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Learn How to Form a Maryland Nonprofit Corporation

Here are the steps you need to follow to form a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation in Maryland.

While we don’t support nonprofit corporation formations at this time, we can create your Maryland LLCs and other corporation types. Get started below.

This guide aims to demystify the process with an easy-to-follow roadmap that helps you get your nonprofit corporation up and running.

Step 1: Select initial directors

At least one initial director is needed to start a nonprofit in Maryland. Ideally, the board should consist of five to seven unrelated members, who will be responsible for the organization’s finances and legal compliance.

Step 2: Choose a name

Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from any other business entities on record in Maryland. It also needs to include one of the following terms:

You can check the name’s availability online at the Maryland Department of Assessments & Taxation website. There is a $25 fee to reserve a name, which can prevent someone else from taking it before you’ve filed your Articles of Incorporation.

If you want a website for your nonprofit, search for available names at any domain registrar. ZenBusiness offers a domain registration service that can handle this step for you.

Step 3: Choose a Maryland resident agent

You’ll need to choose a resident agent before you can file for incorporation in Maryland. (This is called a registered agent in most other states.) A resident agent is a person who receives service of process on behalf of your nonprofit in the event of a lawsuit, subpoena, audit, or other legal or governmental notices. Your resident agent must be an adult resident of Maryland, a Maryland corporation, or a Maryland limited liability company.

Although it’s possible to serve as your own resident agent, doing so comes with a few downsides:

Hiring a registered agent service is a good option for nonprofit founders. The service will receive legal correspondence on your behalf, giving you one less thing to worry about in your nonprofit’s early stages.

Step 4: File Articles of Incorporation with Maryland

To register your nonprofit corporation in Maryland, you’ll need to file Articles of Incorporation with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT). The document must include:

Step 5: Create corporate bylaws

Bylaws serve as a guide to your nonprofit’s operations and typically include information about how important decisions are made in the corporation. You will need to include a copy of these bylaws with your Maryland state tax exemption application.

Step 6: Hold an organizational meeting for the board of directors

At your organization’s first board of directors meeting, you should:

Step 7: Get tax ID numbers

A federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) is used to identify your nonprofit for tax purposes. You’ll need one to file for tax-exempt status. You can apply for an EIN on the IRS website or have ZenBusiness’s EIN service do this for you.

Step 8: Apply for all necessary licenses and permits

The state of Maryland doesn’t require any one specific license for all nonprofits. However, you may need certain licenses or permits depending on the work your organization does and where in the state it’s located. There is no central place to check which federal, state, or local licenses you might be required to have. It’s your responsibility to find out which licenses you’ll need. ZenBusiness also offers a business license report service that can determine this for you.

Step 9: Apply for tax-exempt status

You will need to file Form 1023 with the IRS in order to get tax-exempt status. This form includes detailed questions about your nonprofit and its operations, provisions, organizational structure, and financial arrangements between directors and employees. Nonprofits with less than $50,000 in projected annual gross receipts and less than $250,000 in assets can usually file Form 1023-EZ. This form is shorter.

Once you’ve received tax exemption from the IRS, you can apply for an exemption from Maryland state taxes with the Comptroller of the Treasury. You’ll need to submit the following information to the Legal Department of the Revenue Administration Division:

Step 10: Register as a charity with the state

If you solicit donations in Maryland, you’re required to register as a charitable organization. This is done through the Charitable Organizations Division at the Office of the Secretary of the State. If the nonprofit’s raised funds total less than $25,000, you only need to file the Exempt Organization Fund-Raising Notice form.

Step 11: Acquire insurance for your nonprofit

Your nonprofit may be required to get certain types of insurance depending on the type of business it does, among other factors. Although charities are immune from certain kinds of liability under Maryland law, you can further protect your nonprofit. This is done with a directors and officers liability policy. You should contact a qualified insurance agent to fully understand what coverage your organization requires.

Step 12: Open a bank account

Once you’ve obtained an EIN, you can use it to open a business bank account for your nonprofit corporation. Many banks offer special benefits to nonprofits, including waived monthly service charges, low minimum balance requirements, and no limits on currency deposits.

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At ZenBusiness, we are proud to support small businesses through a variety of different tools and services. Whether you need a registered agent service or are 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.

Maryland Nonprofit FAQ

  • Can the founder of a Maryland nonprofit receive a salary?

    The founder of a nonprofit can pay themselves a reasonable salary for work that they do while running the organization. What’s considered reasonable depends on a few factors. These include the nonprofit’s budget, the founder’s job description, hours worked, and compensation averages for similar positions in your area.

  • How much does it cost to start a nonprofit corporation in Maryland?

    It costs $170 to file Articles of Incorporation in Maryland ($150 plus $20 Organization and Capitalization fee). Filing Form 1023 with the IRS for tax-exempt status costs $600 or $275 for the shortened Form 1023-EZ.

  • What happens if a Maryland nonprofit makes money?

    Despite the name, nonprofits are allowed to make a profit. This profit can pay for office rent, bills, equipment, and other operating costs.

  • What kinds of businesses can be a nonprofit in Maryland?

    To be considered a nonprofit, a business must have a purpose to advance or achieve a mission that benefits the public in some way. Examples of this include environmental cleanup, disease prevention, and humanitarian aid.

  • Can Maryland nonprofits sell products?

    Nonprofits may sell goods and services in order to further their organization’s goals. A nonprofit earning more than $1,000 from activities unrelated to the organization may be subject to an unrelated business tax from the IRS.

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