How to Start a Non-Profit Organization in Colorado

This page was last fact-checked September 24, 2013.

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?".

Did you know that setting up a nonprofit is different in every state? This guide is specific to Colorado. If you are looking for a different state, please visit our Information Center.

Option #1: Start your Colorado nonprofit with help from a specialist.

Setting up a nonprofit is a lot of complex work. Fortunately there's an easier way. We're here to help you set up your nonprofit and stay compliant. Enjoy the following benefits of working with us:

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  • Benefit from our 100% approval rate and know that your 501(c)(3) application will be approved, guaranteed!
  • Eliminate over 100 hours of research and preparation. Let our experts speed through the process so you can focus on your mission.

When you sign up, we will schedule your initial consultation with a specialist usually within 1-2 business days.

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Option #2: Do-It-Yourself

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.

1 Confirm 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.
2 Choose a legal structure

The most common legal structure for a nonprofit is a nonprofit corporation. Less common options include a B-Corporation, nonprofit LLC, L3C, unincorporated nonprofit association, and a trust. If you are undecided, learn about legal structures for nonprofits.

The rest of this article assumes you are creating a nonprofit corporation.

3 Check 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:
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
4 Recruit 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).
5 Appoint a Registered Agent

Identify the nonprofit’s Colorado Registered Agent. This individual or company receives notice of lawsuit and other legal service for the corporation.

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): ~3-6 months
6 File Colorado Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation

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

Submit to:
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:
Colorado Revised Statutes - Title 7: Corporations and Associations - Articles 121-137: Colorado Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act
  • The IRS requires specific language in the articles of incorporation to qualify for 501(c)(3) federal tax exemption. Refer to IRS Pub 557 for guidance and sample language.
  • 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).
7 Establish Company 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 company record book, seal, and document templates.

Draft bylaws (potentially using a template) 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.

8 Hold 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.

9 Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

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

Submit to:
Internal Revenue Service
IRS Form SS-4
IRS Pub 1635: Understanding Your EIN
Filing Method:
Mail, phone, fax, or apply online with the IRS
Immediately online
The IRS website is only available during certain hours. Print your EIN before closing your session.
10 Get 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 CR-0100: Colorado Sales Tax Withholding Account Application
Filing Method:
Mail, in-person, or online
$8 for charitable license. $50 deposit if retail sales tax license needed.
~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 UITL-100: Application for Unemployment Insurance Account and Determination of Employer Liability
Filing Method:
Mail or online
This application is only for unemployment insurance purposes.

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11 Apply for 501(c)

Save money and build credibility by obtaining federal income tax exemption. This is most difficult and costly step of setting up a nonprofit.

501(c) is the chapter of the Internal Revenue Code that defines nonprofit tax exemptions. Charitable, religious, and educational organizations seek exemption under 501(c)(3) and apply for recognition by filing Form 1023.

Submit to:
Internal Revenue Service
IRS Form 1023
IRS Instructions for Form 1023
IRS Pub 557: Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization
Filing Method:
$400 or $850
~3-6 months

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

12 Apply for Colorado Tax Exemption(s)

Upon obtaining your IRS Determination Letter, your organization is automatically exempt from Colorado corporate income taxes. No application or notification is necessary.

"If a corporation is exempt from federal income tax it is generally exempt from Colorado income tax and from filing a Colorado income tax return."
Colorado Department of Revenue website

More information:
Colorado Department of Revenue

Colorado charitable organizations can apply for exemption from state sales tax and state-administered local sales tax for purchases made while conducting regular charitable functions and activities.

Submit to:
Colorado Department of Revenue
Form DR-0715: Application for Sales Tax Exemption for Colorado Organizations and Form DR-0716: Statement of Non-Profit - Church, Synagogue, or Organization
You must attach your IRS Determination Letter. If approved, you will receive a Certificate of Exemption.
13 Register for Charitable Solicitation / Fundraising

Before soliciting any funds or hiring solicitors, you must complete your charitable organization registration in each state where you will raise funds.

If you need to register in many states, review our guide “Charitable Solicitation Registration using the Unified Registration Statement (URS)”. 39 states accept the URS, but Colorado does not.

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:

Submit to:
Colorado Secretary of State
If you do not raise over $25,000, from no more than 10 persons, and do not hire paid solicitors... For full list of exemptions see C.R.S. §6-16-104(6).
Filing Method:
Instructions for Registering as a Charitable Organization
  • Exempt organizations do not need to file. In some states, exempt organizations must file an exemption form.
  • You must file online.
  • You can view and print a Certificate of Registration from the summary screen of any registered group.
14 Obtain 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

You must file federal and state tax returns. You must also file:

  • Nonprofit corporations file Periodic Report ($10 state fee) annually online. Find your record then use the link to file your periodic report. It is due during a five month window surrounding the anniversary month of incorporation.
  • Charities soliciting donations in Colorado must register annually with the Colorado Secretary of State by filing registration renewal online ($10 state fee).
  • Bingo and raffle licenses must be renewed on the calendar year. File bingo-raffle license renewal ($100 state fee) with the Colorado Secretary of State.

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 IRS Form 1023-EZ!

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