How to File the Articles of Incorporation for a Wisconsin Nonprofit

Person submitting paperwork.

Starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Wisconsin is easy, just follow these easy steps to file the Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation:

If you are starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Wisconsin, you have come to the right place. After reading the comprehensive guide for Wisconsin nonprofit formation, follow this guide to file the Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State.

What is covered in this guide:

  1. Information you will need to file the Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation
  2. How to file the Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation
  3. Wisconsin Nonprofit Formation FAQ

Information you will need to file the Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation

To become a nonprofit corporation in Wisconsin you must file Form 102, the Articles of Incorporation for Non-Stock, Not for Profit Corporations.

Here are the sections that you will need to complete:

Article 1: Corporation Name

Enter the name you have selected.

For help with selecting a name for your nonprofit read our comprehensive guide on how to name a Wisconsin nonprofit.

Article 2: Wisconsin Statutes

This is a sentence that is prepopulated and confirms that the corporation is "organized under Ch. 181 of the Wisconsin Statutes". If you file your Articles of Incorporation separately and do not use this form, ensure that this sentence is included in your Articles.

Articles 3 & 4: Registered Agent & Registered Office

The registered agent can be any entity registered to do business in Wisconsin or any person who is a resident of the state. Your organization cannot act as its own registered agent.

Any person you designate as the registered agent must have already explicitly consented to act as the registered agent for your organization even though you do not need to include proof of consent with your Form 102.

For more information read our guide: What is a registered agent? And The Wisconsin Registered Agent Guide.

Article 5: Principal Office

Enter the principal office address of your nonprofit.

Article 6: Membership

Select the appropriate box depending on whether or not your nonprofit corporation plans to have members.

Article 7: Authorized Distributions

Select the appropriate box to indicate if your corporation is authorized to make distributions according to section 181.1302(4) of the Wisconsin Statutes.

Article 8: Other Provisions

This section allows you to determine when you want your nonprofit corporation to officially form.

A: Purpose

Describe the purpose of your nonprofit organization.

In order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, the organization’s purpose must explicitly be limited to one or more of the following:

  • Charitable
  • Religious
  • Scientific
  • Literary
  • Testing for public safety
  • Fostering national/international amateur sports competition
  • Preventing cruelty to animals/children

NOTE: You can read the IRS guidelines on their website.

B: Dissolution

Use this section of the Articles of Incorporation to formally state what the assets of the organization will be used for, and what will happen to the assets if the organization is dissolved.

To be eligible for 501(c)(3) status, you must convince the IRS that the organization’s assets will always only be used for the purposes approved under 501(c)(3) rules. To this end, you must include provisions ensuring that in the event your organization is dissolved, the assets of the organization will be used towards tax-exempt purposes.

Section 5 of this sample document provides an example of these provisions required for 501(c)(3) eligibility.

Article 9: Incorporators

Include the name and complete address of each incorporator and the person who completed the Articles of Incorporation on your behalf.

How to file the Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation

You can submit your Articles of Incorporation one of two ways: 

Online:

File the Articles of Incorporation through the Department of Financial Institutions' online portal.

By Mail:

Submit the Articles of Incorporation form to the mailing address below.

WI-Department of Financial Institutions
P.O. Box 93348
Milwaukee, WI 53293-0348

The filing fee is $35.

  • Checks and money orders for mailed forms must be made payable to the "Department of Financial Institutions"
  • Accepted credit cards for online filing include Visa, Discover, MasterCard, and American Express

Wisconsin Nonprofit Formation FAQ

How long does it take to process Form 102?

If you file online it typically takes about 1-5 business days. If you file by mail expect to get a response in 4-7 business days.

If you have filed by mail you can choose to pay an optional expedite fee of $25 to cut down the processing time.

How do I contact the Department of Financial Institutions for more information?

You can call for information at (608) 261-7577 or visit them at their website.

State of Wisconsin Nonprofit Resources