Here are a few of the really important first steps, they are not in any specific order but should all be completed before you take in any children.
Set a location.
Acquire a piece of property to base the organization (if possible eventually have it registered in the name of the organization) or find someone willing to give a legal lease for long term (the minimum is something like 10-15 years).
Get letters of support.
Get as many letters of support as you can, as fast as you can, from local businesses, politicians, dignitaries, foreign businesses, local panchiats/village heads, individuals… etc. These will all help to avoid delays/problems in your registration/setup process. A “Letter of Support” can be as simple as a person writing “I am in support of the work that ____________ is proposing in the __________ area. If you are able to support it we would appreciate it. Signed, __________”. You can actually chain these letters off other people, i.e. start with the “smaller people/businesses” and use a collection of the letters from them to get letters out of people holding higher positions. You would be surprised the amount this can help: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.
Get your Society registered.
Register the organization as a Society (this is done through your local Registrar of Societies), if you need help finding them ask at your local Thasil (i.e. ask an SDM or even a lawyer there at the courts). For this you will need a Board of Directors, By-Laws and a few other things. You can ask at the Registrars of Societies office about the process for this (ours was done in 1948 so the process has changed a lot since then).
Get your orphanage registered.
All orphanages and children’s homes in India must be registered under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 as amended in 2006 even if they have a license under any other law. Applications for registration under the JJ Act should be done in the prescribed manner through the District Social Welfare Office where the concerned institute is functioning. This is one of the most important set of laws for you to understand.
Get FCRA Registration.
If you want to get funding from overseas while working in India you will need an FCRA Registration Number and a registered bank account. This is done through the Ministry Of Home Affairs in New Delhi. This is done in accordance with the Foreigners Contribution Regulation Act of 1976 (another important set of laws to understand). The application process is straightforward and information can be found online about it.
Register with the Income Tax Department.
Register of your society for a PAN number (Permanent Account Number) is essential. After this you can ask at your local tax office about applying for the “tax-free” status known as 12A Registration. If you want people who donate to you from within India to be able to claim the donation as “tax deductible” then you will need 80G Registration; the application process for this is complicated and you will definitely need the help of a registered Chartered Accountant.
Get an accountant.
It’s a good idea to have a permanent accountant -either contracted or on your payroll. Accountability is essential for any organization to survive. Audited financial reports by a Chartered Accountant are a legal requirement for NGO’s operating in India.
Get a lawyer.
It’s a good idea to have a permanent lawyer too. Lots of different documents will have to be drafted for your new organzation such as a Memorandum of Association, By-laws, applications for registration… etc. and it is best to have a professional do this.
Start looking for funding.
Finding funding is a difficult thing but if you register as a Society and get 12A/80G registration you can apply for grants from businesses and other NGO’s. Corporate Social Responsibility programs are a great place to start.