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 finding 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.
  • Choose a name: Make sure your name hasn't already been registered by another group using the IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check.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 has an article on what a mission statement should say.

Checklist for starting a nonprofit: 

If you are not ready to start your own nonprofit, you might want to think about Fiscal Sponsorship.

Fiscal Sponsorship is a formal arrangement in which a 501(c)(3) public charity sponsors a project that may lack exempt status. This alternative to starting your own nonprofit allows you to seek grants and solicit tax-deductible donations under your sponsor's exempt status. 

To better understand the pros and cons of Fiscal Sponsorship, see Fusion Partnership'sComparison Chart.

If you find 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 includes the Registration Statement for Charitable Organizations (COR-92) and Annual Update charity forms.

  1. Form a Board of Directors that 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. Complete this form 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:

The Foundation Center’s Nonprofit Startup Resources by State provides links to helpful state and national resources such as Harbor Compliance's How to Start a Non-Profit Organization in Maryland, nonprofit associations, legal support organizations and government agencies. If you intent to solicit funds from other states, you need to register in each one. Harbor Compliance also has a Fundraising Compliance Guide with more information.

GrantSpace’s How Do I Start a Nonprofit Organization guide 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. 

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