Sometimes goodhearted people find an “unmet” need or a needed service, and start a business.
That’s all well and good–after all, if you or I can make a living helping to provide something others want and can pay for, one could say the needs of everyone are met, and a sort of sweet and simple private market response is the result.
But sometimes, due to economic distortions, barriers to entry, lack of capital by those in need, and for any number of other reasons, the “private market response” is found wanting.
Then, there is a good chance a non-profit organization or association of  some kind will emerge.  It is in  this realm that confusion may abound, and counsel can be important.
For instance, under Michigan general corporation law, any proper purpose can be a reason to form a profit oriented corporation.  But under Michigan non-profit corporate law, the purpose (reason for existence) of the corporation must be spelled out with some detail.  Confusing those two different types of corporations and the organizational documents needed to launch either one, trips people up.  And this can create a mess later.
There are also additional concerns in regards to non-profits and their initial organization and their operations.
First, most non-profits of any size at all, if they are a robust organization, will likely be chasing funds, or grants or donations–or all of the above.  Here some critical thinking is required.  Will there be a need to register with the state to solicit funds?  Will a professional fundraiser be used?  Are charity events like charity gaming and such, contemplated? How big will the organization’s budget grow and how quickly? There are state rules and requirements and registrations for these sorts of concerns.
Second, at the federal level, many non-profits hope to be registered as an exempt organization under IRS rules.  People often call these 501 (c) (3) organizations. If that is to be pursued, extra care in developing the organizational documents for the non-profit corporation (the articles of incorporation and the bylaws) is required.  Why?  Because what is  sufficient to  create a valid Michigan non-profit corporation is not “good enough” standing alone, to also qualify the non-profit as an exempt  organization in  the eyes of the IRS.
Trying to pull all this together, takes experience and some time and patience and thinking. Sometimes the very types of folks who are great at seeing an unmet need–the folks who are often mission driven–are not savvy to the rules and regulations surrounding non-profits. It is important, if they don’t want egg on their face going down the road, that they attend to this properly–and not be cobbling together explanations later on.
I don’t recommend any of the legal paperwork websites which imply they can zoom you through a process for a modest fee.  Rather, there are some organizations or universities that offer some help, and there is information available on state and federal websites too.
Or better yet, focus on your mission and the unmet needs and what you do best, and leave the organizational documents and registries to a decent attorney or law firm with experience in the field already such as ours. We have extensive experience both in the formation of a non-profit and in the ongoing legal needs of a non-profit.   And make sure too, that you keep good financial records–again, perhaps, with the help of a good accountant, at least initially, to get you started on the up and up.
Check out these state websites to learn more:,4601,7-154-35299_61343_35413_35426-120068–,00.html,4601,7-154-35299_61343_35413-270656–,00.html,4534,7-164-17337_18095—,00.html
But see these federal websites too:
A few groups that may be able to help in getting you going are: