Nonprofit Registered Agent

A nonprofit registered agent (or agent for service of process) provides a physical office in the state where you form or register your nonprofit. The registered agent’s legal responsibility is to receive service of process and government notices during regular business hours and forward them to you. These documents are time-sensitive, which means it is important to choose a reliable registered agent for your nonprofit.

You may have come across the term registered agent while incorporating your nonprofit or expanding to a new state. This is known as legal entity registration. These registrations typically happen with the secretary of state.

You may also have learned the term while registering for state fundraising licenses. This is known as charitable solicitation registration. These registrations typically take place with the state attorney general.

Your nonprofit will generally need a registered agent for both purposes. This page answers questions about registered agents for your nonprofit entity. For state-by-state registered agent requirements when fundraising, visit our charitable registered agent page.

Is a registered agent required for nonprofits?

Yes. Every state requires you to appoint a nonprofit registered agent when you incorporate. Without a registered agent, your articles of incorporation will be rejected.

As your nonprofit grows, it may need to register with other states as a foreign entity. This is known as foreign qualification. As part of this process, you will need to appoint a registered agent who has a physical address in that state.

Your nonprofit must also keep its registered agent information current in public records. This is called maintaining a nonprofit registered agent. If your registered agent’s information changes, a change of registered agent filing is needed to ensure you continue to receive your legal documents.

In these scenarios, you have appointed a registered agent for your legal entity. Many states also require a registered agent when you register to solicit contributions. These appointments take place with the state charity official, such as the attorney general. They are known as special agency appointments or special agency representation.

Learn more about charitable agent appointments needed when registering to solicit.

How to choose a reliable nonprofit registered agent

Harbor Compliance is a national nonprofit registered agent provider. With our service, you benefit from a reliable, local presence in every state. Our nationwide offices receive and scan documents electronically and notify you the same day. We eliminate your need to file change paperwork with state agencies each time you move. Registered agent service includes complimentary access to our award-winning Entity Manager Software.

  • Nationwide Presence: We provide local registered offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These offices are open during regular business hours to receive legal and government notices.
  • Same-Day Document Delivery: We scan your documents locally and deliver them to you electronically. With customizable notifications, you will never miss a delivery no matter where you are.
  • Secure Client Portal: Manage your registered agent service in a secure, cloud-based Client Portal. Easily configure notifications to alert colleagues and legal counsel of service of process.
  • Annual, Flat-Rate Service: We offer flat-rate registered agent service with no hidden fees. Invoices are accurate and easy to understand. Includes free document scanning.

Can an individual serve as my nonprofit registered agent?

Yes, most states allow individuals to serve as the nonprofit’s registered agent. Many nonprofits consider appointing a board member or employee as their registered agent. While this approach may work in some cases, it can have significant downsides.

Nonprofit registered agents are a legal appointment

The registered agent serves as the main point of contact between the state, courts, and your nonprofit. The registered agent must be available during all business hours to receive service of process. Individuals with busy professional and personal schedules often cannot fully meet this requirement. As a result, the nonprofit’s risk of missing service of process increases.

Harbor Compliance provides registered agent service in every state. Our local offices are staffed during all regular business hours to receive documents on behalf of your organization.

Individual registered agents can be more costly

Appointing an individual registered agent can cost more than hiring a registered agent provider. While appointing a board member or employee may sound like a good deal in the short term, the risks and long-term costs are often higher.

Board and personnel turnover increases the ongoing cost of maintaining nonprofit registered agents. Each time a registered agent is no longer able to serve in that capacity, the nonprofit must file an update with the state. Most states also assess a fee, which averages $25 per filing. Forgetting a change filing increases your nonprofit's chances of missing a service of process delivery.

Harbor Compliance handles the state change filings when our agent information changes, meaning you have one less step to take when an individual cycles out of your organization.

Access to a reliable nonprofit registered agent network when you grow

As your nonprofit expands into a new state, you will need a new nonprofit registered agent that meets the requirements of that new state. Most individuals cannot fulfill the requirements of two or more states at once. Harbor Compliance provides local offices in every state, giving your nonprofit the registered agent representation you need as you grow.

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