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Just like with any business, there is a lot that goes into starting a nonprofit…research, planning, fundraising, etc.  There are also legal, accounting, and technical hurdles that must be cleared.  This page takes a look at those latter tasks that make up a big part of our SureStart Nonprofit Formation Plan here at Foundation Group.

Step 1. Establish a Nonprofit Corporation

This is a state-level process that establishes a nonprofit, corporate entity by the filing of Articles of Incorporation. The vast majority of nonprofits organize as corporations for a variety of reasons, including liability protection for the officers, directors and other key individuals.

Other parts of this initial process usually include obtaining a federal tax ID number (FEIN) from the IRS and the preparation of bylaws, the governance rules the board of directors must follow.

Step 2. Obtain IRS 501(c)(3) Status

This next step is much more complex than incorporating. To obtain 501(c)(3) status, a nonprofit corporation must apply to the Internal Revenue Service for recognition of tax exemption by filing IRS Form 1023. Relatively speaking, forming the corporation is fairly straightforward (assuming that one completely understands the process). Applying for 501(c) (3) status, however, is another story altogether.

Form 1023 itself is up to 28 pages long. With the required attachments, schedules and other materials that may be necessary, it is not uncommon for these submissions to the IRS to be up to 100 pages. Think of Form 1023 as an IRS examination. Instead of an audit of a tax return, the 501(c)(3) application process is more like an audit of proposed (and/or previous) activity. It is a thorough examination of the organization’s governing structure, purpose and planned programs. The IRS is looking to make sure that the organization is formed for exclusively 501(c)(3) purposes and that its programs are designed to fulfill these stated purposes. In addition, the IRS is looking closely for conflicts-of-interest and the potential for benefit to insiders, both possible grounds for denial.

Learn more by watching our free, “Starting a Nonprofit” YouTube video series
Step 3. State Compliance Issues

While obtaining 501(c)(3) status grants your new nonprofit federal tax exemption, there are two other, critical issues that must be addressed.

  • Charitable Solicitations Registration – This is a required registration in 40 states and is usually administered through the Attorney General’s office, though not always.  Most states require registration prior to soliciting donations.
  • State Corporate Tax Exemption – Most states recognize the federal 501(c)(3) status as valid for state corporate tax exemption.  California and Texas are big exceptions, requiring their own application process for charity status in their state.  Several other states require a separate application, but those are typically simpler registrations.
How Can Foundation Group Help?

Nobody knows this process better than us. Our team members are career professionals who understand exactly what is required for your organization to succeed. We have assisted over 20,000 organizations since our inception in 1995 and have maintained a 100% IRS approval rate.

Our team is managed by IRS-licensed tax professionals. Our approach is to work with you, one- on-one, helping you properly structure your nonprofit, not only for IRS approval, but also for long-term success. And once you are approved, we provide ongoing, state and federal compliance services throughout the life of your nonprofit.

Starting a nonprofit is serious business…and we take it as seriously as you do. Our team deeply engages with you to guarantee that your 501(c)(3) will be properly structured, will be approved by the IRS, and that you will want to be one of our testimonials!

Starting a Nonprofit?

Let’s Talk About Your Plans!

Please fill out the form below and we will get in touch with you shortly.  The more information you provide, the better equipped our team specialist will be to answer your questions.

