How to Start a Nonprofit in Ohio (Step-by-Step Guide)

  • By: Jillian Walker
  • October 31, 2022
How to Start a Nonprofit in Ohio
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Considering starting a nonprofit in Ohio? The most effective startup founders and boards follow these steps to establish their nonprofits.

Operating a nonprofit provides a great opportunity to look beyond revenue in service of humanity. You can better focus on the bigger picture and set long-term goals that could change the lives of those within your community. 

However, creating a nonprofit organization requires many steps, including learning how to raise money for a nonprofit and recruiting a board of directors. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to start a nonprofit in Ohio.

1. Name Your Organization

A crucial step in forming a successful nonprofit in Ohio is choosing the organization’s name. This name must speak to what your nonprofit is all about. Once you choose a name, you can reserve it for 180 days by filing a Name Reservation with the Ohio Secretary of State in-person via a document dropbox or online for $39. Drop-off documents must be single-sided and on standard 8.5 x 11-inch sheets of paper.

Your nonprofit’s name cannot be registered in Ohio unless it is distinguishable from those that are already in the records. The Secretary of State’s Office conducts a search upon receiving a name reservation request form to ensure the name is unique. For more information on naming your business, check out the Secretary of State’s Guide to Name Availability.

2. Recruit a Board of Directors

An Ohio nonprofit needs a board of directors to oversee operations. The State of Ohio requires nonprofits to have at least three directors on the board. The nonprofit board positions of president, secretary, and treasurer must be filled, but do not need to be held by directors. Consider the following when recruiting board members:

  • Identify what your organization needs in a director, whether that’s industry knowledge, connections, or fundraising experience
  • Look for diversity in backgrounds and skills
  • Avoid conflicts of interest, such as selecting board members who have financial interests related to your nonprofit
Free Tool

Efficiently track and document board decisions with our Meeting Minutes Template

3. File Articles of Incorporation

To be legally organized, your nonprofit must file Articles of Incorporation (Form 532B) with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office. The form must be typed and requires a $99 filing fee.

4. Obtain Employer Identification Number

Much like a Social Security Number, the Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit number assigned by the IRS that acts as a numerical identifier for your nonprofit. This number becomes permanently associated with your nonprofit throughout its life span. To apply for an EIN, fill out form SS-4.

5. Establish Governing Documents and Policies

Your nonprofit’s governing documents and policies are referred to as your bylaws. These bylaws are meant to be rules for the officers and directors and should provide governance guidelines for the entire organization. While Ohio doesn’t require that you file a copy of the bylaws with the state, the IRS requires that you present a copy as a 501(c)(3) organization seeking tax exemption.

6. Apply for Ohio Tax Exemption(s)

The Ohio Secretary of State does not grant nonprofits state tax exemption status. This means that your nonprofit doesn’t automatically become tax-exempt when you file its Article with the Secretary of State’s Office. Contact the Ohio Department of Taxation and the IRS to ensure your nonprofit corporation secures the proper state and federal tax exemptions. A tax advisor can help you select the tax-exempt category that most suits your organization.

Understanding the Board of Directors' Role in a Nonprofit

Your nonprofit’s board of directors is your organization’s governing body. It’s responsible for the following:

  • Set the nonprofit’s strategic direction
  • Oversee day-to-day operations
  • Manage fundraising efforts
  • Monitor financial performance
  • Represent the nonprofit in legal proceedings
  • Serve as liaisons with government agencies

Getting Started with OnBoard

Once you have a board of directors in place, it’s time to convene your first board meeting. This is referred to as the board’s organizational meeting and is when the board elects directors, approves bylaws, appoints officers, and sets an accounting period and tax year. To run a successful meeting and to track follow-ups, check out OnBoard’s free board meeting minutes template.

OnBoard is a nonprofit board intelligence software solution to help nonprofits manage their operations as seamlessly as possible. The platform ensures nonprofit meetings become more productive by supporting real-time collaboration, managing minutes, and automating administrative tasks. Our solution also thrives on its ease of use, allowing you to focus on running your nonprofit.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Nonprofit Organization in Ohio?

To legally register your nonprofit organization in Ohio, you must pay a $99 filing fee for the Initial Articles of Incorporation.

Do Nonprofits Pay Taxes in Ohio?

If your nonprofit operates exclusively for charitable purposes, your nonprofit will be exempt from paying taxes. 

How Do You Become Tax-Exempt in Ohio?

To be a tax-exempt entity in Ohio, you must file Form 1023 with the IRS and wait for their response in the form of an IRS determination letter. 

Free Tool

Efficiently track and document board decisions with our Meeting Minutes Template

About The Author

Jillian Walker
Jillian Walker
Jillian Walker is a customer success manager who specializes in helping nonprofit organizations get the most from their board meetings. She's also the founder of the Indianapolis-based non-profit TraceIndy, which is dedicated to connecting professional women across communities