Starting a Non-Profit? Important Steps To Take.


Are YOU:

  • Contemplating forming a nonprofit organization or a not for profit foundation?
  • Considering qualifying as a 501(c)3 charity? 501 (c)4? 501(c)5? 501(c)6? 501(c)7? Other 501(c)?
  • Not sure about the requirements?

Thinking woman in front of blackboard with question marksLet’s explore a few steps you need to take and a few resources that you may find useful. Depending on the exact nature of your non-profit and the state, in which it is formed, some things may or may not apply to you. This post primarily addresses California entities, however, you can research the corresponding agency in your state. For example, every state has a Secretary of State Business Portal. That might be your first stop.

A few documents you can obtain and even prepare on your own, and others, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer to help with. Regardless of whether you do it yourself or seek guidance, please know that legal documents should be prepared VERY carefully. They are not always as simple as they appear.

One thing you should know, if you are forming a not-for-profit in California, there are rules and regulations from four (4) governmental agencies, which you MUST comply with, as well as the operational business entity requirements. The government agencies are: California Franchise Tax BoardAttorney GeneralSecretary of State, and the Internal Revenue Service.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself, regarding your non profit:

  • What is the purpose of your non-profit?
  • What type of business entity will you have? Pure non-profit? Charity? Trade Association? Advocacy group? If in California, will it be a low-profit limited liability company (L3C)? or a hybrid social enterprise (e.g., Benefit Corporation, Flexible Purpose)
  • Regardless of the type of entity, you will need corporate documents. The following is a short list of things you will need:
    • Articles of incorporation or association
    • Bylaws or Operating Agreement if it is an LLC or L3C
    • If a corporation, Action of Sole Incorporator
    • Board of Directors
    • Minutes and Consents

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

Self esteem and courage



Self esteem comes from having the courage to make tough choices, even if they’re unpopular. People pleasing is deadly! 

How easy it is to follow suit, to be a part of the status quo, to subjugate your beliefs, your values, and your feelings–all in the name of fitting in and being liked. Most people want to be liked.  I am no different. I want people to say nice things about me, think I’m cool, and want to be with me.  And like many people, I’ve spent my life trying to fit in–to my detriment.  Through the grace of God, and a lot of work over the past 30 years, I’m in a place within myself where  my opinion of me matters more than your opinion of me.

There are always opportunities to work through our need to people please–whether we’re at home with family, or at work, at play with friends, or in the community, we’ll always be given the choice to people please or not.  Sometimes it’s a hard choice, because there are many more benefits to playing the ‘fit-in” game.   Not the least of which, we are touted as good team players, and told how gracious and unselfish we are.  And, if we see “selfish” as a bad word, then we’ll do anything not to be perceived as selfish.  No doubt, there are times when it’s good to put others’ needs above ours—but not when it happens ALL the time, nor when it comes at the price of real self love.  The payoff to not acquiescing is self esteem!

I currently sit on a number of non-profit boards, and recently I was, once again, tested–should I keep my mouth closed or speak up.  I chose to speak up, and the outcome may cost me a seat on the board over the long-term. It’s a choice I chose to make.

When I sit on a board, while I am not the “lawyer” for the association, I do bring with me my collective experience, derived from my business, professional, personal, and legal background.  As a good board member I recognize I have several key duties: duty of care and the duty of loyalty. 

The duty of loyalty states that I do not do anything that would be perceived as harming the organization (e.g., conflicts, taking opportunities that otherwise belong to the group).

The duty of care requires that before making any decision, which impacts the board or the organization, I am reasonably and thoroughly informed.  This duty is easy to talk about, but often hard to do—as we witnessed the Enron, Arthur Anderson, and other board members who did not speak up when the signs were clear.  While we like to think we are above it, even adults fear emotional and physical reprisal.   Why?  Because we want to be liked.  I see it in everyday life where we are afraid to speak up about a bad decision, inappropriate behavior, an injustice, gossip, and defects of character for fear of not being accepted.  Teenage girls do it, teen boys do it, and the truth is, they learn from watching their adult role models choose status quo over authenticity. 

When I sit on a board, I bring to the table an exuberance, a zest, a passion, and a broad scope of experience: legal and non-legal.  I recently noted the need for discussion regarding legal issues and board service.  In a somewhat kind and roundabout way, it was suggested that there is no need for anything more than what is being done.  What was also suggested is that I should leave these matters to the proper people.  Subtly I was told that I’m not the board lawyer, and that no one wants to hear me talk only about legal issues.  While I do appreciate the need to have a broad perspective on the board (which I do), I have spent the last 24 years in the legal arena, so my antenna is alerted to legal issues.  I could have chosen to keep quiet.  I did not.  Once I choose to shine a light on an issue, I then must decide if the battle is one I want to fight.  In this case it was not.  Regardless of the outcome, for me the important thing was having the courage to speak up. That is an Esteemable Act!

Until next time, be true to yourself–just for today!