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Every person from the front desk to the compliance team are the greatest. They genuinely care about each client and having them endure a smooth experience. If you want things done right with encouragement and support look no further! The best place!!!!!!
Heather Young
Heather Young
20:30 25 Feb 20
If you are considering starting a nonprofit this is the group I would recommend. Very helpful and knowledgeable in all aspects of their services.
Chris LeMay
Chris LeMay
14:15 11 Feb 20
I am a business manager and have a client desiring to set up a Private Foundation. I initially searched for an attorney to assist with the set up and to help with the IRS exemption application. The costs, however, were prohibitive: I had quotes from two different attorneys with minimum fees of $15,000. I discovered Foundation Group in a Google search. I contacted them and their fees for far more reasonable and they were genuinely interested in providing assistance. This company is great. They have nailed it. The entire process of working with them is efficient and super organized. They have intake interviews that facilitate the entire process. And their web-based approach, where you have a dashboard with a task list, etc., works great. Everything is super organized, user-friendly and they are quite responsive. They clearly are experts at this and I am so thankful that I discovered them. I am recommending them to all of my colleagues. We will use them to also prepare the 990 tax returns and for any consulting. I give them an enthusiastic 5 stars.
William Jaaskela
William Jaaskela
18:09 22 Jan 20
They know what they are doing and get the job done in record time.
We had a great experience with the foundation group. Things progressed exactly as we were told, and we even received our exemption status faster than expected. Everyone was knowledgable and friendly. Communication through their site is very simple. No complaints.
Sara Baker
Sara Baker
16:55 01 Dec 19
I decided to try and start a 501c3 organization (Vets for Veteran Housing and Services) on my own. Once I looked into the process, I was overwhelmed by the complexity of all the forms and in-depth information that is required. I knew that I needed help. I researched who would be the best to help me achieve my goal. The Foundation Group kept coming up as #1. after making contact, and explaining my goals, every member of their co. gave me the assurance that everything would be attained. All my anxiety, about going through this process was immediately gone. Every single team member guided me through and explained every detail in a soothing and calm way as to allow my anxiety and my blood pressure to return to NORMAL. Within 5 months we received our certification from the IRS. and I was again overwhelmed!! but this time with excitement and joy!!! There was no way that I could have done this on my own. If you are looking to organize a 501c3, you do not have to go any further then contacting THE FOUNDATION GROUP. you will never be disappointed.
Herbert Suydan
Herbert Suydan
14:56 27 Nov 19
Yes, I've with them for years. Just updating info.
These folks are kind, knowledgeable and respectful. Even the sales pitch was welcoming. I really loved working with Nicolas and Aaron, they really worked hard (I could tell) to understand me, my experience and what my unique nonprofit is about. I have already recommended them to my friends and colleagues and I am super grateful to my assistant Tanya K. for suggesting them. If you can find the funds to hire them, I really suggest you do.
Alfiee Breland-Noble
Alfiee Breland-Noble
14:53 15 Oct 19
Setting up a 501c3 is a daunting undertaking that requires a LOT of patience and drive. The Foundation Group came highly recommended to us from a friend and they did not disappoint! From the very first contact, their staff were amazing. The knowledge, willingness to teach, guide, encourage and push at times through the process was refreshing, and although they have many clients, we never felt ignored or "just another number". They listened to our vision and mission and made sure that everything we did was in compliance with the legal requirements, while staying true to our vision. We cannot say enough thank yous to the team and if you are looking to set up a 501c3...or even just need advice about one you already have, we are confident that they can help you figure anything out.Well worth the investment.
One In A Million Inc.
One In A Million Inc.
15:16 08 Oct 19
I must say the Foundation Group staff made everything easy and walked me through everything I needed during this process. I am impressed and very happy with the results because now our organization is 501c3 tax exempt and about to be legal to solicit in our state of operation. I recommend their services to anyone who's looking to start their nonprofit.
