How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation--a Book Review

Paperwork for nonprofit incorporation.
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Some books are simply classics in their fields.

One of those is Anthony Mancuso's How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation: A Step-by-Step Guide to Forming a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit in Any State.

An attorney with many years of experience in corporate law and charitable work, Mancuso has developed a book that is a great place to start for anyone contemplating starting a nonprofit.

Now in its 12th edition (2015, Nolo Press), Mancuso's book provides step-by-step instructions for filing in your state as a nonprofit corporation and then guides you through the intricacies of filing with the IRS for your tax-exempt status.

Not every charitable nonprofit does incorporate or files for 501(c)(3) tax exemption. But most do for some very compelling reasons

What I particularly like about this book is the extended introduction to the subject of nonprofit status before getting into incorporation. Many people don't have a clear idea of what a nonprofit is and how it is different from a for-profit business.  Mancuso clears all of that up.

The first five chapters cover:

  • Is Nonprofit Incorporation right for you?
  • Legal Rights and Duties of Incorporators, Directors, Officers, etc.
  • Requirements for 501(c)(3) Tax Exemption
  • Public Charities and Private Foundations
  • Tax Benefits and Reporting Requirements

These chapters will help you decide if you even want to pursue nonprofit status. They lay out the differences between a nonprofit organization and a for-profit one, and the benefits and the disadvantages of going nonprofit. You will learn about public charities and private foundations, and what you must do to qualify as a public charity.

Next, the book takes you through the process of incorporating your nonprofit at the state level. It discusses everything from choosing a name for your organization to filing your articles of incorporation to preparing your bylaws.

Mancuso then skillfully guides you through the application for your Federal 501(c)(3) tax exemption.

You'll learn about IRS Form 1023, how to fill out the forms, and what to expect from the IRS.

All of this is done in a way that most of us, who are not lawyers, can understand and follow. There are also lots of sidebars that give interesting information and tips, making the book visually attractive and even more helpful.

The book comes with a CD with lots of forms ranging from sample bylaws to checklists. What I particularly like is that you have access to an actual form 1023 which you can then experiment with until you get it just right. These forms are on paper as well at the back of the book.

Even if you have no intention of doing all of this paperwork yourself, this book is a winner. You will be an informed participant when you seek out an attorney and/or an accountant to help you.

This book is specific to forming a 501(c)(3) organization. There are many types of nonprofits that fit into other IRS categories. If you don't know where you fit, this book may help you figure that out.

If you are not sure where to start, you will want to get this book. Even after you get through your filings, you will return many times and use How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation as a reference.