Set Up A 501(c)3 Non Profit Corporation
I keep getting asked to help people set up a non profit because I've done a couple.
I think lawyers try to make it sound more complicated than it really is. With a little focused expertise, you can get it done quickly and at a much more reasonable cost than hiring a lawyer (or trying to figure it out yourself).
It's really quite simple. I've done two so far and given this advice to about half a dozen others (those that carried though with it as outlined all got their 501(c)3 designations). The first one we did took 30 days (denhac, the Denver hackerspace) and the second one took 60 days (TinkerMill, the Longmont Makerspace).
We used the same process for both. It involves three steps:
1) create a Colorado (or whatever state you're in) non profit corporation. In Colorado, the cost is $50. You do it online here (Colorado's Secretary of State website, your state likely works in a similar way): http://goo.gl/c9qdZ2
2) hire this firm to do your paperwork: Floyd Green Financial Services (Atlanta, GA). Ask for Tina Mikova (firstname.lastname@example.org) tel. (877) 457-2550; direct line (678) 608-3911; They charge between $500 and $650 for everything. This person did both of our's and she's a pro. They want to be paid via credit card up front. Trust them and pay them. We did and got exactly what we paid for.
3) pay the IRS their one time fee. You now send in the paperwork Tina prepares for you and a check to the IRS for $850. Or $400 if you're doing less than $10K in revenue a year (for regular 501c3 applications). For those organizations that qualify for the expedited 501c3 application (f1023-EZ), the IRS filing fee is $275 if their projected gross income is of less than $50K.
So, total outlay, about $1000 low end, about $1400/1500 high end.
I would strongly recommend you not try to do this yourselves. Hire these guys. They got ours through the IRS with zero hassle. They've done thousands of 501(c)3's and know exactly what to do.
DISCLAIMER: I am getting NO referral fee's or any other remuneration of any kind from Floyd Green Financial Services. I just think they do really good work at a fair price, fast.