Yusuf Abdul-Alim - Rodrick Washington
Yusuf Abdul-Alim - Rodrick Washington
15:48 28 Sep 19
Foundation group is an amazing service. They communicated every step of the way during the process. Answered all questions to make the end goal a reality. I would recommend Foundation Group to any person looking for the correct company to help meet their goals is form and build successfully.
Joseph Jenkins
Joseph Jenkins
02:09 28 Sep 19
The Foundation Group help set up our not for profit in a way that we have been able to get off the ground quickly and effectively. We have been able to get a number of grants, which have required the kind of documentation and sound governance and financial policies that the Foundation group helped us establish from the outset. They are also affordable. Highly recommend them.
Ernie Fletcher
Ernie Fletcher
19:43 16 Sep 19
Many thanks to the Foundation Group in a successful bid to attain our not-for-profit status for our charitable organization. The process was well defined and each person that I had interaction with, at the Foundation Group, was knowledgeable, professional, and made me feel confident in the process. I really appreciate all they did for me and our organization.
Kathy Rushworth
Kathy Rushworth
21:29 14 Sep 19
I cannot begin to explain how awesome the Foundation Group has been to work with. When we had our initial consultation I was a little skeptical. They talked about all of the things they’d do to make this process easy and simple for us. Told us how their support system worked, how quickly they’d respond to questions, etc. All I can say is they’re selling theirselves short. This organization went above and beyond from day one to make our application process a smooth endeavor. Lauren was awesome to work with and answered every question I had (I had plenty). She walked me through every step, spent a lot of time with me to establish our budget, defined every step that was required next and made sure we had it right. Needless to say with all of their help we were approved the first time we applied and are now off and running. Thank you to the Foundation Group for making this a pleasant experience. We really appreciate your efforts and will be glad to share our experience with anyone looking to obtain their 501C3.
Sara Springer
Sara Springer
19:44 13 Sep 19
My experience with Foundation Group has been great. The process was easy to follow and they were always there to answer questions. They shared advice that was pertinent with what we are doing. I felt as if I was in great hands the whole process. They were very encouraging during the process which is the main reason why I have recommended the Foundation Group to others.
Phillip Stumpf
Phillip Stumpf
18:57 12 Sep 19
I hired the Foundation Group to help me with the process of obtaining a 501c3. They have been fantastic to work with and are incredibly knowledgeable. Their step by step process takes away the overwhelm and their follow up is second to none. I would highly recommend them to anyone wanting to achieve their impact in the world!
Robbin Jorgensen
Robbin Jorgensen
00:31 30 Aug 19
Very knowledgeable. Excellent resources. Responsive to any questions or problems.
Kathryn Lopeman
Kathryn Lopeman
23:28 29 Aug 19
Helpful, efficient and simple
Redboy G Mac
Redboy G Mac
14:37 29 Aug 19
I’ve had a wonderful experience with The Foundation Group. All their staff members are very nice and my conversations with them have been pleasant and productive. The whole process of applying a none-profit organization has been smooth and successful. Their website portal for communications with clients is fantastic, very clear about each step you’ve done and what you should do next. Their responses to my inquiries are quick, and their answers clear cut. Their website also provides very useful information regarding variety of issues of 501(c) (3) . Thank you, The Foundation Group.I definitely recommend this company to anybody who wants to start a none-profit organization.
Connie C
Connie C
20:59 19 Aug 19
Foundation Group is assisting me in forming a performing arts foundation in memory of my mother.I have had an A+ experience with them since day 1. The firm is established and quite competent in their work.Having researched them before I committed, all of their current clients that I contacted, gave them outstanding reviews. Hence, I am now one, too.
Susan Smyth
Susan Smyth
21:51 02 Aug 19
I have started the process for my foundation Vision Help Foundation June 2019. So far i have great experience with everyone in the team. They are one phone call away, if you have any question. They are very passionate about your mission and ready to help at any time. I greatly recommend the FOUNDATION GROUP to anyone who is willing to have success with your Nonprofit
