STEP 1) SECURE YOUR NON-PROFIT NAME

Choose a Business Name

To secure and register your non-profit name in it should be unique, not too similar to another registered entity name, and shouldn’t contain any restricted wording as defined by Colorado law. To check for naming conflicts, first conduct a Business Entity Search through the state and be sure to check with section 7-124-101 in the state code (subject to change).

If needed, you can also file a Statement of Reservation of Name form online to reserve an available name for 120 days.

Filing Fee: $25

STEP 2) APPOINT A REGISTERED AGENT

Choose a Registered AgentA Colorado Registered Agent is required of your non-profit for compliance purposes. This registered, or statutory agent, can be an individual registered citizen or a corporation authorized to conduct business in the state. They’ll also need to provide a street address, for your registered office and hold regular M-F business hours.

That said, you can hire an outside professional service and expect to pay up to $160/year, or get a certified agent free when you incorporate your non-profit with a service like IncFile or BizFilings. They handle this and more depending on your startup package.

STEP 3) SELECT INCORPORATORS & DIRECTORS

Choose the Initial DirectorsIn Colorado you’re going to need to select at least one incorporator (7-122-101), and yes you can have more (often recommended), who are responsible for executing the Articles of Incorporation with the state. They just need to be human and over the age of 18. Directors, on the other hand, are a bit more complex and come with a lot more corporate formalities (7-122-105).

Colorado requires you to set the min/max number in the bylaws in our next step, and also to use the bylaws to establish whether they must be a CO resident or from within the non-profit itself. This is quite different to most other states, so if you have any questions working with an attorney or incorporation service helps.

STEP 4) DRAFT NON-PROFIT BYLAWS

Register an LLCThis is somewhat complex subject, but here are two primary notes in state law concerning non-profit bylaws (7-122-106):

  • (1) The board of directors or, if no directors have been named or elected, the incorporators may adopt initial bylaws. If neither the incorporators nor the board of directors have adopted initial bylaws, the members may do so.
  • (2) The bylaws of a nonprofit corporation may contain any provision for managing and regulating the affairs of the nonprofit corporation that is not inconsistent with law or with the articles of incorporation.

So in essence your non-profit bylaws are the rules with which your organization is governed and managed. You can’t incorporate without them and it wouldn’t make sense if you could! If it’ll be helpful, check out a savvy Corporate Bylaws Template with an example that you can customize yourself as well.

STEP 5) FILE ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION

Business Licenses

Once you and your board believe everything’s in order and you’re ready to form the non-profit in the eyes of the law/public record, you’ll have your incorporators sign and file Articles of Incorporation (section 7-122-102) with Colorado State. Please, do not try to take this step prematurely as it will only end up costing more time and resources.

The form is going to require original signatures and ask you to declare some of the basics of your non-profit: name, registered agent info, directors info, mission/purpose statement, etc.

Filing Fee: $50

STEP 6) START A CORPORATE RECORDS BOOK

File Annual Reports & Publication Requirements

What we’re referring to here is a physical, often very nice looking book, folder or binder where copies of critical pieces of paperwork are kept and managed. And yes, that’s along with the many modern ways of tracking and compiling information on your non-profit. They’re somewhat of a corporate formality, but extremely common and highly-advised.

You can pick one up at pretty much any office supply store or online through Amazon of course, but we’re huge fans of savvy-sleek Corporate Kits which include gorgeous records books, binders, blank certificates and more which you can brand for as little as $99.

STEP 7) CONDUCT AN INITIAL MEETING

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of Directors

For your first meeting assemble incorporators/directors and get ready to establish the foundation of your non-profit. Be sure to record “minutes” of the meeting and all attendees and have it signed by directors for your records book. Topics you’ll cover will vary:

  • Voting on the appointment of critical officers;
  • Voting on and approving/amending bylaws;
  • Establishing a tax year as well as an accounting period;
  • Approving initial transactions, committees, and more.

If you found the bylaws template useful, check out a similar Corporate Minutes Template you can also customize and use to provide initial structure until you and your board get the hang of things should it be necessary.

STEP 8) GET AN EIN

Get an EIN for Your LLC

An EIN is very straightforward. It’s a 9-digit identifying number like a social security number but for business entities including non-profits. You’ll use it to setup a bank account and hire paid employees if needed, then the appropriate agencies will use it to track your financial activity.

The quickest and easiest way to get one is by submitting a request directly through the IRS Website.

STEP 9) HANDLE LICENSING & EXEMPTIONS

Small Business Taxes

Now’s the point to ensure your non-profit is 100% compliant in terms of not only licenses/permits, but state and federal taxes. You should be able to apply for tax exempt status now that the corporation is established.

Two other great resources we think it would behoove you to bookmark are the Denver Small Business Administration office and Colorado Business Express because there’s no end to the possibilities when it comes to the marriage between business and non-profit communities.

STEP 10) SETUP A BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT

Best Business Bank Account

First of all, make absolutely sure that no other accounts of any kind or any other income/expense steams of data get mixed in! This is a costly and completely avoidable mistake for too many non-profits stumble into. Secondly, do some homework and research different options between local, state, and federal banks along with credit unions.

Don’t be too quick to decide here! The amount of costs/savings per year from one bank to the next, relative to their other services, is a critical consideration. If needed, check out this brief breakdown of Non-Profit Accounts to gain a better understanding of what’s involved.

OPTIONAL) WRITE A SOLID BUSINESS PLAN

Write a Business Plan

Because of the nature of non-profits, truth is there’s some sort of planning in place. The question is how effective will it end up being a year from now? A year from now, how far will your current approach to non-profit planning (and execution) have gotten you and your board? How defined will your mission statement and outreach goals? How tight of a grasp on your fundamentals?

It’s never too early, or too late, to begin establishing a fund-ready plan you would proudly show to potential partners or donors. The process itself will open so many doors, and dramatically increase your awareness of your potential. If you need help with this, check out and grab our exclusive discount to LivePlan.

OPTIONAL) BUILD A BUSINESS WEBSITE

Build a Business WebsiteWhen a potential volunteer, donor, or investor searches the internet for your non-profit brand what will or do they find? The very worst thing that can happen these days is that they don’t find anything at all. What would you think of a non-profit if they didn’t have at bare minimum a responsive one-pager explaining who they are, what they’re about, what they’re doing, and a simple way to contact/engage them?

Those are the basics of what a non-profit website is for, along with direct sales if you’re into you’re raising money, but you get the idea. With options like Wix, Jimdo and Weebly it’s never been easier or less expensive to begin building a digital presence for your organization.

Need Help Forming Your Organization?

Have a reliable non-profit filing service like Swyft Filings or LegalZoom do the work for you. Just answer a few questions about your organization and they’ll take care of the paperwork.

Visit Swyft Filings Or Visit LegalZoom

Note that this article on how to start a non-profit organization in Colorado isn’t a legal document or legal advice. It’s for informational purposes and the information above is subject to change. For specific legal questions regarding how to start a non-profit organization in Colorado or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.