Once you have decided on the proper entity type for your social enterprise, the next thing you need to do is file the proper paperwork with the proper authorities to begin the process. The best place to start is your state’s Secretary of State office. You can find their contact information here.
Register Your Name (State): Find the form your state requires to register the name of your social enterprise. Your state likely has a database you can search through to ensure that you are not registering a duplicate company name. You can generally do this step first.
Articles of Incorporation (State): Find the form your state requires for submitting your articles of incorporation. This is generally a short form and requires the name of the corporation, the address of the principle place of business, the purpose of the corporation, and the contact information for the agent for service of process, and a signature. The California forms are available here.
Employer Identification Number (Federal): An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit number assigned by the IRS used to identify operating businesses – it may also be referred to as a Federal Tax Identification Number. Your EIN will allow you to apply for federal tax exemption status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. EINs do not expire. You can obtain an EIN for free through the IRS by mail, fax, toll-free phone, or online submission. Click here to read more on how to apply, or download FormSS-4 right now.
Bylaws (State): The Bylaws is the document that governs how the corporation is to be run. This includes expectations of members, how the board of directors will be assembled and what their duties are, how meetings will be organized, and how stock is issued. The Startup Garage has sample corporate bylaws.
Annual/Biennial Statements (State, Federal): You will need to file tax documents with both the IRS and the state, and possibly with your county. Your tax specifics will depend on what type of business entity you have selected for your social enterprise.