Velly Duverny
Velly Duverny
21:23 27 Jul 19
My initial reaction to the total cost for the services was "this is too much." Although, as I continued to be assisted and participated with navigation through all of the various forms, documentations, and competencies necessary to effectively complete the 501(c)(3) application; it became apparent that the investment was worthwhile. I am please withe the outcomes.
Kevin McKinnon
Kevin McKinnon
16:23 19 Jul 19
Foundation Group has been absolutely incredible! We have worked as a fluid, cohesive team to establish a new state nonprofit and a new 501c3. Communication has been flawless. Honestly, I couldn't do this myself, even with the assistance of my competent staff.Thank you Foundation Group for your exceptional, professional services provided to STEM 4 Them!
Renee Peddie
Renee Peddie
20:45 12 Jul 19
Working with The Foundation Group to complete our application for our non-profit organization has been a wonderful experience! They are very thorough in explaining the application process and all of the documents needed to complete it. I also appreciate how patient the consultants were when I asked questions and how they provided answers that help you gather the information and finish the paperwork that needed to be turned in to them. I highly recommend them to help start up organizations and those already formed and operating.
Kay Hagey
Kay Hagey
23:25 04 Jul 19
Where do I even begin?! I have been working with the Foundation Group for a few months and it has been wonderful. They have walked me through every detail of the 501c3 process and I am so grateful. There is no way I could have done the intricately detailed paperwork. They came highly recommended and they have not let me down. They have also taught me so much about the process and how to maintain status as I move forward. I truly could not have done it all with out them. Thank you, thank you!!!
Kristy Newstrom
Kristy Newstrom
15:33 10 Jun 19
Foundation Group was very Helpful with helping us understand the process and doing the paperwork. We learned so much that we didn't know about establishing the nonprofit.
Kriss Royer
Kriss Royer
17:16 24 May 19
If anyone who is a member of an organization wanting to become a 501 (c) 3, should contact Foundation Group, Inc. They are so helpful and expedite the paperwork. Most efficient and helpful.
Candy Hein
Candy Hein
01:34 16 Apr 19
The Foundation Group has been instrumental in this daunting process of establishing a 501c3. I certainly could not have done this without them. Every individual I have had to work with for various reasons throughout the process has been, not only professional, but critically kind and compassionate. I am eternally grateful.
Lisa Condes
Lisa Condes
20:39 02 Apr 19
Just begun the process with the foundation. They are incredible detailed in taking us step by step through the process. We have the vision and paperwork going through now. We are really excited for all their great help
Dr Denise M Robinson
Dr Denise M Robinson
17:15 08 Mar 19
The Foundation Group has been instrumental in this daunting process of establishing a 501c3. I certainly could not have done this without them. Every individual I have had to work with for various reasons throughout the process has been, not only professional, but critically kind and compassionate. I am eternally grateful.
Lisa Condes
Lisa Condes
15:31 08 Feb 19
They helped me to start a 501c3. Smooth sailing!!!! Tanzania Lion Illumination Project.
Patti Vaughn
Patti Vaughn
23:29 27 Nov 18
I just started with Foundation Group and I'm completely impressed with the professional attitudes, knowledge but more than that, the heart and soul they put into my passion! Thank you.Soulful Sydney
Terry Clarke Murphy
Terry Clarke Murphy
20:39 30 Oct 18
Truly, the most profound impression I've been left with is that this organization cares for each client as if you are their only client ... not at all an easy thing to do!
Robert Kenmore
Robert Kenmore
19:03 26 Sep 18
Amazing service! Highly recommend.
Mark Moore Jr.
Mark Moore Jr.
12:45 12 Sep 18
The entire team at the Foundation Group were great! Jim, Heather, and Lauren were incredible! Our nonprofit UpLift US learned so much in this process, and we are thankful for all the guidance and support! It was painless and faster than I thought! The communication was clear and professional the entire way! It was well worth the money!
Shannon Kern
Shannon Kern
16:37 26 Jul 18
I used this group to start my charity and they did a FABULOUS job.
Felicity Love
Felicity Love
01:22 04 Jul 18
I am a Veteran and get stressed super easy, Heather Young has always gone beyond the call of duty. She has walked me through paper work over and over again. They are a great organization for doing your Nonprofit paper work and Heather continues to help us along here in Southern California ���Sandy Dee and my service dogLONDON
