Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation

Nonprofit articles of incorporation is a legal document filed with the Secretary of State to create a nonprofit corporation. This process is called incorporating. In some states, the articles of incorporation are called a certificate of incorporation or a corporate charter.


Free Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Template!

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free nonprofit articles of incorporation template

This articles of incorporation template was drafted by an attorney and contains 501(c)(3) provisions. This document is intended to be used as a sample or model only. Some of the information provided in this template may or may not fit the needs of a specific organization. Use of this template should not be construed as legal counsel or substitute the advice of an attorney.

Why Incorporate

Incorporating provides several important benefits:

  • Registers your organization’s name
  • Limits the personal liability of the directors and members
  • Adds credibility to the business or organization
  • Paves the way to applying for 501(c) federal tax exemption

Filing articles of incorporation secures your nonprofit’s corporate name. Only after you receive state approval of this document can you use this name to apply for a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), obtaining business licenses, sign contracts, and otherwise mobilize.

Before You Incorporate

If you have been following this guide sequentially, then you should have the following inputs to your articles of incorporation:

  • The specific type of nonprofit legal entity you wish to form (e.g. mutual benefit corporation)
  • The specific 501(c) tax exemption your nonprofit will apply for, if any (e.g. 501(c)(3) public charity)
  • The names of the initial directors

How to Incorporate

In most states, the secretary of state oversees corporations. Most state websites offer articles of incorporation templates and instructions. If not, you can use the template above as a starting point.

The secretary of state will approve your articles of incorporation if they contain the minimum amount of information required by the state’s corporations code, but there can be further provisions that you should provide. Not all articles of incorporation templates contain provisions required for 501(c)(3) eligibility. State tax exemptions, certain banking purposes, and other government agencies may require additional language in the articles.

Is an attorney required?
No, any legal incorporator (usually an adult) may file articles of incorporation. Attorneys typically charge $1,500-2,500 to incorporate and CPAs charge around $1,000-1,500. Our filing services start at $99.

What does it cost to incorporate?
State fees to process your articles of incorporation vary from ~$50-$400. Some states also have a publishing requirement which typically costs ~$200.

How long does the process take?
State processing times are typically 2-4 weeks. Some states offer expedited filing for a fee. If the filing is rejected it will add around a month to the process.


How to File Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation

Nonprofit articles must contain the following information:

1
Name

Corporate names must be distinguishable from all other registered entities in the state of formation. It is important that you conduct a thorough name availability check before filing your articles of incorporation. Certain words cannot be used in corporate names without first obtaining government approval such as words referencing professional licensing (e.g., accounting).

2
Type of entity

You will specify whether you are incorporating a nonprofit corporation, mutual benefit corporation, professional corporation, nonprofit cooperative corporation, or other type of entity on your articles.

3
Registered agent

You are required to specify your registered agent and office in your articles of incorporation. A registered office is where your organization receives service of process (notice of a lawsuit) or other important legal documents. The registered agent is the person or company that receives it. You may use any physical address in your state of formation (not a PO Box). You can also use a registered agent service to serve on your behalf. If you have a home office, are regularly out of the office, or wish to have added privacy of keeping your address off the public record, then using a registered agent service may be in your interest.

4
Incorporators

Your corporation must have at least one incorporator but may have more. An incorporator is the individual responsible for executing the articles of incorporation. An incorporator is typically any natural person of full age (18 years old). All incorporators must sign executing the articles of incorporation.

5
Stock or non-stock

Many nonprofits are organized on a non-stock basis, meaning no ownership shares are issued. In the event of dissolution, surplus monies are donated to another nonprofit. Nonprofit cooperatives and other certain exceptions may be organized on a stock or non-stock basis. Owning stock in a cooperative gives the shareholder/member the right to vote in company matters such as electing the board of directors.

6
Members or non-members

A nonprofit should choose whether or not to have members. Certain states restrict your options.

Members elect the board of directors and provide a layer of oversight that is important to many nonprofits, especially larger ones. Having members comes with added complexity in management, recordkeeping, and maintenance. You may wish to declare the common bond of membership, membership restrictions, or membership rights and privileges. A nonprofit that is organized on a stock share basis has shareholders instead of members.

7
Directors

Directors are the individuals elected by the shareholders or members to oversee the management of the corporation. Nonprofits that do not have members typically have self-perpetuating boards, meaning the board of directors itself elects new directors to fill vacancies in the board. The board of directors elects corporate officers to run the day-to-day operations and make certain decisions for the corporation. Your corporation must have at least one director. Depending on your state, directors may or may not be required on the articles of incorporation. Your state may require a minimum number of directors at all times.

8
Officers

Officers run the day-to-day operations of the corporation and typically include a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. Depending on your state, officers may or may not be required on the articles of incorporation.

9
Effective date & duration

By default, your corporation will become effective on the date the secretary of state processes your articles of incorporation. You may list a future date if desired. Most organizations indicate “the corporation shall have perpetual existence”, but you can limit the duration of the corporation by stating a specific dissolution date.

