Yesterday we filed for Florida nonprofit incorporation status. It was both more and less painful that I had imagined. We had read multiple articles/book chapters/web pages about incorporating in Florida. We constructed a very nice set of articles of incorporation according to Florida corporate law, and then we found that to register online we must hugely condense them to fit in a largely outdated web form that has strict character limits. It costs about ~$70 to register as a business in Florida and our status is still pending.
Now, we have to obtain an EIN (employer identification number) and begin the long trek to nonprofit status through the federal IRS. The EIN can be done quickly, but we are awaiting the approval letter for our LLC nonprofit for reasons sited in the above link. The latter can take months and currently costs either $275 or $600. The good news is that we are almost guaranteed to qualify and any donations received while we are engaged in a good faith initiative to gain nonprofit status are tax deductible.
Beware of internet sites and businesses offering to do these things for you. For most people, you can figure out how to file your articles of incorporation yourself. Consulting a corporate law attorney may be advantageous, but will costs you on the order of a ~$1000. DO NOT PAY SOMEONE TO CREATE AN EIN FOR YOU. This is a free service offered by the IRS.
Similarly, you can pay a tax attorney to fill out the nonprofit forms for you. I don't really advise this either. You have 27 months from the date of incorporation to qualify. The IRS will work with you on this whether you have a tax attorney or not and they will be helpful (currently 1 - 2 - 4 after dialing the relevant number).
All of this is important to us because our eventual goal is to create and grow an endowment that will allow all students to attend our private school for free or only a nominal tuition fee (our goals is around ~$100 dollars per month per student). Public and private schools generally expend between $10,000-20,000 per pupil per year to educate a high school student and some spend considerably more. We want every student to have access to the highest quality education possible and we very much intend to provide a level of quality that has never before been seen.
As a secondary thought, when we begin to see donations and grant money we want a full accounting of expenditures immediately available for all donors on our website in a breakdown that is easy to parse. This way they can see precisely how their money is spent and how it is improving the lives of children.
For instance, I have a very thorough education in using modern scientific equipment like a UV/VIS spectrophotometer, an IR spectrophotometer, an NMR, and many other potentially expensive, but useful pieces of equipment (pictured below in the reverse order). These pieces of equipment can be found in any chemistry or physics lab in the world today and cost between $1,000 (for a great deal on a UV vis) and $50,000 dollars (for most bench top NMRS). These have great utility in a chemistry class, a physics class, and even a biology class, but obviously, they don't come for free. Moreover, having instruments like this on hand allows for students to be able to do scientific research at a high level and eventually publish this research.