Sandy Dee
Sandy Dee
20:39 14 Jun 18
The folks at Foundation Group really went the distance in helping me get the documentation I needed to get GLS Veterans Home its 501c3 status. The process took me about a year to get completed (due to challenges on my end). Through it all they hung in there and helped me when I needed a question answered, if I didn't understand something in the process.Once I was able to gain the information I needed to get to them, the process went quickly. They were extremely efficient and helpful throughout the whole process.Heather Young was courteous, kind and helpful as were the rest of the folks there. If/when I ever decide to start another non-profit, I would definitely use their services again.Thank you to everyone at Foundation Group.
GL Skye
GL Skye
20:34 14 Jun 18
Foundation Group can be trusted to help you with your visions for good works.... Apostle Williams Obidozie.
Obidozie Williams
Obidozie Williams
23:27 14 May 18
Without the Foundation Group, my dream of starting a foundation would have been put on hold for another year. They made the process easy and understandable. Great resouce, great group of people helping others do great things.
Victoria Wright
Victoria Wright
14:51 13 May 18
Excellent group of professionals that assisted tremendously and laid out a clear process in a very complex project .
Francisco Santander
Francisco Santander
13:06 17 Apr 18
Professionals who guide those who want to start a nonprofit manage all the compliance and paperwork without it becoming overwhelming. I have to say I have felt like we were given some sort of huge gift finding Foundation Group to help us start KINEKS Foundation.Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Working with Foundation Group to establish our 501(c)3 was a decision that saved us time, work, headaches, confusion and tears. We are very pleased with the outcome.
Lynn M. Scates Adams
Lynn M. Scates Adams
19:58 18 Jan 18
I would recommend this company to anyone that wants to become successful in whatever they build.
Jean Blackburn
Jean Blackburn
20:20 21 Dec 17
Rodney L Smith Jr.
Rodney L Smith Jr.
18:37 21 Dec 17
Jason Raber
Jason Raber
23:14 12 Dec 17
I would definitely recommend Foundation Group to anyone who is going through this process and I'm very glad we used their services. I don't think I could have done it without them.
Charles Gallatin
Charles Gallatin
14:19 01 Nov 17
Jaime Mahmud-López
Jaime Mahmud-López
20:08 05 Oct 17
Excellent group to use if you are looking for a stress free and worry free process of dealing with the IRS.
Adonis Lenzy
Adonis Lenzy
16:39 18 Sep 17
Emily Love Dilworth
Emily Love Dilworth
02:15 06 Sep 17
Look no further, Foundation Group is America's most experienced, most trusted resource for nonprofit formation and compliance services.
Trish Batten
Trish Batten
19:02 22 Aug 17
I can't say enough good about the experience I had when creating my non profit. They make it easy and systematic.
Kristan Sapp Cole
Kristan Sapp Cole
01:23 18 Aug 17
Don B Peppers
Don B Peppers
19:41 16 Jul 17
Branden Lee
Branden Lee
00:42 15 May 17
Foundation Group are experts in the 501c3 process that make applying for 501c3 a stress free and enjoyable experience. A real team effort.
Susan Frailey
Susan Frailey
19:23 13 May 17
My experience 12 years ago with the Foundation Group was excellent. My recent experience was even better! Their staff, my team, was very knowledgeable and professional. I appreciate all they have done for me and my nonprofit. I would highly recommend they to anyone needing this service.
Chase Kemp
Chase Kemp
23:32 25 Apr 17
I would recommend the Foundation Group to anyone starting a 501c3... Don't try to do this yourself, these are the professionals...
Martin Pollock
Martin Pollock
10:35 25 Apr 17
It wasn't easy but I will owe a lot of my Foundation's success to the success of your staff, from the receptionist to the consultants. When I was discouraged, it was your Tennessee courtesy, patience and your confidence that kept me on the road map, on course to obtaining my 501(c)(3) IRS tax exempt status... Hooyah-
Don Scans
Don Scans
07:17 25 Apr 17
Since asking the Foundation Group to set up my 501c3 business in 2007, they have helped me well,from blessed assurances to aleviating my business concerns and regular contact at least once a year. Thanks again for you valuable Assistance .. Bill Fromm Respiratory Therapist
William Fromm
William Fromm
15:35 17 Apr 17
Love this group! Could not have gotten our 501c3 status if it was not for them. Not only did they help organize all the paperwork but they talked me off the ledge many times when I was worried about a potential problem. I highly recommend them!
Rachel Miller Lamb
Rachel Miller Lamb
