CHARITABLE OHIO

Starting and Maintaining a Charity in Ohio

Planning Your Charity

Before starting a charity, it is important to do some research and develop a plan. Some of the more common reasons organizations dissolve are that they were unable to maintain board members or had funding difficulties. With over 62,000 organizations active in Ohio, you may want to see if you can accomplish your goals by working with an existing organization. 

If you decide to start a charity in Ohio, there are a number of government agencies your organization may interact with, including:

Ohio Secretary of State

  • Receives and approves articles of incorporation for Ohio business entities
  • Approves and keeps a registry of business names, trademarks, service marks, fictitious names, names and addresses of statutory agents, incorporators’ names, corporations’ charter numbers, and dates of incorporation
Planning your Charitable Organization

Internal Revenue Service

  • Issues Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Reviews and makes decisions on applications for tax exempt status
  • Requires annual filings from tax-exempt organizations

Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section

  • Registers and reviews charitable organizations/organizations soliciting for a charitable purpose
  • Requires annual reports from registered organizations

Please keep in mind that there may be additional licensing, tax and reporting requirements. You may want to contact your city or county government to see if there are additional requirements.

How to Start a Charity

If you have decided to start a new charity, there are a number of steps you should take to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations that could potentially apply to your organization. A common first step is to determine the most appropriate legal form for your charity (e.g., nonprofit corporation, unincorporated nonprofit association, etc.). Since each situation is different, you may need to consult with tax and legal professionals to discuss your specific circumstances before starting your charity.

  1. File Articles of Incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State
    If you have determined that you wish to incorporate your charity as a nonprofit corporation, you must file Initial Articles of Incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State; see Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Chapter 1702. Unincorporated nonprofit associations may have different filing requirements; see ORC 1745. When filing Articles of Incorporation, your organization must provide its purpose. Ohio nonprofit corporations must also name and maintain a statutory agent who can accept written communications on behalf of the nonprofit corporation. Additional requirements can be found in the Ohio Secretary of State’s Start a Nonprofit Organization in Ohio guide. For more information, visit the Ohio Secretary of State website or call the secretary of state's office toll-free at 877-767-6446.
  2. Obtain an EIN and apply for tax exempt status with the IRS
    You will likely need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS. Also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, an organization’s EIN is like an individual’s social security number and is required for many business activities. Many charities also choose to seek 501(c)(3) status, which means your organization is exempt from federal tax and is eligible to receive tax deductible donations. Should you wish to obtain tax exempt status, your organization must first apply for and receive an EIN. Please note that aside from a few exceptions, a charity is not automatically exempt from federal income tax. Only the IRS is able to determine if an entity is tax exempt. For more information, visit the IRS website or call the IRS toll-free at 877-829-5500.
  3. Register with the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section
    Ohio charities and organizations soliciting for a charitable purpose in Ohio are required to register with the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section using the online registration system. Organizations are required to register regardless of tax-exempt status. During registration your organization will be required to submit its creating documents and the Federal Tax Exemption Determination Letter. If your organization has not received its tax-exempt status, or does not plan to apply for tax exempt status, you are required to submit the Affirmation of IRS Status Form. Questions asked during the registration process can be viewed on the Ohio Attorney General’s website. For more information, call toll-free at 800-282-0515 or send an email to CharitableRegistration@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.

How to Keep Your Charity in Compliance

File A Certificate of Continued Existence with the Ohio Secretary of State

If your organization is incorporated as a nonprofit corporation, it must at all times maintain a current Statutory Agent. Nonprofit corporations must also file a Statement of Continued Existence every five years. These requirements are set forth in ORC Chapter 1702. You will want to check with the Ohio Secretary of State to see what forms may be required to file for your organization.

For more information, visit the Ohio Secretary of State’s website or call the secretary of state's office toll-free at 877-767-6446.

File 990s with the IRS

Generally, tax-exempt organizations are required to annually file Form 990 series returns with the IRS. The specific form you must use is dependent upon your organization’s gross income and total assets. You will want to check with the IRS or private legal counsel to verify which form may be required for your organization. If your organization has employees and/or unrelated business income, you may need to file additional returns.

For more information, visit the IRS website or call the IRS toll-free at 877-829-5500.

File Annual Reports with the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section

All organizations required to register with the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section are required to file annual reports. The annual reports are due at the same time you file with the IRS.

Questions asked on the annual report can be found on the Ohio Attorney General’s website. For more information, call toll-free at 800-282-0515 or send an email to CharitableRegistration@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.

Closing a Charity in Ohio

If your organization is no longer able to operate or would like to close, please review Closing a Charity in Ohio for additional information.

CONTACT

Charitable Law Section
150 E. Gay St., 23rd Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: 800-282-0515
Fax: 877-690-1814
Email: CharitableRegistration@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov