The process of starting a nonprofit corporation should begin well before contacting government agencies and beginning operations. Before undertaking the legal steps to formally organize a nonprofit, one must determine what mission the nonprofit will pursue, identify candidates to lead it and run its day-to-day operations, and consider how it will raise funds to support its mission. These are just a few of the many factors one must consider before committing to formally organize a nonprofit. But having a firm grasp on these should help focus the initial assessment of whether to even organize a nonprofit because they together answer three fundamental questions: what will it do, who will do it, and how will it pay for it.
The following resources provide further information and can serve as a point of departure for further reading:
The Preliminary Matters section from the Forming a Non-Profit page of the Digital Media Law Project
Alternatives to Starting a Nonprofit from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits