Start Your Colorado Nonprofit

Harbor Compliance makes starting your nonprofit easy. Your specialist manages all of the paperwork, letting you focus on your mission. Get your 501(c)(3) approved - starting at $1,499 plus filing fees.

Start My Guaranteed 501(c)(3) Nonprofit

How to Start a Nonprofit in Colorado

Welcome to our Colorado nonprofit resource guide! This free guide will help you understand how to start your nonprofit in Colorado and become 501(c)(3) tax exempt. You will find step-by-step instructions and get answers to common questions like "what does it cost?" and "how many board members do I need?".

If you're starting out with little or no funds, gaining professional assistance is rarely an option. In that case, you may want to commit to researching the process and filing government applications on your own. This route is not for the faint of heart but is certainly achievable if you work diligently. The following step-by-step guide should help you as you undertake this process.

  • 1Confirm a New Nonprofit is Necessary

    As you begin, take a moment to consider if you should start a new non-profit organization. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there were over 28,000 nonprofit organizations in Colorado in 2009. To decide if a new nonprofit is necessary...

    • Research if an organization already exists in your area that serves your cause. By working together you avoid diluting the effect of fundraising dollars and volunteer hours available in your geography.
    • Consider fiscal sponsorship, in which an umbrella 501(c) organization incubates your charitable nonprofit. Fiscal sponsors permit your cause to receive tax-deductible donations and often handle administrative paperwork.
  • 2Understand the Benefits of Incorporating

    This guide focuses on starting a nonprofit corporation, the traditional nonprofit legal structure. This legal structure has a few key benefits. First and foremost, the nonprofit corporation limits the liability of the organization's officers and directors. Second, the nonprofit corporation is familiar to donors and grant makers. Lastly, nonprofit corporations meet a wide range of IRS eligibility requirements, in particular those relating to the 501(c)(3) application.

  • 3Check Name Availability

    The legal name of your nonprofit corporation may not conflict with any other registered name. Check availability of your desired name by conducting a name search.

    Name Search: Colorado Online Records Search
    Name Reservation: Optional
    Suffix: The entity name of a nonprofit corporation may, but need not, contain the term or abbreviation "corporation", "incorporated", "company", "limited", "corp.", "inc.", "co.", or "ltd.". CRS §7-90-601
  • 4Recruit Incorporators and/or Initial Directors

    • Identify the incorporators. These individuals will execute the articles of incorporation and submit them to the state. Colorado requires a minimum of one incorporator who is an individual at least eighteen years old (CRS §7-122-101).
    • Recruit initial directors for your nonprofit board of directors. In Colorado, naming the initial directors in the articles of incorporation is optional (CRS §7-122-102(2)(a)). Directors need not be residents of Colorado or members of the nonprofit unless stated in the bylaws (CRS §7-128-102). The number or minimum/maximum number of directors is set by the bylaws (CRS §7-128-103).
    • Nonprofits often begin working with us before they incorporate and select a board. We help you understand state and IRS requirements as you select your board members.
  • 5Appoint a Registered Agent

    Identify the nonprofit’s Colorado registered agent. A registered agent is a legal appointee who is responsible for receiving legal notices for your nonprofit. Your registered agent must be physically located in Colorado and maintain an office that is open during regular business hours.

    We provide a convenient service to act as your Colorado registered agent. As part of that service, our local office in Boulder, CO receives your legal documents and sends you notifications. You view your documents in your secure online account. Registered agent is included in our nonprofit formation service or you can sign up for this service separately.

  • 6File Colorado Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation

    File articles of incorporation to create your non-profit corporation.

    Agency:Colorado Secretary of State

    Paper forms are not accepted. This is a sample: Form ARTINC_NPC: Articles of Incorporation for a Nonprofit Corporation


    Instructions: Articles of Incorporation for a Nonprofit Corporation

    Filing Method:


    State Fee:





    Colorado Revised Statutes - Title 7: Corporations and Associations - Articles 121-137: Colorado Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act

    • Immediately after incorporating you can setup Secure Business Filing on your record so that no one else can make changes to it. Click “setup secure business filing” on the transaction confirmation page.
    • Even though the articles of incorporation are filed electronically, you should download a copy for secure storage in your company records and for use during the course of business (e.g. for setting up a business bank account).
    Adding 501(c) provisions into your articles

    The IRS requires specific language in the articles of incorporation to qualify for 501(c)(3) federal tax exemption. These provisions are not always included in state articles of incorporation templates. Refer to IRS Pub 557 for guidance and sample language.

