You’ll need to complete several steps to start a Wisconsin nonprofit corporation, but we’ll explain how to file necessary documents with the state and apply for tax-exempt status. You’ll also find answers to frequently asked questions about registered agents, and licensing and permit processes. Follow the steps below to start your nonprofit.
Steps to form a Wisconsin Nonprofit Corporation
- Select the initial directors
- Choose a name
- Choose a registered agent
- File Articles of Incorporation
- Create corporate bylaws
- Hold an organizational meeting for the board of directors
- Tax ID numbers
- Apply for all licenses and permits in Wisconsin
- Apply for tax-exempt status
- Register as a charity with the state
- Open a bank account
Step 1: Select the initial directors
To set up a nonprofit corporation, you’ll need to select a board of at least three directors. They’ll oversee the operations and make important decisions about policies, finances, and projects. Directors can’t be related to each other by blood, adoption, or marriage. They don’t have to be from Wisconsin or work for the nonprofit as an employee.
Step 2: Choose a name
You can’t run your nonprofit until you have an official name reserved, so you’ll need to select a few names. Your name must not be similar to other Wisconsin business names and follow state guidelines. Once you have a list, run them through the Wisconsin state database to find out what’s available. When you have one, submit it to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions for approval. Name your nonprofit something related to the cause you’re working on so potential donors can easily determine what it does.
You can reserve your name with the state for up to 120 days for a fee, or you can have it expedited for an additional fee. If you don’t want to deal with downloading, filling out, then mailing forms – we offer a name reservation service that you can use to prevent someone else from claiming your nonprofit’s desired name and give you peace of mind.
Once you have that sorted out, pick your domain name and use our domain registration service to start working on creating your online presence.
Step 3: Choose a registered agent
For your nonprofit application to gain approval, you’ll need a registered agent on file with the state. The registered agent will accept documents from the state’s business formation agency and legal documents, such as subpoenas. They must maintain an address within the state where they can receive important documents and are available during standard business hours.
Use our registered agent service to save time and ensure that your nonprofit receives all of its documents and other communications.
Step 4: File Articles of Incorporation
To start your nonprofit, you’ll need to submit your Articles of Incorporation. The state of Wisconsin website has a template you can use specifically for nonprofits. When done, you can file them through the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. This agency can also help you submit information about your registered agent to ensure that the entity receives all correspondence.
You can file online or via mail. Once accepted, your nonprofit is official.
Step 5: Create corporate bylaws
To form your nonprofit in Wisconsin, you’ll need to set up corporate bylaws. These bylaws will explain how your nonprofit governs itself as well as how it handles issues involving employees and third parties.
Board members contribute to this process and help to create policies that enforce these bylaws. It’s important to consult with a business lawyer to make sure that your bylaws are legally compliant.
Step 6: Hold an organizational meeting for the board of directors
To form your nonprofit, you’ll need to set up an organizational meeting involving your board of directors, you must have at least three. This is when important documents, including tax-exemption applications and bank account filings, are presented. Keep in mind there are legal statutes about how meetings are organized.
During this meeting, you can elect individuals into various positions, such as president or treasurer. Unless your bylaws say otherwise, board members will serve for a term of one year. Decisions about bylaws and nonprofit objectives can also be put on the table for consideration.
After this meeting, your board must meet at least once a year.
Step 7: Tax ID numbers
Your nonprofit is required to have a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) assigned for tax purposes. When you’re ready, our service can help you get one.
You’ll also want to register with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue via their online portal for your state tax accounts. This is required for the government to correspond with your corporation about any regulations, owed taxes, or other issues regarding your tax-exempt status.
Step 8: Apply for all licenses and permits in Wisconsin
If your nonprofit performs services, sells products for charity, or participates in a government-regulated activity, you need to make sure it’s properly licensed. Since it’s difficult to know if you have all federal, state, and local licenses, ZenBusiness offers a license report service for your convenience.
Step 9: Apply for tax-exempt status
Nonprofit corporations in Wisconsin must typically apply for tax-exempt status with the State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue and the IRS. Nonprofits can start by applying for tax-exempt status, such as 501(c)(3). Fill out form 1023, there’s a long and short one. Fill out the best one for your nonprofit.
If approved, the IRS will send a Letter of Determination which can be used to apply for additional tax exemptions within the state. These documents can exempt you from income, sales, and property taxes, among others.
Step 10: Register as a charity with the state
Wisconsin maintains records of actively operating charities. To be listed as one, visit the State of Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions’ website for comprehensive information. Registration as a charity is required to operate your Wisconsin nonprofit if you have employees, are based outside the state, or solicit/receive more than $24,999 in contributions annually.
Depending on the particulars of your nonprofit, you might need an active insurance policy to remain in compliance with Wisconsin state regulations. Make sure that you have the proper amount of coverage to avoid legal liabilities or financial issues.
Step 11: Open a bank account
To accept donations and maintain your nonprofit, you need a bank account at a government-recognized financial institution. There are regulations concerning bank accounts and nonprofits, so you’ll need to keep up with any changes in the laws. Agents of your nonprofit should be aware of these regulations when they’re handling money for the nonprofit. Certain rules and record-keeping requirements may apply when making deposits, withdrawing money, and making payments or transfers to outside parties.
Ready to kick-start your business?
At ZenBusiness, we are proud to support small businesses through a variety of different tools and services. Whether you need a registered agent service, want to reserve a business name, or looking to register a domain, our goal is to help you stay on the road to success. Check out our services, and contact us today to see how we can help you grow your company.
Wisconsin Nonprofit Corporation FAQ
- Can the founder of a Wisconsin nonprofit receive a salary?
Founders of nonprofits are allowed to receive salaries or compensation for services they perform as long as they maintain an active role in the nonprofit’s operations.
- What happens if a nonprofit makes money in Wisconsin?
The funds can support its operations or pay reasonable salaries to staff members. A nonprofit might have to pay income tax if profits come from activities unrelated to its cause.
- What kinds of Wisconsin businesses can be nonprofit?
Both service and product-oriented businesses can be nonprofits. However, business activities must be legal, and the nonprofit has to be licensed to operate in its industry.
- Can nonprofits sell products in Wisconsin?
Nonprofits are allowed to sell products as long as they’re legally qualified and adhere to required quality and safety standards. You might need to pay income taxes if the product isn’t related to your cause or for charitable reasons.
Most Popular States to Form a Nonprofit
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