Step 1) Verify & Choose A Name For Your Non-Profit
The first step toward forming a successful non-profit in Alaska is choosing a great name. Your organization’s name should:
- Be distinguishable from any existing business or organization in Alaska. They define “distinguishable” on the Department of Commerce website.
- Not contain any name restrictions. Alaska doesn’t allow organization names that mislead the public about their purpose, imply they’re a government entity, or contain vulgarities.
You should also keep in mind that your name is the first real branding decision you’ll make for your non-profit, so put some serious effort in here. Choose a name that captures the mission of your organization, and one that will attract like-minded folks.
What To Do:
To find out whether or not your ideal name is available, do a business name search through Alaska’s corporation database.
Once you find a name that meets all the criteria outlined above, you can either reserve it for a $25.00 fee, or wait to lock it down until you file your Articles of Incorporation. It’s also worth searching for a good domain name at this time, even if you’re not planning on launching a website right away.
Quick Note: Before you commit 100% to a name, you may also want to check that there’s a decent URL available for your business. Use GoDaddy to search your options. If there’s a quality domain name for purchase, we advise buying it right away. Even if launching a business website isn’t on your radar right now, it’s going to be soon, and you might as well nail down a domain name that’ll make it easy for customers to find you!
Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent & Initial Directors
Before filing your Articles of Incorporation, you’ll need to choose a registered agent and select your initial board of directors.
Your Alaska registered agent may be an individual or corporation, as long as they’re a resident of the state or a business registered to operate. Basically, they’ll be in charge of receiving all important documents on behalf of your business, including tax forms and service of process notices.
Alaska doesn’t prohibit you, or a member of your non-profit, from acting as your registered agent -- but there are a few reasons why you might not be up for the challenge. For instance:
- If you don’t want to maintain normal 9-5 business hours at your professional or personal address. (This is mandatory for registered agents)
- If you run your non-profit from home and you’re not comfortable making your personal address public.
- If you’re afraid of being served in front of your family, friends or coworkers.
At the same time, you should be thinking about your initial board of directors. Alaska requires non-profit corporations to have at least 3 members on their board at all times, so if you only have one or two folks in mind you’re going to need to stay on the hunt.
When choosing directors, make it a priority to find people who share a passion for the cause and have some degree of business knowledge. Sure, you can always mix up your board members later on, but it’s still important to have reliable, dedicated individuals working on the organization in its initial stages.
What To Do:
Head over to our registered agent guide if you’re thinking about acting as your own registered agent. It’s important to fully understand what’s going to be legally required of you before signing up for this task. Otherwise, consider taking advantage of Incfile’s registered agent services -- they include one year in their incorporation package.
Step 3) File Articles Of Incorporation
This is a huge step for your organization -- once you’ve filed your Articles of Incorporation you’ll be officially recognized as an Alaska non-profit corporation. This document will ask for:
- Your non-profit’s name and purpose
- Your NAICS code (find yours here)
- Your registered agent’s name, physical address and mailing address
- The names and mailing addresses of your initial board members
- The signatures of incorporators (minimum 3)
You can file online or on paper -- either way you’ll need to fulfill the $50.00 fee. If you choose to file on paper, you’ll send your Articles of Incorporation to the following address:
State of Alaska, Corporations Section
PO Box 110806
Juneau, AK 99811-0806
If you file online, of course, you won’t need to send anything to the Department of Commerce -- it’ll all be taken care of digitally.
What To Do:
There are a few ways to go about filing your Articles of Incorporation, one being the DIY approach described above. However, our top recommendation is to take advantage of a non-profit formation service like Incfile or LegalZoom.
Step 4) Get an EIN
Now that you’re incorporated, it’s time to get an EIN for your organization. An EIN, or Employer Identification number, is the federal government’s way of tracking your organization’s financial activity.
All corporations are required to have EINs.
As a nonprofit, your finances are going to be under a magnifying glass -- so it’s a good idea to get your EIN before making any big moves. It’ll also be necessary when you’re setting up a bank account and filling out IRS forms.
What To Do:
Luckily, this is a pretty simple process. All you need to do is head over to the IRS website and fill out their online application. It’s totally free and you’ll get your identification number as soon as you finish. We think this is the best approach because it’s the most efficient -- but you can also apply for free using other methods, which we outline in our EIN guide.
Step 5) Meet With Directors & Discuss Bylaws
Your first board meeting is a critical point at which you and your directors have the opportunity to breathe life into your organization. It’s when you’ll all finally sit down and talk through how the non-profit will operate, including:
- Each director’s title and duties
- The length of directors’ terms
- How often the board will meet
- Conditions for adding/amending bylaws
- What decisions can be made with/without a meeting
It’s also when you’ll create your non-profit bylaws, which will serve as the governing document of your organization. Although you won’t submit them to the state, having super-thorough bylaws is a great way to prevent and resolve disputes about the organization’s management structure and other logistical issues.
What To Do:
This is a formative moment in the life of your non-profit, so don’t go into the meeting unprepared. Do some research on what to include in your non-profit bylaws, how to record meeting minutes, and the various requirements the state of Alaska sets forth for non-profits. Using meeting minute and bylaw templates is a great way to approach your organizational meeting, as it’ll ensure you don’t breeze over an important decision.
Step 6) Start a Corporate Records Book
Having a corporate records book isn’t a legal requirement, but it’s a wise choice to make for your organization. Your corporate records book is where you’ll keep all of the following documents, and more:
- Certificate of Formation
- Tax forms
- Non-profit bylaws
- Meeting minutes
Just to be clear, it’s 100% mandatory for your organization to keep all these records, but you can choose whether or not you’d like to keep them in a fancy binder.
At the very minimum, you should get a simple binder or folder designated for your non-profit’s records -- but you can also take this opportunity to invest in a full-fledged corporate kit. Most corporate kits will include a custom seal, membership certificates, and some other unique pieces that can help you assert the legitimacy of your organization. It’s up to you to decide what your non-profit could benefit from!
What To Do:
Depending on what you’re looking for, it’s possible that you could find a sufficient corporate records binder at a local office supply store. However, if you’re leaning toward getting a customized binder or corporate kit, you might take a look at Blumberg and Bindertek.
They design products specifically for non-profit corporations, which is great since non-profits have different needs than for-profit corporations.