Starting a nonprofit organization in Illinois can be a rewarding experience, but it requires careful planning and preparation. In this guide, we will take you through the step-by-step process of starting a nonprofit in Illinois.

Starting a Nonprofit in Illinois: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Determine the Mission and Vision of Your Nonprofit

The first step to starting a nonprofit in Illinois is to determine the mission and vision of your organization. Your mission statement should clearly state the purpose of your nonprofit and the activities it will undertake to achieve its mission. Your vision statement should describe the long-term goals and aspirations of your organization.

Some questions to consider when developing your mission and vision include:

  • What problem or need in your community do you want to address?
  • What are your organization’s core values?
  • What unique assets or skills can your organization bring to the table?

Step 2: Choose a Name and Structure for Your Nonprofit

Once you have established the mission and vision of your nonprofit, the next step is to choose a name and structure for your organization. You can choose to incorporate your nonprofit as a:

  • Corporation
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Unincorporated Association
  • Trust

To incorporate your nonprofit as a corporation or LLC, you will need to file articles of incorporation or organization with the Illinois Secretary of State. You will also need to draft bylaws that outline the governance structure and operating procedures of your nonprofit.

When choosing a name for your nonprofit, you will need to ensure that it is available and complies with Illinois naming guidelines. You can search for available names on the Illinois Secretary of State’s website.

Step 3: Obtain Tax-Exempt Status

To receive tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you will need to file Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption, or Form 1023-EZ, Streamlined Application for Recognition of Exemption, with the IRS.

To qualify for tax-exempt status, your nonprofit must meet certain requirements, including:

  • Being organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes
  • Not distributing profits to its members, shareholders, or directors
  • Not engaging in substantial lobbying or political activities

Once you have received tax-exempt status from the IRS, you will need to file Form IL-1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption, with the Illinois Department of Revenue to receive state tax-exempt status.

Step 4: Register with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office

Nonprofits in Illinois are required to register with the Attorney General’s Office. You will need to file Form AG990-IL, Charitable Organization Annual Report, and pay a registration fee. The annual report is due each year by the 15th day of the fifth month after the end of your organization’s fiscal year.

Step 5: Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits

Depending on the activities of your nonprofit, you may need to obtain certain licenses and permits from the state or local government. Some examples of licenses and permits that nonprofits may need include:

  • Charitable solicitation registration
  • Business license
  • Professional license (e.g., for a nonprofit law firm)

Be sure to research the specific requirements for your nonprofit’s activities to ensure that you are in compliance with all necessary regulations.

Step 6: Develop a Fundraising Plan

As a nonprofit organization, fundraising is a critical part of your operations. You will need to develop a fundraising plan that outlines your strategies for raising funds, such as:

  • Grant applications
  • Individual donations
  • Corporate sponsorships
  • Fundraising events

When developing your fundraising plan, be sure to consider your target audience, messaging, and budget.

Step 7: Establish Financial and Accounting Procedures

As a nonprofit organization, you will need to establish financial and accounting procedures to ensure that you are operating in a transparent and responsible manner. Some best practices for financial management and accounting for nonprofits include:

  • Keeping detailed records of all income and expenses
  • Conducting annual audits or reviews
  • Establishing internal controls to prevent fraud and errors
  • Ensuring that board members and staff are trained in financial management

Step 8: Recruit and Train Board Members and Staff

Your nonprofit’s board of directors plays a critical role in setting the organization’s strategic direction and ensuring that it is fulfilling its mission. When recruiting board members, consider factors such as their skills, experience, and connections.

You will also need to train your board members and staff on your organization’s mission, governance structure, and operations. This can include providing orientation sessions, ongoing training, and access to resources and tools.


Starting a nonprofit in Illinois can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By following these steps and seeking guidance from experts, you can establish a successful nonprofit organization that makes a positive impact in your community.


Sure, here are three popular FAQs with corresponding answers for “Starting a Nonprofit in Illinois: A Step-by-Step Guide”:

Q: What are the minimum requirements for starting a nonprofit in Illinois?
A: In order to start a nonprofit in Illinois, you must have at least one incorporator who is 18 years or older, a unique name for your nonprofit that is not already in use, and a registered agent who has a physical address in Illinois. Additionally, you will need to file Articles of Incorporation with the Illinois Secretary of State, pay a fee, and obtain tax-exempt status from the IRS.

Q: How long does it take to start a nonprofit in Illinois?
A: The timeline for starting a nonprofit in Illinois can vary depending on a number of factors, such as how long it takes to gather all necessary information and submit the required paperwork. Generally, it can take several weeks to several months to complete the process of forming a nonprofit and receiving tax-exempt status from the IRS.

Q: What are some resources available to help me start a nonprofit in Illinois?
A: There are several resources available to help you start a nonprofit in Illinois, including the Illinois Secretary of State’s website, which provides detailed information on the steps required to form a nonprofit. Additionally, you may want to consult with an attorney or accountant who has experience working with nonprofit organizations, or seek out local nonprofit organizations or community groups that may be able to offer guidance and support.