Thanks for your question...and for the desire to do some good in the world.
The main forms that you have to file to be recognized by the IRS as a
non-profit organization that is exempt from certain federal taxes can
be found on the IRS website at this link:
Tax Exempt Status for you Organization
The above publication is pretty comprehensive in terms of its
requirements and instructions, but you can see a bit of an overview
Application for Recognition of Exemption
As part of the process, you'll need to obtain from the IRS an Employer
Idenfication Number (EIN) even if you don't have any employees -- the
materials above will walk you through this process.
In addition to the IRS procedures, you will also have to file
appropriate organization papers in your state. This process differs
from state to state, of course, but generally involves creating an
organization charter and by-laws. If you'd like the specifics for a
particular state, just let me know which one, and I'll be glad to
provide more information.
A good overview of what you need to do, and think about, when starting
a non-profit is provided at this about.com site:
How to Start a Nonprofit
Note that at the bottom of the first part of the article is a link to
the rest of the article. Also, there are other articles listed on
this page that might be of interest to you, so be sure to have a good
Let me wish you the best of luck with your efforts. I trust the
information here fully answers your question. However, please don't
rate this answer until you have everything you need. If you would
like any additional information, just post a Request for Clarification
to let me know how I can assist you further, and I'm at your service.
All the best,
search strategy -- used bookmarks for non-profit links and the about.com site.