I went back and forth over whether to go 501c3 or LLC for Skull Alley. I opted for LLC mainly because I wanted to include the beer to help make the place more financially stable, and I remembered the general struggle for funds/focus that BRYCC had. In retrospect, I think 501c3 groups CAN get an ABC license so that point might have been moot. At worst, you may have to apply for event permits for each event you want to serve alcohol.
to form a 501c3 you need:
1. Board of Directors - you need at least a president, vice president, secretary, and i believe treasurer. Board must meet at least once a year and keep detailed minutes of their meetings. meeting minutes are public domain and must be kept on file. For brycc we had a lot more members than 4, 50% of which had to be youth (defined as anyone age 25), and included outsiders from the community for "guidance."
2. Mission Statement - A short statement of purpose that describes how the organization would benefit the community. "to provide a place for the rock" probably wouldn't work, but "To establish a community center where young artists can interact and thrive, etc. etc." probably would.
3. Articles of Incorporation - written guidelines for the board/group structure. How long board members serve, when the meetings are, limits on pay for board/employees, how voting works, how new amendments get added, how to remove members, etc. etc. etc. Basically you are creating a legal framework for how your group will run and how it may handle any issues that may arise.
4. Filing fee - I believe its $300 for federal, $75 for state.
Boom, I think that's it if i remember correctly.
Now, you'll have to keep ridiculously anal retentive books because you can be audited at any time. You file taxes for federal and state yearly, sales tax monthly or quarterly (you are responsible for sales tax on all ticket sales, concessions, shirt sales, basically anything you physically sell, but not on donations and i think memberships), and have to keep track of everything anyone donates to you (cash, equipment, etc) in case irs audits someone who claims a donation to your group.
Grants: it's easy to get grants for small things like adding a darkroom, paying for a sound system, or teaching a workshop on underwater basket weaving, but it's hard to get grants for things like rent, utilities, or capital campaigns. Basically, foundations want to fund groups that can show that they are sustainable in terms of their grassroots fundraising to keep the lights on and the doors open but need extra funds to add programming. I think outside of the two grants from the city, which were from an alderman discretionary fund and not a general grant, OG Brycc didn't get any other outside grants.