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How to Start a Nonprofit in Maryland

Are you dedicated and passionate about certain causes that affect you and your community? Are you highly organized and ready to put in the time, effort, and money to give even more back to your community?  You might be ready to consider starting a nonprofit organization. 

In this guide, starting a nonprofit means that you want to form a 501(c)(3) public charity.  The websites below will assist you in starting a nonprofit in Maryland, or to find alternatives to starting a nonprofit.

Before starting a nonprofit, do your homework:
  • Nonprofit Research: Before starting the steps and paying the fees to start a nonprofit, search through Guidestar’s nonprofit organization search and identify similar nonprofits in your community.checklist(2)
  • Have a purpose: Every nonprofit should have a purpose, and this is done with a mission statement.  There is no set formula for writing a mission statement, but Idealist.org has an article on what a mission statement should say.
  • Become familiar with the start-up steps: Checklist for Starting a Nonprofit in Maryland. Maryland Nonprofits made a checklist that goes over the nine phases in starting a nonprofit in Maryland.

If you find that there are other nonprofits already doing what you want to do, here are a few suggestions:

  • Volunteer or work for an existing nonprofit that shares your mission.
  • Find a nonprofit with a similar mission that will act as your fiscal sponsor. This arrangement may help you become eligible for more funding opportunities without needing to obtain your own exempt status.
  • Start a for-profit, small business.
Ready to form a nonprofit?
Learn how to form a Maryland nonprofit at the Maryland Charitable Organization Division. Information on registering a charity which includes the Registratiostartn Statement for Charitable Organizations (COR-92) and Annual Update charity forms
  1. Form a Board of Directors includes information on board structure, board officers, and board recruitment
  2. Complete and File Form 1023 for federal tax exemption.
  3. Fill out Articles of Incorporation for a tax-exempt nonprofit corporation. The fill-in-the-blank form is filled out for Maryland state tax exemption.
  4. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).The EIN is similar to a Social Security Number, but it is for your nonprofit organization.

Finally, continue to find the information needed to start and run a nonprofit organization:

If you want to seek out donations regionally or nationally, file the Unified Registration Statement from National Association of State Charities Officials. 

The Foundation Center’s Nonprofit Startup Resources by State provides links to helpful state and national resources such as the Harbor Business Compliance's How to Start a Non-Profit Organization in Maryland, nonprofit associations, legal support organizations and government agencies. 

GrantSpace’s How Do I Start a Nonprofit Organization includes online training and websites about nonprofit start-up.

Hurwit & Associates’ Nonprofit Law Resource Library includes information on nonprofit start-up issues, state filing and compliance, state statutes, international activities, governance and board questions, mergers and affiliations, nonprofit entrepreneurship, and charitable contributions.

Community Law Center, a nonprofit law firm, provides legal services throughout Maryland to promote stronger nonprofits and more vibrant neighborhoods. 

If You Need More Help

Contact us through our Ask A Librarian Service, call (410-396-5321), or write:

Grants Collection
Social Science and History Department
Enoch Pratt Free Library
State Library Resource Center
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

Or, if you are outside of Maryland, contact your local library.

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