10
Corporate purpose

Your state may require a provision declaring for what purpose(s) the nonprofit is incorporated. You often must also include a statement that the nonprofit does not contemplate pecuniary gain or profit.

*
Other provisions

A provision is additional information included in your articles of incorporation. Nonprofits in particular should take time to consider additional statements that should be included in the articles for 501(c)(3), state tax exemption(s), and other eligibility. Any information you provide will become part of public record.

State Information

Alabama

Alabama Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$100 state filing fee + min $50 county filing fee

Turnaround:

~3-5 business days

Agency:

Alabama Secretary of State - Business Services Division

Alaska

Alaska Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$50

Turnaround:

~10-15 business days by mail. Immediately online.

Agency:

Alaska Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing

Arizona

Arizona Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$40 + optional $35 expedite fee

Turnaround:

See state-published current processing times (usually about two months). ~7-10 business days for $35 expedite fee.

Agency:

Arizona Corporation Commission - Corporations Division

Arkansas

Arkansas Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$50 by mail or $45 online

Turnaround:

~2-4 business days by mail or online

Agency:

Arkansas Secretary of State - Business and Commercial Services Division (BCS)

California

California Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$30 by mail or $45 in-person + optional $250-$500 preclearance service + optional $350-$500 expedited filing service

Turnaround:

Current state processing times or pay for preclearance and expedite services

Agency:

California Secretary of State - Business Programs Division

Colorado

Colorado Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$50

Turnaround:

Immediately

Agency:

Colorado Secretary of State

Connecticut

Connecticut Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$50 + optional $50 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~3-5 business days. ~24 hours for $50 expedite fee.

Agency:

Connecticut Secretary of State - Commercial Recording Division

Delaware

Delaware Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$89 + $9 for extra pages + optional $50-$1000 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~3 weeks. ~24 hours for $50 state expedite fee. Same-day for $100 state expedite fee. ~2 hours for $500 state expedite fee. 1 hour for $1000 state expedite fee.

Agency:

Delaware Department of State - Division of Corporations

District of Columbia

District of Columbia Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$80 + optional $50-100 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~15 business days. ~3 business days for $50 expedite fee. Same-day for $100 expedite fee.

Agency:

DCRA Corporations Division

Florida

Florida Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$35 filing fee + $35 designation of registered agent fee = $70 state fee

Turnaround:

~1-3 days online. ~8-17 days by mail

Agency:

Florida Department of State - Division of Corporations

Georgia

Georgia Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$100

Turnaround:

~5-12 business days

Agency:

Georgia Secretary of State

Hawaii

Hawaii Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$26 + optional $25 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~7-14 business days by mail. ~3-5 business days by fax, in-person, or online. ~1-3 business days if you file online and pay the $25 expedite fee.

Agency:

Hawaii Business Registration Division (BREG)

Idaho

Idaho Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$30 + optional $20 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~1 week. ~1 business day with $20 expedite fee.

Agency:

Idaho Secretary of State

Illinois

Illinois Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$50 by mail or $77.75 online + optional $100 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~2 weeks by mail or fax. ~1-5 business days if you file online and pay the $100 expedite fee.

Agency:

Illinois Secretary of State - Business Services Department

Indiana

Indiana Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$50

Turnaround:

~15 minutes online. ~24 hours in-person. ~5-7 business days by mail.

Agency:

Indiana Secretary of State - Business Services Division

Iowa

Iowa Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$20

Turnaround:

~1-2 business days

Agency:

Iowa Secretary of State

Kansas

Kansas Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$20 + optional $20 expedite fee

Turnaround:

Immediately online. ~4 business days by paper. ~1 business day by paper with $20 expedite fee.

Agency:

Kansas Secretary of State

Kentucky

Kentucky Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$8

Turnaround:

~3-5 business days by mail or online. While you wait if you file in-person.

Agency:

Kentucky Secretary of State

Louisiana

Louisiana Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$75 + optional $30-$50 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~1 week. ~24 hours for $30 expedite fee. While-you-wait with in-person filing for $50 expedite fee.

Agency:

Louisiana Secretary of State - Commercial Division

Maine

Maine Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$40 + optional $50-$100 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~14 business days. ~24 hours for $50 expedite fee. Immediately for $100 expedite fee.

Agency:

Maine Secretary of State - Bureau of Corporations, Elections, and Commissions

Maryland

Maryland Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$100 filing fee + $20 organization & capitalization fee + $50 development center fee if applying for 501(c)(3),(4), or (6) + optional $5 return mail fee + optional $50 expedite fee. The expedite fee is required to file online, by fax, or in-person.

Turnaround:

~10+ weeks. ~7 business days with expedite fee online or by fax. Same-day if filed in-person with expedite fee by 4:15pm.

Agency:

Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT)

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$35

Turnaround:

~2-3 business days

Agency:

Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth

Michigan

Michigan Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$20 + optional $50-1,000 expedite service

Turnaround:

~5-7 business days with returned documents in ~4 weeks. ~24 hours for $50. Same day for $100. 2 hours for $500. 1 hour for $1,000. See Expedited Service Request

Agency:

Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) - Corporations Division

Minnesota

Minnesota Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$70 by mail. $90 online or expedited in-person.

Turnaround:

~5-7 business days by mail. ~24hrs online.

