Nonprofit Operational Manual

Home Acknowledgements About NNNGO

Getting Started

We are excited that you are interested in starting a nonprofit. It is good to have an idea for changing society and do so by means of starting a nonprofit. We know that running a successful nonprofit comes with a lot of hard work and it is not an easy task. We do know that it is easy to start a nonprofit if you have a sound plan, excellent team and sufficient start-up funds.

If you are thinking of starting a nonprofit or already have one, here are some questions we think you should ask yourself:

  1. Do I/we really need to set up a nonprofit?
    1. What will our nonprofit do?
    2. Who will we be helping as a nonprofit?
  2. Are there alternatives we can explore to offer our help without starting a nonprofit?
  3. Do we have people who can lead and work for the organisation as board, staff, volunteers?
  4. Do we have all the information and understand all the regulatory obligations of a nonprofit?
  5. Can we reasonably comply with the regulatory requirements on formation and operation of nonprofits?
  6. How would we manage conflict of interests?
  7. What activities will you carry out?
  8. How long should we be in existence?
  9. What is the cost of running a nonprofit?
  10. Where will the money come from
  11. What will happen if your idea or nonprofit isn’t successful?

Your genuine answers to these questions will help guide your path to deciding whether you need to start a nonprofit or to consider alternatives on what value you can bring to the public, how you will obtain funding for your work, attract staff/volunteers, build your board and comply with laws that regulate nonprofit operations in the country.

Now that you have made up your mind, let us quickly tell you the basic steps to starting a nonprofit in Nigeria:

Determine the name of the organisation

A nonprofit is typically formed as an incorporated trustee. Having a name that reflects the vision and mission of the organisation is an invaluable asset. In Nigeria, an organisation registered under the Part C (soon to become Part F if and when the President assents to the new Companies and Allied Matters Act) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) can adopt a name if the name is not the same as or too similar to an existing name on the records of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), or if the name is not misleading to the public. You can do name search on the existing CAC database at and also reserve a name for 60 days. Care must be taken to ensure that the name does not infringe on another person’s trademark rights and while we know this is not always easy, experience from our work has shown that a simple Google search can be helpful.

Draft and file the articles of incorporation

An organisation is legally formed with the filling of an article of incorporation (constitution). See for standard clauses in a constitution. Appoint the board of trustees or directors Under Nigerian law, member of a nonprofit board are the incorporators of the organisation and are legally recognized as the “owners in trust” and may be composed of as few as 2 or 3 but we recommend a minimum of 7. These trustees should understand their duties and responsibilities to act with reasonable care and in the best interests of the organisation while providing direction and oversight over the organisation’s activities, finances, officers, and legal compliance. See for sample board roles and responsibilities.

Take initial board actions at a physical meeting, via teleconference or written consent.

In order to start the process of forming the organisation and incorporating it, the following initial board actions are necessary to be taken at a physical meeting or alternatively via teleconference or written consent:

File the initial registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission

Obtain Tax Identification Number (TIN)

Obtain Special Control on Money Laundering (SCUML) Certificate

Apply for the Federal Inland Revenue Service Tax Exemption Certificate.

Open a bank account