Nonprofit Resource Center Bookshelf, with Sarkey's Foundation plaque. directional sign for circulating nonprofit collection on the left.

Are You Ready to Start a Nonprofit?

Launching and sustaining a successful nonprofit organization requires careful planning, hard work, and compliance with a number of legal requirements. Start with these resources to determine if a nonprofit is right for you.

Starting a 501(c)(3) Organization by the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits
Starting a 501(c)(3) Organization by the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits is an indispensable resource for starting a nonprofit organization in Oklahoma. This guide explains the legal requirements for obtaining tax-exempt status and operating as a 501(c)(3). It also discusses the benefits and drawbacks of incorporation, and outlines the steps required to successfully launch and sustain a 501(c)(3) organization. Keep this guide on-hand for helpful definitions, links to required forms, and a tax-exemption checklist.

Candid Learning: Starting a Nonprofit 
Includes a variety of articles, podcasts, and webinars designed to help guide new nonprofits toward success.

Build Your Nonprofit's Foundation

Successful nonprofits are built on a strong foundation. Tulsa City-County Library offers specialized resources to help you understand the needs of your community, draft a compelling mission statement, and write a solid business plan.

Demographics Now 
DemographicsNow provides users with access to robust and highly detailed U.S. demographic data, and is an ideal tool for conducting a needs analysis before starting a nonprofit. Find similar nonprofit organizations in your area, learn more about your community through custom demographic reports, and analyze the needs of a given population.

Gale Small Business Builder 
Gale Small Business Builder is a robust, dynamic online planning tool to help aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs plan, start, and optimize a small business or nonprofit. Use the nonprofit planning module to determine if you are ready to start a nonprofit, draft your mission statement, locate legal forms, and write a detailed business plan.

Small Business Reference Center 
Small Business Reference Center is a first-stop resource for nonprofits. This database includes sample business plans, industry information, legal guides, startup resources by state, and more.

Topic Guides

Alternatives to Starting a Nonprofit

Starting a nonprofit organization is akin to starting a small business; it requires considerable planning, knowledge, financial resources, and dedication. (Candid Learning's article, entitled How do I start a nonprofit organizationis a great introduction to this topic.) There are several alternatives to starting your own nonprofit that will enable you to serve your community, and can also help you build the skills and make the connections you will need to start your own nonprofit later. 


Volunteer work is a great "foot in the door" for those with little or no work experience in the social sector. It can also be a good way to discover new interests, and to determine if the nonprofit sector is right for you. Find volunteer opportunities in Tulsa through Volunteer Tulsa, Volunteer Match, and Idealist.    

Work for a nonprofit

If you want to serve your community but need a steady salary, working for an established nonprofit organization may be a great option; it will provide you with valuable experience in the social sector, and may prepare you to serve your community later in your career through working with a fiscal sponsor.  Find current job postings on the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Job Board

Apply for a fiscal sponsorship

If you have well-developed and workable project that you would like to bring to your community, a fiscal sponsorship may be a good option. A fiscal sponsorship is a formal arrangement between an individual or group and a 501(c)(3). Under this arrangement, an existing public charity sponsors a nonexempt project, which in turn allows the project's founders to apply for grants and solicit charitable donations. It is important that your proposed project be well-researched before you approach an existing 501(c)(3) about a fiscal sponsorship. Visit Candid Learning's Fiscal Sponsorship topic page to learn more.

Tax-Exempt Status for Federally Recognized Tribes

Can a federally recognized tribe qualify as a charitable organization exempt from taxation under IRC section 501(c)(3)?

A federally recognized tribe that exercises sovereign powers generally will not qualify for exemption as a charitable organization under IRC section 501(c)(3) because the exercise of sovereign powers is not a charitable purpose as defined by IRC section 501(c)(3). IRC section 501(c)(3) describes a charitable organization as one that is organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or the for prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

A tribe may choose to create, through separate organizing documents, an entity separate from the tribe that does not have sovereign powers and that is organized exclusively for purposes as described under IRC section 501(c)(3). This type of entity will generally qualify for exemption from taxation on its earnings from charitable activities. Application for IRS determination of IRC section 501(c)(3) exemption is made on Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. An exempt organization created in this manner will be subject to the same reporting requirements as any other taxpayer exempt under IRC section 501(c)(3). Though its income from those activities for which it obtained its IRC section 501(c)(3) exemption is exempt from Federal income tax, income from unrelated business activities (activities not directly related to its exempt purpose) is not exempt and is subject to income tax. More information about qualifying for exemption under section 501(c)(3) as an exempt organization can be found in Publication 557, Tax-Exempt Status For Your Organization. Information regarding unrelated business income can be found in Publication 598, Tax on Unrelated Business Income of Exempt Organizations. Additional assistance in completing Form 1023 can be obtained by visiting the Charities and Nonprofits page. 

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