High school is the perfect place for students to learn and transfer easily into young adults. This is the best way for them to see the dynamics of the real world without all the stress that is equipped with it. In high school students should ideally be trying out new things to prepare them for what is to come. We’re going to guide you through how to start a nonprofit in high school. 

One of the best ways to prepare a student for something they can expect in the real world is through a non-profit volunteer organization at school. There are many ways that volunteering can be beneficial to students, one being helping with their resumes and/or applications. Though this can be a difficult project for a student, so don’t be afraid to ask for guidance! We also have a guide that will help you with starting your own charitable organization.

Why Start a Non-Profit Organization in High School?

The option to create non-profit organizations for high school students is incredibly beneficial. There are multiple reasons why nonprofits started by high school students can be beneficial. 

First, there is always a lesson to be learned, and some students will learn a different skill set that a classroom cannot teach. Some other benefits that come with starting their own nonprofit organization are to learn how to lead, learn how to be part of a team, and emulate people you admire.

Types of Non-Profit Organizations You Can Start in High School

At this point, you need to focus your goals on what you want to achieve out of this startup. There are a few different types of organizations that you can start in high school, so let’s go over the types you should consider.

Work Under An Umbrella Organization

When you sign up to run an organization when that has already been created, then you are joining an umbrella organization. The organization had already been created and registered, you would be helping bring in more business to the organization. 

Since all the heavy lifting would be done, your main purpose is to marshal financial donations and resources to that umbrella organization.

how to start a nonprofit in high school

Start Your Own Organization

This option is for strong-willed and dedicated students. You will be essentially starting your own organization from the ground up. Starting a new nonprofit can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible! To create your own private foundation you will need to hold a bank account, accept donations, and potentially hire a staff.

If you decide to start your own organization it will be essentially like you are starting your own business, which comes with a lot of responsibility.

How to Start a Non-Profit in High School: A Full 3-Step Guide to Umbrella Organizations

There are a few different options you can look into when you are trying to start your own nonprofit. We’re going to guide you through each one and give optimal suggestions on the best way to achieve extracurricular goals, as well as develop your college admissions gratification. Now let’s dive into how to start a nonprofit as a teenager.

Start a Club at Your High School

Starting your own club is something that you can challenge yourself to take on in high school. Your high school can efficiently be posed as your umbrella organization. The potential nonprofit that you want to start will thrive in a school based on the fact that you will have a place to host meetings and functions. 

Plus you will be able to easily develop your club with students that are interested in helping with the organization that you are trying to put together.

Operate Under a Larger Nonprofit Organization

When you operate under someone else’s organization, it gives you the opportunity to use their legal assets while still achieving the goal you want. Typically you are brought on through a partnership and become a subset of their company.

Like a nonprofit, learning how to start a charity in high school is another route you can take. Take the idea to your principal or teachers and learn how to start a charity as a teenager. They are there to help you and give you the opportunities to create something more for your extracurricular activities. 

Find a Community or Company Organization to be Your Sponsor

Just like using the high school when you seek another community or company organization, you will be utilizing their space for meetings and events. Not only will you be able to use the provided space, but you will also have their support. This is also beneficial because you will have a direct outlet to the community that has already been established.

How to start a nonprofit as a high schooler: A 7-step guide to start your own organization

Search Non-Profit Startup Resources

This is one of the ways to ensure that your non-profit organization has a strong foundation. Take the time to understand how the specific resources operate and you will have success with your own organization.

Pick Your Non-Profits Name

Picking a name for your organization is important, but also fun! There are tools you can use to ensure that the name you come up with is unique to you. This is your chance to be creative and figure out a name that represents your organization and its mission.

Appoint a Board of Directors

Appointing a board of directors from the get-go is important because you’ll need guidance when drafting bylaws for your organization. Your board doesn’t have to consist of a large group of people. Its intention is just to create an infrastructure that will provide support, and answer any questions you might have.

File the Incorporation in Your State

With the research you completed in step one and the help of your board of directors, you’ll want to file to make your incorporation real. There are websites that you can find through your state to file such documents properly.

Apply for Tax-Exempt Status

This may take a little bit more of your time, and is a more constructive process. Please make sure to follow all the guidelines necessary when completing this step.

Open a Bank Account for Your Organization

It’s important to open a bank for your organization because this is where all your sponsorship money will reside. To open a bank account means that you have the required documents classifying that your organization is real. Here are the specific documents that you will need; your federal tax identification number for the entity, the articles of incorporation, the bylaws, or a signed operating agreement.

Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits

The only reason you’d have to worry about obtaining licenses and permits is if you were hiring employees or selling products. Which in your case shouldn’t be applicable; however, in the off chance that it is, please apply for the appropriate documentation.

non profit ideas for highschool students

5 Nonprofit Ideas for High School Students

There are a few ways that high school students can start their own nonprofit organization. Not only will it help them with advancing in the real world, but it will also be something they can add to their college application. Have a hard time figuring out what kind of organization you want to start? Here are 5 nonprofit ideas. (Some are even found off social media!)

Food Recovery Network

Originally the student that launched this organization had the idea to take the unwanted/ leftover food from the school and give it out to homeless shelters. Since then his idea has expanded to more schools and even restaurants as well.

Building Tomorrow

A student from the College of William and Mary started an organization to improve educational facilities in Uganda. They’ve already built over 7 schools and have 8 more planned.


CollegeSpring is one nonprofit aiming to level the playing field by giving SAT prep and college counseling to low-income students.

Beauty Gap

The founder of Beauty Gap noticed little African girls were playing will European dolls. She found this unfortunate and imperialistic. Therefore she created Beauty Gap where she aims to provide dolls of color “to promote the affirmation of every child’s God-given features in a world where they are not usually celebrated.”

Kicking 4 Hunger

The ideology behind this organization is if you want to partake in the soccer tournament then you donate food rather than paying money. This then turns around and is distributed to all the people who don’t know when their next meal is coming to them. 

Key takeaways on student nonprofit organizations in high school

In conclusion, starting your own non-profit organization or adding your brilliance to an existing one isn’t impossible. It will take a lot of hard work, but any student can prove themselves and get the job done. If you are looking for a way to improve your resume or college application, then think outside the box. Create a better world for you and everyone living in it.


Yes! You certainly can start a nonprofit without any money. Your money or donations will come in from your experienced advertising.

Still, if you've been accepted, some schools might follow up with a formal acceptance letter via mail. This might arrive a few weeks after you've been notified of their admission offer. 

If you file online for your Articles of Incorporation and Initial Report, the process takes 1-3 days. Your tax-exempt status with the IRS will take the longest to arrive. You can expect a determination letter anywhere from one to six months after filing.

The student portal is where you can review information about financial aid, housing, and enrollment, including submitting your enrollment fee as an official acceptance of their admission offer. 

Most of the money for programs is raised locally, often from individual or corporate donations and special events. Very little of the money comes from government agencies or fees.

It will definitely make you stand out in the application process! Working your way up through the ranks of an established organization shows the same dedication and leadership that colleges look for, and is also much more likely to create lasting change.