Getting Started 101: Forming Your Organization

What You'll Learn

Whether you are in the early stages of forming a nonprofit or are already running a nonprofit organization, this is the place to start. This skills course gives an overview of the fundamental considerations for starting a nonprofit, the basic laws that a nonprofit organization must understand and comply with, and the foundational skills you need to properly form a nonprofit and manage its legal and compliance obligations.

Lesson 1

How to Start a Faith-Based Nonprofit: Toolkit Phase One

The Napa Legal Nonprofit Toolkit identifies and explains, in plain English, the steps needed to establish a faith-based nonprofit, including legal creation and federal tax-exemption. The objective of the toolkit is to clearly articulate the path to successfully establishing a faith-based nonprofit, so that those who wish to fill a need in their community through a nonprofit program or entity are empowered to do so.

Lesson 2

Steps to Success for Faith-Based Organizations: Part I

If you are interested in forming a faith-based nonprofit or seeking to ensure your existing nonprofit is following best practices and legal requirements, this webinar is for you. This two-part webinar helps nonprofit leaders, attorneys, and other supporters of religious organizations understand the key steps to starting and operating a faith-based nonprofit in compliance with the law. In this first segment, you will learn about corporate governance and how it will help your organization achieve its mission. This webinar is brought to you by Napa Legal and the Good Counselor Project and is particularly recommended for Good Counselor Project participants. ‍ ‍

Lesson 3

Why a Religious Corporation?

This whitepaper examines some of the reasons why nonprofit organizations in California that are animated by Catholic values and/or formed to engage in apostolic endeavors should consider incorporating as Nonprofit Religious Corporations, even if such organizations are not directly tied to the hierarchy or a religious order. Before determining the appropriate form of corporation for your organization, you should consult with an attorney who is licensed in California and familiar with nonprofit corporate law.

Lesson 4

The Faith & Freedom Index

The Faith and Freedom Index scores state laws that affect faith-based, federally tax-exempt nonprofits. State scores are based on consistent benchmarks, and, therefore, the underlying state laws can be compared. The benchmarks measure each state’s “friendliness” to religious freedom and regulatory freedom for nonprofits. This Index is similar to popular surveys ranking states that are the most business-friendly, the best for retirement, or the best for raising a family.

Lesson 5

Bylaws: Context & Clarifications

Developing bylaws can be one of the more overwhelming tasks a nonprofit leader faces, whether it’s writing them for the first time or making necessary amendments. Napa Legal’s resources will help make this complicated process painless. You will find answers to key questions such as what strategic considerations apply to each section, what language should be used, and how the standards in your bylaws become legally binding for your organization.

Lesson 6

Charitable Registration and the Faith-Based Nonprofit

Most states regulate nonprofits’ fundraising activities through charitable solicitation registration requirements. Basically, this means that in order to fundraise in a state, you need to fill out an application and be approved to solicit or receive funds within that state. Some states have exemptions to these requirements. This toolkit walks your organization through the charitable registration process across the 50 states.

Lesson 7

Multi-State Compliance Matrix

Containing tax information, charitable registration statute details, and additional facts on local regulations, the multi-state matrix hosts all of the relevant information specifically for faith-based nonprofit activity. Understanding and acting on these rules and regulations is essential for any nonprofit’s operation; Napa Legal has made it possible to access all of this information in one place. Whether you are a total newcomer to nonprofit law or an experienced lawyer doing research, this resource is for you.

Lesson 8

Nonprofit State and Federal Filing Requirements for 501(c)(3)s

Is your 501(c)(3) nonprofit complying with its regular filing requirements? Are you incurring penalties for late filing? Has your tax-exempt status been revoked? Read on for an overview of the filing requirements necessary to maintain or regain - a nonprofit’s tax-exempt status under federal law.

Lesson 9

Creating a Compliance Calendar

Using a compliance calendar can minimize the risk of fines and penalties associated with missed or late filings and have a measurable impact on an organization’s efficient functioning, financial bottom line, and reputation.

Lesson 10


Complete and well-organized corporate records are important both for efficient organizational performance and for legal compliance. This blog post walks through the basics of best practices for organizational recordkeeping.

Lesson 11

Trademark Basics

This blog post walks your organization through trademark basics. Nonprofits, just like commercial corporations, have names, symbols and designs that identify the nonprofit as the source of a good or service. These identifying words, phrases, logos, and designs are trademarks.

Lesson 12

Insurance Options for Nonprofits

While the first line of protection from liability is exercising best practices, holding adequate insurance is essential for any organization as a fail-safe when human error occurs. This blog post walks your organization through insurance options and why they matter.

Lesson 13

What Nonprofit Organizations Need to Know About the Corporate Transparency Act

Faith-based nonprofits may be subject to new reporting requirements under a new disclosure rule. On September 29, 2022, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued a final rule implementing the Corporate Transparency Act’s (“CTA”) beneficial ownership information reporting provisions. As discussed below, for purposes of the CTA, a nonprofit’s beneficial owners aren’t just “owners” in the colloquial sense. The term includes people of influence over the organization, such as donors, directors, and possibly even staff. The CTA’s purpose is to counter illicit use of the U.S. financial system. This blog walks you through the basics of the CTA.

Lesson 14