How to make a TNR non-profit org in New York State

Easily create a cat-related nonprofit in New York

We’re lucky that the majoritoy of TNR services in New York City are free, but that doesn’t let us off the hook that easy! To help out the world, I’ve put together a walkthrough on how to create a cat-related nonprofit in New York State.

I’m not a lawyer, this isn’t legal advice, etc etc. Keeping up a nonprofit definitely takes effort, but the additional grants and donations you can receive with 501©(3) status might make it worth it.

You should read this first, because it’s a more detailed version of what I’m talking about here. It’s about bylaws and board of directors and all of that. Since most TNR groups are all of 3 people or so, you probably don’t have to worry too much about the specifics.

In my notes below I add in a few notes specific to cat stuff.

Step 1. File 1511-F with the New York Dep’t of State

Registering with the state as a non-profit corporation is the first step, which you do by filling out Form 1511-F.

The first two blanks are the same - your organization name.

Under THIRD, you’ll check the last box and briefly explain what your nonprofit does. For example, Cat Republic’s is

The corporation is formed for the charitable purpose of aiding cats in need, through rescue, spay/neuter, outreach, and adoption. The corporation is not being formed for the purpose of being an Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

If you mention spay/neuter in your statement, you MUST include the phrase The corporation is not being formed for the purpose of being an Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I didn’t have it in there the first time and as a result got rejected.

For the rest:

  • You do not require state approval
  • You are (hopefully) a charitable organization
  • Fill in three board members (yes, you need three!) If you fax your document and get it expedited, the process is pretty quick.

Step 2. File 1023-EZ with the IRS for federal nonprofit approval

You used to need a million documents and lawyers and stuff to get federal approval for a nonprofit, but not any more! Hop on over to 1023-EZ - which you can fill out online - and you’ll be set.

Under Part IV, there are a couple options depending on where you think your money will primarily come from. You can read up on the “one third test” if you’d like to be studious about it.

It only took me about two weeks after submission to get this to get granted.

Step 3. Fundraising Approval for New York State

Now it’s back to the state: you’ll need to fill out CHAR410 to register as a charitable giving organization.

The CHAR410 requires a lot of documents, which you should have already as a result of your previous steps. This includes:

  • Certificate of Incorporation (the thing you filed with the state)
  • Bylaws (the rules you keep to yourself)
  • Completed IRS form 1023
  • IRS tax exemption document

I guess it isn’t that many documents, but your bylaws are probably like a dozen pages if you just adapted some stuff from the internet. Remember that mailing 20 pages in a normal envelope needs like 4 stamps!

Step 4. Opening a bank account

Get together your paperwork, head on down to the local bank, and you’ll be good to go! Definitely get something with free checking, and I recommend poking around to see if you can get a signup bonus. Even a little $$$ goes far in the cat rescue world!

Step 5. Get to work!

That’s about it, along with the obvious stuff like “keep really good records” and “make repeating calendar notifications for filing your annual financial statement.”

BONUS! Step 6. Register as a rescue

In order to be officially acknowledged as a rescue - not just a non-profit - you need to register with the Department of Agriculture and Markets. This requires filling out the Rescue Registry Application and sending in $100. You’ll also need a few documents:

  • Certified certificate of incorporation
  • Your organization’s bylaws
  • IRS tax exemption document

What’s being a rescue get you? Mostly you get to become a New Hope Partner of ACC, and pull animals from their at-risk list. You also might technically need to do it if you adopt out cats, as you also get a Pet Dealer waiver when you’re accepted.

If there’s anything else you think we should add, feel free to ask me at