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How to Start a Nonprofit in Kentucky

Chris Sanders Law PLLC June 12, 2023

Have a charitable or noble goal in mind and wish to start a nonprofit in Kentucky? The process is similar to registering any company or corporation—but to get nonprofit status, you must go through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Most nonprofits register under IRS tax-exempt status 501(c)(3), which applies to groups formed for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes.

What follows below is a step-by-step guide to forming your own nonprofit in the Commonwealth. I am a practicing attorney who takes a unique perspective: I am dedicated to causes that can better the lives of our fellow citizens and our communities.  

In my endeavors, I am active in community events, hosting fundraisers, seeing to legal issues of those involved in community-based movements, and lending a helping hand to those who share a vision of betterment for Kentucky.  

For all your questions and concerns about forming a nonprofit in or around Louisville, contact me at Chris Sanders Law PLLC. I can help you organize, strategize, and negotiate with other like-minded individuals. You deserve to get your nonprofit off to a great start. 

Nonprofit Registration Requirements

Registering a nonprofit in Kentucky follows most of the steps in forming a corporation, which means you must submit articles of incorporation, fashion bylaws to govern your operations and appoint a board of directors. Your nonprofit’s name must also be unique and registered with the Secretary of State (SOS). You can search if your favored name is available on Kentucky’s online business name database.  

Note that your name should be followed by “incorporated,” “corporation,” “company,” “inc.,” or “co.” However, if “company” or “co.” is used, it cannot be preceded by either “and” or “&.” 

Steps to Take in Forming Your Nonprofit 

The name of your nonprofit is just the starting point. A lot of legal steps then need to be taken, and the guidance and assistance of an experienced nonprofit formation attorney will prove essential. I can certainly help you every step of the way. After securing your unique name, here are the steps to take: 

PREPARE AND FILE ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION: Once you have your company’s name established, you should file for incorporation with the Secretary of State’s office. The state provides a form for doing this. On the form, you must list the name of your nonprofit, what its goals and purpose are, and who will be the registered agent (next section). Proving your nonprofit’s purpose is also vital—see “Write the Articles of Incorporation” below. 

NAME A KENTUCKY REGISTERED AGENT: This can be you or an associate, but the person must be at least 18 years of age and available during normal business hours. The person must also reside in Kentucky and maintain a residence here. The representative will field lawsuits and other actions taken against or on behalf of the organization. 

RECRUIT BOARD MEMBERS: You will need at least three individuals to serve on your Board of Directors. In addition, you will need to appoint a president and secretary as the officers of the company. The directors and officers will establish priorities for the nonprofit, as well as make sure the plans and programs being launched will benefit the nonprofit’s cause. 

WRITE THE ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION: The directors and officers of the entity will help write the Articles of Incorporation. The articles will have to meet IRS requirements for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. This means that the articles affirm that: 

  • Your company’s activities qualify it for tax-exempt status 

  • Your entity will not engage in prohibited political or legislative activity 

  • You have a dissolution of assets clause to transfer your assets to another nonprofit should you decide to dissolve yours 

PREPARE BYLAWS FOR THE CORPORATION: Kentucky law requires that you create bylaws to guide how the directors and officers should act. Provisions should include how board meetings will be held, how elections for directors and officers will be held, and also specify other formalities to be observed. 

HOLD A MEETING OF THE BOARD: At the first meeting of the Board of Directors, a vote should be taken to approve the bylaws, and officers should be appointed. The meeting should also establish an accounting period and tax year, as well as approve the first transactions of the nonprofit, including the establishment of a bank account. 

REGISTER WITH THE IRS AND STATE FOR NONPROFIT STATUS: This can be done earlier, but it must be done to enjoy tax-free status. The IRS provides two forms for doing this: IRS Form 1023, “Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code,” and Form 1023-EZ, which is for smaller nonprofits.  Once you have your federal exemption, then you can apply for state authorization as well. 

OBTAIN AN EMPLOYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBER AND NEEDED LICENSES AND PERMITS: You will need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS in order to submit any tax returns, which are required. You may also need to obtain a business license and/or permits to operate in the location where you intend to domicile. 

SUBMIT ANNUAL REPORTS: A nonprofit is required annually to file a report on contributions it has solicited, which is known as IRS Form 990. However, this form will likely not be available at the beginning of operations, so the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s website advises:

“If a charitable organization is newly formed and a Form 990 has not yet been filed with the Internal Revenue Service, a notice of intent to solicit, in a form prescribed pursuant to administrative regulations promulgated by the Attorney General, shall be filed prior to any solicitation.” 

Take Your First Steps Forward 

If you believe in a cause and are willing to work for it, a nonprofit organization can certainly propel and promulgate your vision for the good to be done. If you’re in or around Louisville, Kentucky, you can rely on me to help you get everything started and moving in the right direction.

Reach out to me with all your ideas to advance the well-being of the Commonwealth and its citizens. Contact me at Chris Sanders Law PLLC. I will be more than happy to work with you.