Agency:

Minnesota Secretary of State

Mississippi

Mississippi Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$50

Turnaround:

~2-3 business days

Agency:

Mississippi Secretary of State

Missouri

Missouri Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$25

Turnaround:

~4-7 business days by mail or ~1-3 days by fax

Agency:

Missouri Secretary of State - Corporations Division

Montana

Montana Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$20

Turnaround:

~10 business days. Expedited options available.

Agency:

Montana Secretary of State

Nebraska

Nebraska Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$10 + $5/page recording fee

Turnaround:

~1-2 business days online. ~5-7 business days by mail.

Agency:

Nebraska Secretary of State

Nevada

Nevada Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$50 + optional $125-$1,000 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~1 week. ~24 hours for $125 expedite fee. ~2 hours for $500 expedite fee. ~1 hour for $1,000 expedite fee.

Agency:

Nevada Secretary of State

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$25 state fee + $5 city/town fee = $30 total

Turnaround:

~10-14 business days

Agency:

New Hampshire Secretary of State - Corporations Division

New Jersey

New Jersey Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$75

Turnaround:

~4 weeks. Expedited options available - fax recommended.

Agency:

New Jersey Department of the Treasury

New Mexico

New Mexico Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$25 + optional $100-150 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~3 months. ~2 business days for $100 expedite fee. ~1 business day for $150 expedite fee.

Agency:

New Mexico Secretary of State - Corporations Bureau

New York

New York Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$75 + optional $25-150 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~14 business days. Within 24 hours for $25 expedite fee. On the same day for $75 expedite fee. Within 2 hours of receipt for $150 expedite fee.

Agency:

New York Department of State - Division of Corporations, State Records and Uniform Commercial Code

North Carolina

North Carolina Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$60 + optional $100-200 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~5-7 business days. 24 hours for $100 expedite fee. Same day for $200 expedite fee (submit by noon).

Agency:

North Carolina Secretary of State - Corporations Division

North Dakota

North Dakota Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$40

Turnaround:

~30 days. No expedite options available.

Agency:

North Dakota Secretary of State

Ohio

Ohio Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$99

Turnaround:

~3-7 business days. Expedited services available for a fee.

Agency:

Ohio Secretary of State

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$25

Turnaround:

~7-10 business days by mail. ~1 business day online.

Agency:

Oklahoma Secretary of State - Business Filing Department

Oregon

Oregon Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$50

Turnaround:

~7-10 business days by mail. ~1-2 business days by fax. Instantly online.

Agency:

Oregon Secretary of State - Corporations Division

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$0

Turnaround:

~5-10 business days.

Agency:

Pennsylvania Department of State - Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$35

Turnaround:

~7 business days by mail or online. Same day for in-person filings.

Agency:

Rhode Island Secretary of State

South Carolina

South Carolina Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$25

Turnaround:

~7-10 business days by mail. ~1-2 business days online.

Agency:

South Carolina Secretary of State - Division of Business Filings

South Dakota

South Dakota Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$30 + optional $50 expedite fee

Turnaround:

~3-5 business days. Expedited service is available for a $50 fee and is defined as completion sooner than the normal course of business upon request.

Agency:

South Dakota Secretary of State

Tennessee

Tennessee Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$100

Turnaround:

~4 business days by mail. ~2 days online. Immediately in-person.

Agency:

Tennessee Secretary of State - Division of Business Services

Texas

Texas Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$25

Turnaround:

~3-5 business days by mail or fax.

Agency:

Texas Secretary of State - Corporations Section

Utah

Utah Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$30

Turnaround:

~14 business days by mail or fax. ~1 business day online.

Agency:

Utah Department of Commerce - Division of Corporations

Vermont

Vermont Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$125

Turnaround:

~5-7 business days

Agency:

Vermont Secretary of State - Division of Corporations

Virginia

Virginia Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$50 charter fee + $25 filing fee = $75 total

Turnaround:

~7 business days by mail. ~3-7 business day online. Expedited options available for a fee.

Agency:

Virginia State Corporation Commission

Washington

Washington Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$30 by mail. $80 expedited by mail. $50 online.

Turnaround:

~2 months by mail. ~2-3 business days expedited by mail or online.

Agency:

Washington Secretary of State - Corporations Division

West Virginia

West Virginia Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$25

Turnaround:

~1-2 business days mail or online.

Agency:

West Virginia Secretary of State - Business and Licensing Division

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$35

Turnaround:

~4-7 business days

Agency:

Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) - Corporation Section

Wyoming

Wyoming Nonprofit Startup Guide

State fee:

$25

Turnaround:

~3-5 business days

Agency:

Wyoming Secretary of State - Business Division

Publishing Requirement for Corporations

In some states, nonprofit corporations are required to publish notice of their intention to or their filing of the articles of incorporation. Research and abide by the publication requirements in your state. Typically, specific language is required and there are guidelines about which legal publications or newspapers should be used. You should make sure to obtain legal affidavits providing proof of publishing from the newspapers and keep them in your corporate records. The cost of publishing is typically around $200 but varies by length of copy and newspaper.


This page was last fact-checked September 17, 2013.

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