply for Required State Licenses
Does a Florida Nonprofit Need a Business License?
Florida’s equivalent of a business license is called the Business Tax Receipt, which typically gets granted by the county government, and most counties require businesses, including nonprofits, to get a business tax receipt. This is one of the more complicated elements of starting a nonprofit (or any business) in Florida, so it’s probably best to simply reach out to your local tax collector’s office to get clear about the requirements and fees specific to your nonprofit.
Should a Florida Nonprofit Register for State Tax Accounts?
If your nonprofit will have paid employees or make sales of any kind (among numerous other kinds of business-like transactions), you will likely need to submit a Business Tax Application (Form DR-1) to the Florida Department of Revenue. Register online at the Florida Department of Revenue’s website.
Should a Florida Nonprofit Register as a Charity?
If your Florida nonprofit intends to solicit charitable contributions from the public, you’re required to register as a charity with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and renew each year. However, the application process and costs differ depending on your nonprofit’s annual revenue. Check out our guide to Florida Charity Registration for details.
Open a Bank Account for Your Florida Nonprofit
To open a bank account for your Florida nonprofit, you will need to bring the following items with you to the bank:
- A copy of your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation
- A copy of your nonprofit’s bylaws
- Your nonprofit’s EIN
It’s wise to call your ahead of time to check its requirements. Some banks may require you to bring a resolution authorizing you to open a bank account in your nonprofit’s name (particularly if your nonprofit has several directors and/or officers).
Submit the Florida Nonprofit Annual Report
Florida requires nonprofits to file annual reports to keep the Department of State’s records current, including information about your nonprofit’s registered agent and the names and addresses of your officers and directors. The filing fee is $61.25, and you must file online at the Florida Department of State’s website. The deadline is May 1st each year.
Hire Northwest as your registered agent service, and we’ll send you a reminder when your annual report’s deadline approaches, but we can also complete and submit the report ourselves. Just add our convenient Florida annual report service, for an additional $161.25 fee, when you hire Northwest.