  • 7Establish Organization Records

    Nonprofit must keep corporate records and accounting records in compliance with CRS §7-136-101. Your filed articles of incorporation is the first document for your nonprofit corporate records. Your corporation will generate many other official records such as bylaws, meeting minutes, and your EIN.

    Office supplies intended for a nonprofit corporation will help you stay organized and save time. Optionally, get a nonprofit records kit.

    Draft bylaws which is the governing document for the nonprofit. The bylaws of a nonprofit corporation may contain any provision for managing and regulating the affairs of the nonprofit corporation that is not inconsistent with law or with the articles of incorporation. (CRS §7-122-106(2)). You will review and ratify the bylaws at your first board of directors meeting.

    The Board should create and adopt a conflict of interest policy. This document is submitted to the IRS at the time they apply for 501(c)(3) tax exemption.

  • 8Hold Organizational Meeting of the Directors

    Hold the first meeting of the board of directors or incorporators (CRS §7-122-105). At this meeting, the nonprofit should approve the bylaws, elect additional directors, appoint officers, and approve initial resolutions such as opening a company bank account. Keep minutes of this meeting.

  • 9Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

    Your nonprofit must obtain an EIN regardless of whether it will hire employees.

    Agency:Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

    IRS Form SS-4


    IRS Pub 1635: Understanding Your EIN

    Filing Method:

    Mail, phone, fax, or online

    IRS Fee:



    Immediately online or by phone. 4 business days by fax. 4-5 weeks by mail.


    The IRS website is only available during certain hours. Print your EIN before closing your session.

  • 10Get Colorado State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

    Colorado offers a consolidated state tax registration application online or you can file two registrations by mail.

    To apply for a sales tax account and/or wage withholding account:

    Submit to: Colorado Department of Revenue
    Form: Form CR-0100: Colorado Sales Tax Withholding Account Application
    Filing Method: Mail, in-person, or online
    Fee: $8 for charitable license. $50 deposit if retail sales tax license needed.
    Turnaround: ~2-3 weeks online. ~4-6 weeks by mail. Immediately in-person.

    If your nonprofit has employees and withholds income, then you must obtain an unemployment insurance tax account number and rate:

    Submit to: Colorado Department of Labor and Employment
    Form: Form UITL-100: Application for Unemployment Insurance Account and Determination of Employer Liability
    Filing Method: Mail or online
    Fee: $0
    Notes: This application is only for unemployment insurance purposes.
  • 11Apply for 501(c)

    Applying for 501(c) tax exemption is often the most complex and time-consuming steps in setting up a nonprofit. It is also one of the most important, as obtaining a tax exemption is what is enables an organization to successfully raise funds, apply for grants, be exempt from IRS income tax, and enjoy a variety of other benefits exclusively available to nonprofits.

    501(c) is the chapter of the Internal Revenue Code that regulates nonprofit organizations. Most nonprofits are 501(c)(3)s, including charities and foundations. There are a few forms used to apply for federal tax exemption. 501(c)(3) nonprofits apply using Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ. Not all organizations however are eligible to file the streamlined Form 1023-EZ. Other types of nonprofits, including 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6)s, apply using Form 1024.

    Seeking the help of a professional with this step is common. Choosing the right form to file is just one consideration. A great deal of expertise, time, and preparation goes into creating a successful application. The IRS estimates over 100 hours are spent on researching and preparing the application. If you're looking for professional assistance, check out our formation services to help you with your 501(c) application and the rest of the process. Our nonprofit specialists will help you from start to finish.

    Agency:Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

    IRS Form 1023IRS Form 1023-EZ, or IRS Form 1024


    IRS Instructions for Form 1023IRS Instructions for Form 1023-EZ, or IRS Instructions for Form 1024.  Also see guidance IRS Pub 557: Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization.

    Filing method:


    IRS Fee:

    $275, $400, or $850, depending on form and annual gross receipts


    1023-EZ average: <1 month. 1023 average: 3-6 months.

    The IRS will return a Determination Letter which officially recognized your exemption.

    Tax-Exempt in 2 Weeks!

    Download the case study of how our client, Reform It Now, obtained 501(c)(3) tax exemption in only two weeks using the new IRS Form 1023-EZ!

