Organizing Documents and Required Filings
All legal entities (nonprofit or for profit) are defined by their original Articles of Incorporation.
According to http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Articles+of+Incorporation these are:
Articles of incorporation, sometimes called a certificate of incorporation, must set forth certain information as mandated by statute. Although laws vary from state to state, the purposes of the corporation and the rights and liabilities of shareholders and directors are typical provisions required in the document. Official forms are prescribed in many states.
Once the articles of incorporation are filed with the secretary of state, corporate existence begins. In some jurisdictions, a formal certificate of incorporation attached to a duplicate of the articles must be issued to the applicant before the business will be given legal status as a corporation.
In the case of the nonprofit corporation there are no owners. Essentially, the community the organization serves under the mission and purpose stated in the Articles is the owner, and the Board of Directors (or Trustees) is entrusted with ensuring that mission and purpose. Therefore, the Articles of a nonprofit organization must contain a dissolution clause, which states (an example from www.irs.gov/publications/p557/ar02.html):
In addition to the Articles of Incorporation organizations must adopt bylaws as defined by http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/bylaws:
It is especially important that nonprofit organizations (due to the nature of volunteer board leadership) review, understand and formally adopt their bylaws on an annual basis. This will be covered more in the principles and practices of leadership.
While the annual filings of resorts and corporations follow regular base business practices, nonprofit organizations have unique annual filing requirements, which vary from state to state. For more information on what nonprofits are required to file on an annual basis see: http://www.councilofnonprofits.org/annual-filings
If you are starting a new nonprofit organization or you want to be sure you have everything in place see: http://www.councilofnonprofits.org/resources/how-start-nonprofit