Nonprofit Rules, Laws and Regulations


Running a nonprofit organization can be a daunting task. There are a number of rules, laws, and regulations that you need to be aware of in order to ensure your nonprofit is operating within the boundaries of the law. In this article, we will provide an overview of some of the most important nonprofit policy, rules, laws, and regulations for your nonprofit.


Nonprofit Incorporation Requirements

In order to incorporate as a nonprofit organization, you will need to file the appropriate paperwork with your state government. Each state has different requirements for nonprofit incorporation, so it is important to consult with an attorney or advisor familiar with the nonprofit incorporation process in your state.

One requirement that is generally consistent across all states is that your nonprofit must have a specific purpose that is consistent with state and federal laws. This purpose must be stated in your Articles of Incorporation. Once your nonprofit is incorporated, you will also need to obtain a federal tax-exempt status in order to further support and define your activities as a nonprofit organization.


Tax-Exempt Status

One of the most important decisions you will make in this process is whether or not your nonprofit will obtain and earn a tax-exempt status from the IRS. The tax-exempt status (typically 501(c)3) allows your nonprofit to claim exemption from federal income taxes. It also allows those who donate to your nonprofit to deduct their donations from their own tax filings, so it is a critical exemption to consider. To file, you will need to complete an application for tax-exempt status with the IRS. The application process can be complex, so it is important to consult with an attorney or accountant familiar with the process.

Once you have obtained tax-exempt status, you will be required to file annual reports with the IRS detailing the income and expenses of your nonprofit. You will also be required to comply with a number of other rules and regulations, including those related to any political activities, fundraising, and annual reporting.


Regulations about Political Activities

One of the most important nonprofit regulations is the prohibition of political activities. Nonprofit organizations are not allowed to participate in any political campaign activity, including endorsing or opposing candidates for office, making donations to political campaigns, or engaging in any other type of political activity.

However, nonprofits are allowed to engage in some limited forms of advocating. For example, nonprofits are allowed to advocate for legislation that would further your charitable purpose.


Rules About Fundraising, Donations and Revenue

Another important set of nonprofit rules relates to fundraising, donations, and raising revenue. Nonprofits are required to use any funds raised for the purpose stated in your Articles of Incorporation. Funds that are not used for this purpose must be either returned to the donor or used for another nonprofit purpose.

Nonprofits are also required to disclose information about your fundraising activities and donations. For example, your nonprofit must provide potential donors with a disclosure statement that includes information about your fundraising activities and how donations will be used.


Annual Reporting Obligations

All nonprofits are required to file annual reports with the IRS detailing their income and expenses. Nonprofits are also required to file annual reports with the state government. These reports must be filed in a timely manner; failure to do so can result in significant penalties.


State Laws

In addition to federal nonprofit rules, laws, and regulations, it is crucial to be aware of the specific nonprofit rules, laws, and regulations applicable in your state. These state laws, including guidelines for writing your nonprofit bylaws, can vary significantly from one state to another. To ensure compliance and avoid any legal complications, seeking guidance from an attorney or accountant well-versed in nonprofit laws within your state is essential before establishing your nonprofit organization.



As you can see, running a nonprofit organization comes with a lot of rules, laws, and regulations. However, compliance with these rules is essential to maintaining your nonprofit status. Failure to comply with the nonprofit rules can result in significant penalties, including the loss of your tax-exempt status.