Seven Steps You Must Take BEFORE You Get An EIN For Your 501(c)(3) ein

Are you planning on starting your own Nonprofit in 2017?  If so, don’t apply for an EIN number first, like I did.

We received an early Christmas present from the IRS this year.  They sent us our letter certifying our ministry’s tax-exempt status!  I felt so excited and nervous that I had my wife open it and read it aloud to me.

Along the way, I did a few things right.  I also made a LOT of mistakes along the way. Yet somehow, we made it through. relievedOne of the biggest mistakes I made in setting up our non-profit was to start the process by applying for an Employee Identification Number (or EIN).  It was so easy!  It left me feeling the excitement that the dream of having our own mission agency was truly coming to pass!

However, a year later, I found out from our tax advisor that applying for an EIN number starts the countdown toward the month when you are required submit your 1023 Form to the IRS.  Also, from the day you obtain your EIN number, you are expected to submit forms 941 quarterly and 990 annually.  If you don’t know how to fill these out, or even that you must do so, there will be penalties to pay.

When I applied for an EIN number too early, I put in a lot of long hours in order to meet the deadline.

To cover myself, I must warn you that I am not a lawyer.  You should always consult a legal professional before taking a step as serious as establishing your own Nonprofit.

Despite the risk, I feel a sense of obligation to “give back” as others generously gave to me.  We started this Nonprofit on a shoestring budget.  I know what it’s like when finances are tight at the start, and how precious good advice can be.

To help you avoid some of the trouble and anxiety I endured along the way, here is a list of seven steps you should take before you apply for your EIN number.

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Christmas with the girls, and a false start

Christmas-travels2 with the girls

This post was written while we were in Chad.

Our Christmas this year was simple, but very nice. We opened our stockings after breakfast, consisting of the cereals sent by Glad Tidings Church. Then we read from Luke and Matthew about the birth of Christ, interspersed with hymns that Sharon had downloaded. Then we opened the presents around the tree; this year’s big gift to the girls was an mp3 player, and speakers. Deborah even got one, in the form of a GREEN apple (green is her favorite color). The girls also got matching dresses, and typical Sudanese jewelry or headbands.

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One-man Christmas rush, Abéché-style!

Water barrel

This post was written while we were in Chad.

We didn’t have running water in the house on Tuesday and Wednesday, but were glad that the water was running from the hose outside. This allowed us to fill the barrel outside, and transport the water into the barrel in the house. Because of the water problems we are facing, I tooksink cleaned by man the catch-all off of the bathroom sink and stuffed the sewer line with toilet paper. Then I put a bucket under the sink to catch the water that goes in there. This saves us a little extra water to flush the toilet during the day.

At first, I was busy waiting at an office and preparing some paperwork. As a result, I met the man I needed to meet, two minutes before the office closed! Often, you make these sacrifices without knowing if your efforts will be worth it or not; we are always thankful when the work we put into something is useful for the task before us!

However, all that time preparing for that moment, and the time waiting at the office, was time I could have used to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. So this afternoon, I did my very best to make one final push to find Christmas presents for the girls that would be there from early morning in Christmas eve.

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Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Abéché

Christmas in Abéché is just like any other day to most of us...Christmas in Abéché

Christmas is the holiday that brings the most warmth to our hearts, and many memories of romance, love and joy from the past.  For many of us around the world, a little snow on the ground adds that special touch to a perfect Christmas day.

However, the typical western Christmas scene is far different from the one the shepherds experienced on the outskirts of Bethlehem, in what we call the “Third World”.

As we were approaching the Christmas season in Abéché, you hardly knew it. In the central market, there were no Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, manger scenes or Christmas lights. No one was singing carols, no one was running around shopping for presents. And come December 25th, the market opened as it does almost every day, and many inside did not even know how special this day is to many of us.

Not unlike Bethlehem

Of course, not all of this is bad. In the US, perhaps the focus on Santa, elves, trees and mistletoe distracts us from the story that causes us to celebrate! And perhaps this little desert town of Abéché looks more like Bethlehem that blesséd night than the most elaborate, living manger scene in front of an American church or business.

Christmas in Bethlehem

As adults, we understand this and can get by without the glitz and the feeling a winter scene of red ribbons and colored lights brings… but our family of girls would feel homesick without reminders of the season in December, or a few presents waiting under the tree.

If we can overcome the homesickness, Christmas in the Third World can be the best sort of Christmas, the kind which helps us to focus on the true meaning of this holiday: “So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us…” (John 1:14, NLT)

Before you and I ever thought about living in an unfamiliar culture, He did it first. He is our example of how to become a part of our new home without forgetting where we came from, and why we are here…

Gifts and memories

After a special breakfast of pumpkin muffins and a time of reading the passages in the Gospels about Jesus’ birth, we opened our gifts in the morning. Everything worked fine and everything fit fine, except for a few of the gifts I bought for the girls. Sarah’s headphones instantly broke apart, and the stereo for Sharon would not work. Since Christmas is a normal day at the market, I was able to get her headphones replaced at the boutique with ones that have a microphone on them. When Sarah puts the replacement headphones on, she looks like a telemarketer or a pilot, ready to take off…

Christmas Gift: Pepsi mp3 player and radioAnother fun gift we found at the market this year was for Deborah. She broke her fragile mp3 players, so after much effort, we found an mp3 player that looks like a Pepsi can, with a big speaker on the top. She loves to listen to her Pepsi when school is over.

On Christmas afternoon that year, there was a presentation about Christmas at the local English school, featuring the Christian songs and Scripture readings of the Holiday. Afterwards, there were all sorts of delicious refreshments. Debbie got to see her friends from New Zealand, and we caught up with a few of ours. For Christmas, Sharon was in the kitchen most of the day. She made cottage cheese using a recipe simpler and quicker than mine, and used it to make a delicious lasagna for Christmas dinner!

For Boxing Day, each of the girls started coughing and having fevers. It took several days for them to shake them off, and they were quite miserable during that time. Eventually, they were all on antibiotics; God used the medicine and heard our prayers, and just in time for New Year’s Eve, they were doing better!

Pride and Prejudice, the BBC versionWhile the girls started watching BBC’s version of Pride & Prejudice on our little video player, I made grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade fries for supper. After supper, we finished watching the video, and I left a little early to start the bonfire. Either I started it too early or I did not buy enough firewood, or perhaps the brush we used to start the fire was too powerful, because the peak of the flames was over by the time the girls were out. With a little thought, however, we were able to keep a flame going and the embers burning until after midnight… along with memories of the perfect Christmas and New Years we had in Abéché, back in 2013.