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Nonprofits in Massachusetts: regulation and resources

St. Francis of Assisi didn’t need to incorporate a nonprofit when he found himself at the head of an emerging religious order.

To be sure, even in medieval times there were ecclesiastical hoops to jump through for groups seeking to do good works without making a profit. But the forms of corporate organization have vastly evolved since Francis’s day.

In this post, we will discuss some of the resources in Massachusetts for setting up and governing a nonprofit organization

Given the importance of making sure your organization is properly structured, it makes sense to consult an attorney when setting up a nonprofit. Legal counsel can also be helpful with ongoing compliance with nonprofit requirements. To learn more, visit our page on nonprofit organizations.

In terms of setting up your nonprofit, the applicable government agency will be the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Corporations Division. Like for-profit companies, there are legal forms and filings that must be attended to in order to create a legally recognized nonprofit organization

Of course, to create and maintain such an organization, you will need to be aware not only of requirements under Massachusetts state law. You will also need to be aware of IRS guidelines on tax-exempt organizations. More information about that is available from the IRS here.

Once your nonprofit is up and running, the responsibility for oversight within state government falls to the Non-Profit Organizations / Public Charities Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

The Division’s role in regulating nonprofits includes several components. In the interest of transparency, it receives and publishes reports and forms that have been filed. But it also investigates allegations of breach of fiduciary duty relating to nonprofits.

Source:, "The Non-Profit Organizations / Public Charities Division," Accessed March 19, 2014

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