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How to Launch or Re-boot Your Scottish Heritage Society

With an increased interest in DNA and Scottish heritage in the past ten years, more people have higher expectations for their associated clan and family societies. Leaders need to be able to involve these enthusiastic individuals and allow them increased responsibility for new and different projects. In some cases, the “old guard” either refuse to let go or have melted away. In these cases, the “new guard” are determined to “re-boot” the society and bring it back to life. In some cases, brand new societies are created to meet the needs of the burgeoning clan or family community. COSCA has been advising many societies in doing just that.

The first step is to find out about the previous organizations, if any. The first stop is the COSCA “Find My Clan” database at The next stop is the Tax Exempt Organization Search with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service at If no other clan or family society has existed, you are clear to launch your brand-new Scottish heritage society. If you can contact the leaders of a defunct society, you can recruit their knowledge and resources to re-launch the organization. If they refuse to assist, you’ll need to press on without them.

Most clan and family societies recognize a Chief of the Arms and Name as their honorary leader. Check COSCA's current list of known Chiefs of the Names and Arms here: If you wish to recognize one of these individuals as your “clan chief,” you should notify that person of your intent to launch or re-boot a clan or family society. If no Chief of the Name and Arms of your surnames has yet been identified, you should focus on building your membership. Today, the most effective way to develop enough interest to launch or re-boot a clan or family society is by building a community online through a public Facebook page and through other social media. For more information, see the COSCA article “Building Society Membership through Social Media” at

You can visit state government websites that provide information for tax-exempt organizations, including registration requirements for charities, taxation, information for employers, and more. See the IRS State Links for Exempt Organizations here: Rather than relying on a volunteer to take on the role, the best long-term approach is to hire company to act as your registered agent. The most popular state for incorporation is Delaware. Once you are officially incorporated, you can apply for your Employer Identification Number (EIN) which is required to apply for tax-exempt status and to open a bank account.

You can apply online for IRS tax-exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code by submitting Form 1023-EZ under certain conditions. See the Eligibility Worksheet section on page 13 of the IRS Instructions for Form 1023-EZ. If you meet all requirements (including your articles of incorporation and your EIN), you are ready to file. First register for an account on at Your application must be accompanied by a copy of your articles of incorporation (or certificate of incorporation.) The cost for your application for recognition of exemption under § 501(c)(3) is currently $275. You should receive your IRS “letter of determination” within two months.

If you are a COSCA Organizational Member Delegate or Alternate, you can find more details, sample documents, and links for other helpful sites here:


Barry Robert (Bart) Forbes successfully rebooted the Clan Forbes Society in 2018. The previous society, of which he was a member, had languished for the previous ten years. That society was incorporated under section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) as a “business league” and so contributions were not tax-deductible. The society failed to file the required annual state corporation report and therefore became “inactive.” Forbes incorporated a new society in the state of Delaware and received a letter of determination from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Forbes reported monthly to the clan chief and launched a membership campaign in early 2019. Clan Forbes Society now has a list of over 1,100 e-mail addresses, over 300 active members paying annual dues of $25, and 12 Patron members paying $600.

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