Use the guide below to form a 501(c)(3) non-profit in Alaska. Keep in mind that the process requires forming a non-profit corporation and getting tax-exempt status with the IRS.
Since the overall process is extremely complex, we highly recommend consulting with an attorney or using a service like Harbor Compliance for personalized top-to-bottom non-profit formation and obtaining IRS 501(c)(3) status.
The first step toward forming a successful non-profit in Alaska is choosing a great name. Your organization’s name should:
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.
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 GoDaddy 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 WEEBLY 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!
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:
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.
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 Harbor Compliance’s registered agent services — they include one year in their 501(c)(3) incorporation package.
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 (although not tax-exempt, yet)! This document will ask for:
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.
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 comprehensive non-profit formation service like Harbor Compliance.
Forming a 501(c)(3) organization is more complicated than any other business formation process, so you’re definitely going to require professional help at some point. Harbor Compliance is one of the only online filing companies that takes care of your tax exemption on top of your Articles of Incorporation, and provides registered agent services.
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, but they’re especially important for non-profits seeking 501(c)(3) status.
To acquire and maintain tax exemption, 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.
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.
Also, keep in mind that if you end up purchasing a comprehensive 501(c)(3) package from a provider like Harbor Compliance, you’ll have this part taken care of for you!
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:
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
Here comes the most involved part of starting your 501(c)(3) non-profit: applying for federal tax exemption.This is by far the longest document you’ll encounter and the longest waiting period you’ll be subjected to along the road to launching your non-profit — so needless to say, it’s important to get it right on the first try.
Depending on the size of your non-profit — and some other factors — you’ll either have to fill out Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ. The EZ version is a shorter, more streamlined option with a quicker turnaround time, so it’s worth checking to see if your organization qualifies.
Open up the Form 1023-EZ Instructions and scroll down to Eligibility Worksheet (page 11). If you answer “yes” to any of the questions, you’ll have to apply using the long version instead.
Once again, applying for federal tax-exemption is no walk in the park, so it’s important to get legal help here. As we’ve mentioned, Harbor Compliance is our favorite provider for 501(c)(3) assistance, but some people choose to collaborate with an attorney instead.
Both are reliable approaches that require investing some money, but it will be well worth it to know your tax-exempt status is guaranteed.
As soon as you’ve tackled everything above, you’ll be ready to open up a bank account and start properly managing your organization’s finances!
Managing your finances is even more important for 501(c)(3) non-profits than any other type of business — you’ll be highly monitored by the federal government to ensure you continue meeting the qualifications for tax exemption over time. So, there’s absolutely no room for mixing personal/professional expenses here!
When selecting a bank, think about the following criteria and which qualities are most important to your organization:
You’ll probably have already discussed all this at your organizational meeting, but if not, make sure to consult with your board members before committing to a bank.
Do some research on local and national banks, starting with this comprehensive list of banks and credit unions that operate in Alaska. Northrim, Denali State, Alaska USA and many other Alaska banks/credit unions offer business banking services, and each has its own perks. Of our favorite national banks, the only one with locations in the state is Wells Fargo (read our review here).
Once you get your bank account set up, you’ll need to sync it with accounting software in order to properly manage your organization’s finances. Check out our top 7 business accounting software tools for our insight on the best programs on the market.
Forming a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization is a massive task, and somewhere along the way, you’ll need to seek out professional assistance. At the end of the day, we highly recommend recruiting the help of an online filing service from the get-go.
Recommended: Services like Harbor Compliance will take care of nearly every step we covered in this guide on your behalf, and allow you to focus on other aspects of your organization that requires attention and care.