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Apply for certification as a Non-Profit Organization

Attending a non-profit pre-certification workshop will help you decide whether your organization may be eligible for certification and the documents you must provide.
When SDO staff members review your application they are verifying that you and your organization meet the criteria spelled out in Massachusetts laws and regulations.

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The Details

What you need

Online Non-Profit Pre-Certification Workshop

Read the information below to learn about SDO Non-Profit Organization (NPO) certification. After reviewing this information, you may complete the online application and submit supporting documents.

Is your organization eligible?

To be eligible for certification, your organization must meet the following requirements:-

  • Your organization must be a tax-exempt non-profit.
  • At least 51% of the organization's Board of Directors and Voting Membership must be women and/or members of a minority group or of Portuguese descent.
  • The same Board of Directors and Voting Membership must control the NPO's daily and long-term operations.
  • Your NPO must be regularly and actively engaged in business activity.
  • Your NPO cannot be dependent upon or influenced by another non-eligible person or organization.

An organization is not eligible for certification if it has been established or reorganized for the specific purpose of participating in the SDO certification program.

What does it mean to be a tax-exempt non-profit?

To qualify for NPO certification, your organization must be tax-exempt under 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) of the United States Internal Revenue Code. This designation must have been filed for and granted prior to seeking certification.

Your NPO also must be in good standing with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office/Division of Public Charities and the Massachusetts Secretary of State's Office.

How do you determine if your non-profit’s Board of Directors/Trustees and Voting Membership are eligible?

At least 51% of the Directors/Trustees must be women and/or members of a minority group or of Portuguese descent. If there is a voting membership entitled to elect Directors/Trustees, at least 51% of the voting membership must be women and/or members of a minority group or of Portuguese descent.

Directors/Trustees and Voting Membership must be:

  • At least 18 years old;

  • A citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States; and

  • Women and/or person(s) of a minority group or of Portuguese descent.

Qualifying minority groups include:

  • American Indian or Native American: persons having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who are recognized as an Indian by a tribe or tribal organization.
  • Asian: persons having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian sub-continent, or the Pacific Islands, including, but not limited to China, Japan, Korea, Samoa, India, and the Philippine Islands.
  • Black: persons having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa, including, but not limited to, African-Americans, and all persons having origins in any of the original peoples of the Cape Verdean Islands.
  • Eskimo or Aleut: persons having origins in any of the peoples of Northern Canada, Greenland, Alaska, and Eastern Siberia.
  • Hispanic: persons having origins in any of the Spanish-speaking peoples of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central or South America, or the Caribbean Islands.

Note that Portuguese is a separate group for the purpose of NPO certification, and includes persons having Portuguese origin.

What type of NPO certification may you obtain?

The following table details the type of NPO certification you may pursue, based on the makeup of the NPO's Board of Directors and Voting Membership.

If your Board and
Voting Membership is:
You may apply for:

Minority Male

Non-Minority Women

Minority Women

Portuguese Male

Portuguese Women






What does it mean to "control" a non-profit?

The women, minority and/or Portuguese, Directors/Trustees of the NPO must hold dominant control over daily and long-term decisions. These decisions may include policy and financial planning issues, as examples. The minority, women, and/or Portuguese, Directors/Trustees must set and oversee standards for day-to-day control of the organization. These conditions should be included in your NPO's corporate documents.

How does the SDO determine if a non-profit is "ongoing"?

You must give evidence that your organization:

  • Is regularly and actively engaged in business;

  • Has an office and /or other space that matches the type of services your non-profit offers;

  • Uses equipment and other resources that are independently owned or leased;

  • Has marketing activity, and/or a revenue stream; and

  • Owns or leases resources that are typical for an organization of its type.

Note: While there are no requirements that a non-profit has been in business for a certain period of time or has earned a minimum amount of money to apply for NPO certification, potential business activity is not normally enough evidence to meet the ongoing requirement. Also, without control of the eligible Directors/Trustees over the day-to-day activities, it would be hard to show that the NPO is "ongoing" within the meaning of the regulations.

If the non-profit is newly incorporated, it must be able to demonstrate that it is an ongoing concern in the service area in which it requests certification.

What does it mean that a non-profit must be "independent"?

Independent means that the non-profit does not need a relationship with any other non-eligible person or organization to complete its work or survive. It also means that the non-profit is not influenced or pressured by a non-eligible person or organization to perform the business activity of the organization.

You have finished the online Non-profit Workshop.

How to apply

The application and required documents will be available once you create an account to apply online Register and login.



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