17:51 10 Apr 17
Incredible organization who have helped us every step of the way! The team of knowledgeable professionals have always gone out of their way to provide unparalleled service. There's no challenge too small for them to help with, and no question too difficult for them to provide answers for. Whether you're looking to start a nonproft or make sure you stay compliant, Foundation Group is the right name to trust!
Daniel Thomae
Daniel Thomae
13:58 31 Mar 17
Alan Riser
Alan Riser
16:10 22 Mar 17
those guys are the most professional, kind quick responders as I ever dealt with. they are always nice on the phone very informative. I couldn't do all that process without them. thank you guys
Chuck Rubin
Chuck Rubin
19:22 14 Mar 17
Wow, wow, wow!! Our approval came through for non-profit status for One Million Solutions in Health - without a hitch! I would recommend your organization to EVERYONE. You have a well-oiled machine that brought us the successful result we were looking for, without wasting any time. Well worth the money ... we are another success story in your 100% approval rate! Thanks a MILLION!! Dawn
Dawn Van Dam
Dawn Van Dam
18:52 09 Mar 17
I cannot say enough good about this organization! The communication has been exceptional. Their support is encouraging and reassuring. Any 501c3 start-up can be quite detailed and/or difficult. Their knowledge of the field and expertise has helped me over and over as I work through this start up process. A year ago, I hired a lawyer for over $3,000 who promised me the world in starting up my 501c3. I did all the start-up work and completed the 30 page application with all the requirements. He never filed. He gave one excuse after another, and finally I just walked away and had to cut my losses. I have hesitated doing anything since as I couldn't afford another financial hit like that one. As I talked with the Foundation Group, they clearly, and explicitly walked through the process with me. I understood completely what they offered and provided!! They were the answer to prayer I have been look for this past year!!
Jane Slusher Pendell
Jane Slusher Pendell
20:52 27 Feb 17
What a truly committed organization to assist in working with you to achieve your Goal. Great company we feel truly blessed to be wording with them.
Jay Macaluso
Jay Macaluso
17:15 14 Feb 17
Excellent!! Foundation Group is there to hold your hand as you develop your non-profit. Thank you.
Shirley Ford
Shirley Ford
04:34 04 Feb 17
Five stars are not enough for Foundation Group! From the first contact, they have been honest, efficient and they have a heart of a teacher! We put 100% trust in them because we knew nothing about the process and every person involved with our process was wonderful!
Tim Heston Timoteo
Tim Heston Timoteo
15:26 12 Jan 17
Their insight and understanding of this complex industry is second to none.
Michael Muaina
Michael Muaina
22:30 09 Jan 17
I can't say enough ... so I'll start with :THANK YOU ! THANK YOU ! THANK YOU ! SO VERY MUCH !Thank you for guiding me through EVERY STEP !My Heart Is So Full I Can Hardly Speak. I Don't Know If My Vison Would Have Come To Light If I Had Not Found Your Company. I Believed I've Cried A Million Tears Since Receiving The Letter From The IRS.Seeing My Vison Turn To Reality Is Truly Nothing Short Of AMAZING ! Again Thank You For All That You Do ! The Antwan Dominique Reese Foundation, Inc. We are a 501(c)3 Organization ! 🙂
Dionne Haynes-Brown
Dionne Haynes-Brown
01:26 02 Nov 16
Greatest information I have found for helping know more about the work I do. Thanks, Peace!
If you are serious about getting your organization tax exempt, then choose the Foundation Group. I had the pleasure to utilize their services and they walked me through the application process step by step. The IRS is not going to mess around with an application not completed correctly. If you want it done right the first time, choose this company. Well worth it.
Brian Dawton
Brian Dawton
03:32 28 Jul 15
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Before you go, get a free copy of our helpful e-book...
Successfully Starting a New Nonprofit
  • Defining Your Nonprofit's Purpose
  • Nonprofit Ownership
  • Board of Directors
  • Executive Compensation
  • Fundraising & Compliance Basics
Start a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit
Introducing the SureStart nonprofit formation system.
Cost-Effective. Turnkey. Guaranteed!

Don’t compromise your vision. Discover just what you can accomplish with the right assistance!
Free eBook Download!
Understanding IRS Form 990
  • What is this Filing?
  • Which Version do I File?
  • When is it Due?
  • And Much More!
Free eBook Download!
Understanding Charitable Solicitations
  • What is this Filing?
  • Who Requires It?
  • Website Donations
  • And Much More!