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Thinking of Forming a Non-Profit? booklet (English and Spanish)

Thinking of Forming a Non-Profit?







See the Center's Selected First Stop Links for additional resources

New Jersey - NonProfit Information Center

State of NJ Nonprofit Information Center

IRS - Exemption Requirements for 501(c)(3) Organizations

National Council of Nonprofits - How to Start a Nonprofit

Pro Bono Partnership: On-Demand Webinar- "Starting a Nonprofit" Workshops

NJ Division of Taxation - Starting a Nonprofit Organization in New Jersey: Questions and Answers


Forming a Non-Profit



Forming a new organization can be an important and fulfilling means of meeting a public need.  However, sustaining a successful non-profit is a challenging undertaking under the best of circumstances, and it may not always be necessary or appropriate to start a new group. Before deciding whether to proceed, you'll want to have a full understanding of what is required and the various alternatives to non-profit start-up that could accomplish your goals.

BEFORE you begin the legal process in New Jersey:

  • Read carefully the Center's "Thinking of Forming a Non-Profit?" booklet (available in English & Spanish). Also see the New Jersey Division of Taxation web page, "Starting a Non-Profit in New Jersey: Questions and Answers."
  • Have a clear idea of the problem you want to solve.
  • View Pro Bono Partnership's on-demand Webinar - "Starting a Nonprofit"
  • Do some thorough research to find what organizations exist that already work on the problem you want to solve. What activities do they do? What efforts have succeeded / failed in addressing my focus area? Can you partner with them, perhaps conduct a project within their existing framework?
  • Identify the resources you have to create a viable organization - finances, skills, time, access to supporters, etc.
  • Consider whether your cause would be best served by contributing to or working with an existing organization since that will save you the time and money needed to establish a separate organization.

Not in New Jersey? If you are thinking of forming an organization outside New Jersey, you may want to contact one of the other state associations that is part of the National Council of Nonprofits network for more information on your state regulations.

The Center's Legal Assistance Services are being phased out as of March, 2014. However, we encourage you to review our selected "First Stop" web resources for non-profits.

A Brief Outline of the Incorporation/Tax Exemption Process

To incorporate your organization as a non-profit in New Jersey, you must file a Certificate of Incorporation with the NJ Department of the Treasury, Division of Revenue. You can expect to pay $115 for this, which includes the filing fee, expedited service (to speed up the turnaround time for filing your Certificate), and the return of a certified, stamped copy of your certificate for your files.

On the federal level, the IRS will want more information in your organizational documents than is required by the State of New Jersey for state-level non-profit status. Therefore, the State forms alone are not sufficient if you want to pursue federal tax-exemption from the IRS. You will also need to develop by-laws and have them adopted by your Board of Trustees. You will also need:

  • SS-4 - Employer Identification Number
  • Form 1023 - Application for Recognition of Exemption (if seeking tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3); Form 1024 for other types of exempt organizations)
  • Publication 557 - Tax-exempt Status for Your Organization

These and other IRS forms commonly used by exempt organizations are available online from the IRS Web site at The IRS site also provides important information about a wide variety of tax-exempt topics

The Form 1023 is the application that is filed to request recognition from the IRS as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3). The filing fee depends on your organization's gross receipts for the next four years. Effective January 3, 2010, the fee is $400 (if your average will not be more than $10,000) or $850 (if your average gross receipts will exceed $10,000). Once your form is submitted, expect a turnaround of 3-4 months for the IRS to process your application.

There are also a number of reporting requirements that must be adhered to after your organization is up and running.

For more information about some common State of New Jersey and IRS filings, also see: