Use the guide below to form a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Colorado. Keep in mind that the process requires forming a nonprofit 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 nonprofit formation and obtaining IRS 501(c)(3) status.
To secure and register your nonprofit 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
A Colorado Registered Agent is required of your nonprofit 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 nonprofit with a service like Harbor Compliance (see details). They handle this and more depending on your startup package.
In 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 nonprofit itself. This is quite different to most other states, so if you have any questions working with an attorney or incorporation service helps.
This is somewhat complex subject, but here are two primary notes in state law concerning nonprofit bylaws (7-122-106):
So in essence your nonprofit 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.
Once you and your board believe everything’s in order and you’re ready to form the nonprofit 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 nonprofit: name, registered agent info, directors info, mission/purpose statement, etc.
Filing Fee: $50
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 nonprofit. 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.
For your first meeting assemble incorporators/directors and get ready to establish the foundation of your nonprofit. 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:
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.
An EIN is very straightforward. It’s a 9-digit identifying number like a social security number but for business entities including nonprofits. 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.
Now’s the point to ensure your nonprofit 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 nonprofit communities.
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 nonprofits 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 Nonprofit Accounts to gain a better understanding of what’s involved.