Information about starting a nonprofit 

Nonprofit Start-Up Checklist

Most nonprofit founders are inspired to begin because of the passion they feel towards their mission. However, sometimes an organization already exists with your mission, which will make sustainability difficult in the long-run. Begin your process by doing market research and learning what organizations are in your area. You may learn that another nonprofit is already pursuing your idea and that you can join their effort, and we encourage you to do so. Memphis alone has 2,200 nonprofits, so there's tons of opportunity for collaboration!

Before you begin, ask yourself:

  • Is there no other organization in the area fulfilling your stated mission?
  • Is this service desired by the clients you wish to serve?
  • Are you prepared to invest in filing for your tax-exempt status?

This article is helpful when thinking about offering a unique service in your area.

When starting your nonprofit, this checklist offers a useful set of questions for you to consider when beginning the process:

  • Has a unique name been selected? (
  • Have state articles of incorporation been filed? Forms are available from the Tennessee Secretary of State. Forms must include Purpose of Limitation clause and Dissolution clause (741-2286, (
  • Have IRS Publication 557, Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization, Form 1023 and instructions, Form 872-C, and Form 8718 been obtained from the IRS (
  • Has a federal employer identification number (EIN) been obtained from IRS (on line at or fax Form SS-4 to 1-866-816-2065)?
  • Has a mission statement been developed which clearly defines the purpose of your organization in terms of why you exist and who you serve?
  • Has a narrative of your services been developed which describes what services you provide, how they are delivered, to whom, by whom and where?
  • Has a board of directors been established?
  • Have by-laws been developed?
  • Do you intend to engage in political activities or lobbying as part of your services?
  • Have the sources of funds and volunteers been identified?
  • Has a plan for fundraising been developed?
  • Has paid staff, if any, been hired?
  • Have all those with special interests and relationships been identified?
  • Will you engage in unrelated activities which will generate revenue?
  • Has a financial history (3 years) and projection been developed and a balance sheet prepared?
  • Has an application been made to the Tennessee Department of Revenue for a tax exempt certificate? (A copy of the IRS letter of determination is required.)

Here is another excellent resource provided by Grantspace: