How to Start a Nonprofit | Step 3: Incorporation and State Forms

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Once you have a solid foundation for your organization, it is time to begin the process of incorporation. Because laws and regulations can vary from state to state, we recommend you look to resources such as those available from LawforChange, and connect with your local state association of nonprofits for state-specific resources. The National Council of Nonprofits does not provide legal advice, and the information that follows is provided only as general background information. Consulting with local counsel on current local legal requirements is essential to ensure you follow the proper process for starting your organization.

Below, we have provided a very general overview. First, we recommend that you review information available from your state charity official so that you will be aware what is required in your state. Regulations differ greatly from state to state, so this listing should not be considered comprehensive or a substitute for competent legal counsel.

  • Reserve/register intended name
  • File Articles of Incorporation - Some states require supplemental information, such as:
    • Certificate of Disclosure
    • Proof of Corporate Name
    • Filing fees - Be sure to follow the instructions on the forms and include these if applicable.
  • Extra steps, depending on state:
    • In many states you must publish your of articles of incorporation a certain number of times in a local newspaper, then file proof of publication with a state agency.
  • Samples to consider:

Resources on state forms and filing requirements (Hurwit & Associates)

The Cost of Starting a Nonprofit in Every State (Nonprofit Hub)

Once your organization has incorporated, it is time to move on to Step 4 | Filing for Federal Tax-Exempt Status.

Find Your State Association of Nonprofits

Find Your State Association of Nonprofits

Connect with local resources and expertise

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