By Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS
Starting a non-profit organization to support your school.
You’re reading through a list of potential school grants and you can’t help but notice how many of the opportunities are for “501(c)3 organizations”. 501(c)3 is an IRS designation that applies to what we know as “non-profits.” Yes, your public school is not-for-profit but it is also considered a government entity, city, or town. This bumps you off the gravy train that many grants provide only to non-profit organizations.
OK, so, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. This is a lengthy and somewhat complicated task but it is doable. You might challenge your PTA to help you pull it all together. You’ve heard of “friends of the xyz school” or other “friends of” groups. This is their purpose, to be a non-profit so they are eligible for foundation and corporate grants.
I’ve distilled the process to eight basic steps. Make sure your school principal is totally on board with this idea. Some of the filing requirements may cost money; she may need to help you with that. It’s not as simple as the list I’ve provided below. You will need to find a way to maintain the organization once it’s set up. This is the hard part. It needs to have a dedicated board of directors, passionate about helping to make your efforts a reality.
1. Pick a name.
Pick a unique name, you can check ideas with your state’s corporation office. It needs to identify itself as a corporation, or LLC, or other business designation. i.e. “Friends of the Smith School, LLC.”
2. File articles of incorporation.
You must file articles of incorporation with the state's corporate filing office. They can send you a nonprofit formation package; it will include required information to move forward.
3. Apply for an IRS tax exemption.
Submit a federal 501(c)(3) tax exemption application to the IRS (along with a copy of your filed articles) and IRS package 1023. Your organization may quality for a Form 1023-EZ depending on the size of your organization. There is an eligibility worksheet you can use on the IRS website - see if this easier form is for you. This is more complex than it sounds, and you might want to consult your school district’s attorney for her help. There may also be a small fee.
4. In some states, you may need to apply for a state tax exemption.
Contact your state tax agency to find out what steps you must take and if you are required to file a state application. In some states, having the federal permissions automatically produces a state designation.
5. Draft bylaws (harder than it sounds; consult a lawyer?)
The bylaws are the internal governing rules and procedures for holding meetings, voting on issues, and electing directors and officers. Bylaws may be adopted by the corporation's directors at their first board meeting.
6. Appoint directors.
Directors make the major policy and financial decisions for the nonprofit. Some states let you have just one director, others require at least three. Tip: Invite people for their passion, not their perceived status in the community – you want your non-profit to last, and you’ll need worker bees. You’ll be wise to invite at least one director with experience, too.
7. Hold a meeting of the board.
At this first meeting, directors take care of formalities like adopting bylaws, electing officers, and recording the receipt of federal and state tax exemptions. Identify a secretary to keep records of all meeting activities and keep the minutes.
This process is not for the faint of heart, but some schools find it is very profitable in the end. Here are some resources to help you along the way.
SCORE – Service Corps of Retired Executives, free advice.
Form a Non-Profit Online – Legalzoom – fee based service.
Non-Profits For Dummies (more steps)
MySchoolGrantsm is a complete grant search tool that is manually updated and checked for accuracy. It includes federal grants, state grants, corporate grants, and grant alerts.
Discount School Supply has the lowest prices on school supplies and equipment for early childhood educators, caregivers, and parents of young children.
Let us know if your school has adopted this course of action, and tell us how it’s working out for you.
The following grant opportunities are from our Free Grant Search Database MySchoolGrantsm
Institute of Museum and Library Services; The Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program supports projects to recruit and educate the next generation of librarians, faculty, and library leaders; and to support early career research. It also assists in the professional development of librarians and library staff. The primary goal of this grant program is to develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the library and archives workforce to meet the information needs of the nation.
Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other.
$50,000.00 - $500,000.00
1800 M Street NW, 9th Floor Washington, DC 20036-5802
W.K. Kellogg Foundation Educated Kid Grant: To ensure that all children get the development and education they need as a foundation for independence and success, we seek opportunities to invest in early child development (ages zero to eight), leading to reading proficiency by third grade, high school graduation, and pathways to meaningful employment.
$5,000,000.00 - $75,000.00
One Michigan Avenue East Battle Creek, MI 49017-4012
Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Other.
Program Areas: Early Childhood, Reading