Twenty-one Steps to Organizing a School Foundation

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence
Oklahoma School Foundations Network

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Twenty-one Steps to Organizing a School Foundation

A Resource Guide from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence

  1. Research and summarize information regarding existing school foundations. Pay particular attention to foundations in your region of the state and those with school districts of similar size and demographics. Talk to organizers and current officers of those foundations.
  2. Call the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence office for additional materials and information on the annual Fall Forum and regional trainings. Find out about the Council of Presidents of Local Education Foundations and how resource people identified by the Council can assist.
  3. Become familiar with the provisions of Title 70, Section 5-145 of the Oklahoma Statutes relating to school foundations. (noted at the end of this document)
  4. Assess community, school board, and school district administration interest in starting a school foundation.
  5. Identify individuals (generally 7 to 9 in number) in the community who are committed to the concept of an endowment to benefit public education. Ask them to be the steering committee to set up the organization. Include civic and business leaders, parents, school district leadership, a teacher, minority representatives, and an attorney and accountant who are familiar with 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. It is helpful to have the editor or publisher of the local newspaper.
  6. Invite enthusiastic veteran board members and administrators from existing foundations to talk with the steering committee.
  7. Convene the steering committee to:
    a) review material and plan the organization,
    b) determine the general mission and goals of the organization, and
    c) identify the prospective board of trustees that will carry out the mission and goals.

  8. Draft preliminary articles of incorporation and bylaws. Try to keep bylaws simple and open-ended. Additions and changes may be accomplished through corporate resolutions. Examples of bylaws and articles of incorporation can be found on this site.
  9. File a request for incorporation as a non-profit organization with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. You will also need to file your articles of incorporation completed in the previous step. There is a $25 filing fee. The phone number is 405/522-4560.
  10. File Federal Form SS-4 to obtain a Federal Identification Number from the Federal Government.** This Federal ID number needs to be obtained early in the process, as it will be needed for many of the next steps.
  11. Select a nominating committee from the steering committee members to nominate the board of directors. In many cases, the non-school affiliated members of the steering committee can be part of the new, expanded board. Consider a board of 11 to 21 members. Be careful to spell out completely the duties of board members when asking prospects to become part of the board.
  12. Hold an organizational meeting of the steering committee to elect the board of directors and officers. Ratify the mission and approve the bylaws and initial budget. Appoint someone to record the minutes from this organizational meeting.
  13. File Federal Form #1023 with the Internal Revenue Service to apply for 501(c)(3) status within fifteen months of incorporating. ** This form requires a three year operating budget and a board of directors. Temporary exemption (advance ruling) will be received from the IRS. After the advance ruling period, additional information will be requested by the IRS to grant a permanent exemption status. These papers must be maintained in a permanent file.
  14. Set up financial records including controls over donor records and financial reporting standards to the board and community. Ask the accountant to set up a chart of accounts, the general ledger and journals, and draft a set of financial statements. Set up a receipt system to comply with new IRS contribution reporting requirements for 501(c)(3) organizations. Determine if audit will be by an outside firm or an internal audit committee. If possible, it is preferable to have an outside audit.
  15. Additional filings that an Oklahoma non-profit must make are an annual financial report with the Oklahoma Tax Commission and a Form 990 with the IRS at the end of the fiscal year in lieu of an income tax form.
  16. Determine responsibilities and assign work to board members and committees. Consider an executive director or staff person to perform necessary functions that free board members to be more effective in soliciting community support. Develop a reporting system.
  17. Begin detailed planning for program development and fund raising.
  18. Inform the community of the foundation's existence, goals and needs.
  19. Begin fund raising campaign and foundation programs.
  20. Be sure to carefully plan and follow through on each segment. Don't be in a rush.


**Additional information on the Forms to be filed with the IRS to obtain your 501(c)(3) status:

  1. Forms may be obtained from your local IRS office. If you live in a community with no local office, you may call the IRS Telephone Assistance number at 1-800-829-3676.
  2. Forms you will need include:
  • Package 1023 — Application for Recognition of Exemption, contains Form 1023 and Form 872-C
  • Publication 557 — Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization
  • Form SS-4 — Application for Employer Identification Number
  • Publication 1635 — Understanding Your EIN
  • Form 8718 — User Fee for Exempt Organization-Determination Letter Request
  • IRS Notice 844 — Explanation sheet for above forms
  1. The processing of your request for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) may be expedited if you fax your completed form to 1-512-462-7823. This number is applicable for residents of Oklahoma.
  2. A local lawyer or accountant who has expertise in filing these forms will be an excellent addition to your steering committee and will greatly help you in completing these forms.