    From filing the 1023EZ on August 1st to receipt of the determination letter on August 14th is, in my humble opinion, simply breathtaking and I dare say, ONLY Harbor Compliance could have achieved that.
    Dr. Bob A.Reform It Now, Inc.
  • 12Apply for Colorado Tax Exemption(s)

  • 13Register for Charitable Solicitation / Fundraising

    Before soliciting donations or hiring professionals solicitors, you must register in each state where you will raise funds.

    To file in Colorado:

    Agency:Colorado Secretary of State

    The most common exemptions are:

    1. <$25,000 gross revenue per fiscal year
    2. <10 donors nationwide per fiscal year
    3. Religious institutions
    4. Political groups
    5. Appeals for an individual

    Check the law for the full list of exemptions and exemption criteria. 

    • Exempt organizations do not need to file. (In some states, exempt organizations must file an exemption form.)

    Instructions for Registering as a Charitable Organization

    Filing method:


    State Fee:



    Colorado Revised Statutes §§ 6-16-101 to 6-16-104

    • Any charitable organization that (1) solicits contributions in Colorado, (2) has contributions solicited in Colorado on its behalf, or (3) participates in a charitable sales promotion must register in Colorado.
    • Be prepared to disclose contracts with paid solicitors.
    • Any authorized officer must sign electronically.
    • After approval you will receive a registration number and a printable "certificate of registration".  You can view and print a Certificate of Registration from the summary screen of any registered group.
    • Some Colorado counties and municipalities may require charities that solicit in-person to register prior to fundraising.

    Yes, Colorado requires a disclosure when communicating with donors.

    Online fundraising:

    Colorado follows the Charleston Principles regarding when your nonprofit needs to register due to online fundraising. Get an introduction to online fundraising here. For more about Colorado's rules, see Colorado SoS - Charities and Fundraising FAQs - Q4.

    Accepts URS:No

    To fundraise nationally or online, please see our Fundraising Compliance Guide. Our services manage your initial, renewal, and exemption filings in every state.

  • 14Obtain Other Business Licenses & Permits

    To run your business legally, you must obtain applicable licenses and permits. The easiest way to navigate the wide range of federal, state, and local requirements is to search by your business type and locality using the Small Business Administration Business License & Permit look-up tool.

    Bingo and raffles are regulated by the Colorado Secretary of State. Apply for a bingo and raffle license by filing Form LE7-8_COMB ($100 state fee).

*Ongoing Filings to Maintain Your Nonprofit

Once you have registered your nonprofit per the steps listed above, you will need to maintain compliance with all of the government agencies. Staying current with the IRS and state requirements is an ongoing responsibility. Continue reading our Colorado nonprofit compliance guide to learn more!

Welcome to Our Community

We're committed to publishing free informational resources such as this how-to guide. Our resources have been shared by important industry organizations including:

Free Email Series

Learn the basics of starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with our

10-Day Nonprofit Startup Bootcamp

Sign Up Now

Fast Facts

Below is an overview of the paperwork, cost, and time to start an Colorado nonprofit.

  • Form ARTINC_NPC: Articles of Incorporation for a Nonprofit Corporation
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Obtain an EIN
  • IRS Form 1023: 501(c) Tax Exempt Application
  • IRS Determination Letter
  • Form CR-0100: Colorado Sales Tax Withholding Account Application
  • Form UITL-100: Application for Unemployment Insurance Account and Determination of Employer Liability, if applicable
  • Form DR-0715: Application for Sales Tax Exemption for Colorado Organizations
  • Form DR-0716: Statement of Non-Profit - Church, Synagogue, or Organization
  • Colorado Charitable Registration (onlin
    • Incorporation: $50
    • 501(c): $400 or $850 IRS fee
    • Colorado charitable license: $8
    • Colorado charitable registration: $10

    • Incorporation: Immediately
    • 501(c): 2 weeks to 3 months

Harbor's responsiveness and realistic understanding gave our organization a great start.
JohnThe Alumni Society of San Sebastian
Harbor helped me understand what's needed and why, and they pointed out the details that I didn't bother to pay attention to! They took care of the whole thing.
This page was last fact-checked March 29, 2016.
element('addthisplugin/share'); ?>

Guaranteed 501(c)(3) Approval

With a 100% success rate in forming nonprofits of all types, we help you start fundraising with confidence! Your Compliance Specialist customizes each of your applications, saving you 100+ hours of prep work.

© 2012 - 2017 Harbor Compliance. All rights reserved. Harbor Compliance is not an accounting or law firm and does not provide tax, financial, or legal advice.