STEP 1) SECURE YOUR NON-PROFIT NAME

Choose a Business Name

First thing’s first, you need to verify that the name you would like for your non-profit is available and acceptable under state law, and then reserve it if needed. Here’s the 1-2-3 of it:

  1. Conduct a Business Entity Search through the Sec. of State to check for naming conflicts.
  2. Consult the state statutes, specifically 10-33-10 within the Non-Profit Corps. section.
  3. File a Reserve Name Application (SFN 13015) form to protect the name until you file Articles (Step 5).

Filing Fee: $10

STEP 2) APPOINT A REGISTERED AGENT

Choose a Registered AgentNon-profits, like businesses are required to designate and maintain a North Dakota Registered Agent (legal appointee, statutory agent, etc.) to receive and help process documents and critical paperwork on behalf of the organization. Based on state requirements, an entity or an organization cannot serve as its own agent, thus, the need to hire a 3rd party.

They must be a resident of the state, have an office or physical address and must be available during all regular M-F business hours. Costs can run $160 every year, or you can get a qualified/dependable agent free of charge when you incorporate through services like IncFile or BizFilings.

STEP 3) SELECT INCORPORATORS & DIRECTORS

Choose the Initial Directors

An incorporator, and there can be more than one, is responsible for “executing” the Articles of Incorporation with the state in Step 5. Pretty simple and the only real requirement is that they be over 18 year of age. Directors on the other hand have far more responsibility. For now you’ll be recruiting at least one temporary director to oversee the organization until in Step 7, you vote in the official directors of the board.

This is where the process can get complex, legal-heavy with corporate formalities, so it’s a good idea to work with either a non-profit lawyer or an incorporation service who can help guide you and your team through this part of the process and explain the finer details.

STEP 4) DRAFT NON-PROFIT BYLAWS

Register an LLCTruth be told, “bylaws” is really just a fancy word for rules, or regulations. These are the rules you write for how your non-profit will be governed and managed along with the many stipulations that come along with having a board of directors vs a non-profit that’s run expressly by members or volunteers. Common bylaws cover topics like:

  • How meetings are to be conducted.
  • How new officers and directors are elected.
  • How voting takes place, disputes handled, and records kept/managed.
  • Adding/Amending bylaws (any changes must be reported to the IRS after incorporation).

If this is all new to you, use this savvy Corporate Bylaws Template which you can customize for your non-profit and get an idea of the paperwork-side of bylaws.

STEP 5) FILE ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION

Business LicensesFirst, it would be a good idea to print out and ND Guide to “Begin and Maintain a Non-Profit Corporation” so that you know you have all your bases covered before filing your Non-Profit Articles of Incorporation. This officially forms the organization under the law and before the public record.

  • The name, type, duration of existence, and statement of purpose (provisions for non-profit vs corp);
  • Complete names & addresses of registered agent (and office), incorporators, and directors.
  • Any specific provisions/bylaws set forth as part of the internal operations of your organization.
  • A stipulation of apportioning assets to any 501(c)(3) upon termination of your organization.

Filing Fee: $40

STEP 6) START A CORPORATE RECORDS BOOK

File Annual Reports & Publication Requirements

If you aren’t already familiar, a non-profit records book is where you keep physical copies of the most important paperwork – Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Meeting Minutes, 501.c.3 IRS Approval Letter, licenses & permits, current board members list, your annual and biannual reports, etc. Not mandatory, but very 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 DirectorsDon’t worry if you don’t have an MBA or any formal experience with conducting official corporate or non-profit meetings. It’s essentially where you gather your board of directors and upper management/officers, record “minutes of meeting” and take care of foundational topics like:

  • Approving the Bylaws set out in Step 4, or amending them.
  • Appointment of officers, directors, committees, etc.
  • Approving important transactions and setting up a bank account/treasurer.
  • Setting a tax period, a record keeper, appointing a CFO, and so forth.

If this is all new to you, use this savvy Corporate Bylaws Template which you can customize for your non-profit and get an idea of the paperwork-side of bylaws.

STEP 8) GET AN EIN

Get an EIN for Your LLC

An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is required by both state and federal governments for essentially the same reasons individuals are required to have a SSN. It’s a 9-digit number that’s used to track business/non-profit financial activity and makes it possible to open a business bank account, hire paid-employees if needed, and so on.

Almost every transaction your non-profit engages in will require an EIN. That said, you can get one quickly, easily and free of charge by applying online through the IRS Website.

STEP 9) APPLY FOR FEDERAL AND STATE TAX 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.

A couple other sites to bookmark would be the Fargo district office of the Small Business Administration and the state’s Small Biz Development Center because they’re going to have tons of helpful information and access to great services your non-profit can leverage.

STEP 10) SETUP A BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT

Best Business Bank Account

Take some time to shop around and see which bank/credit union has the most convenience and perks to offer your organization. Don’t assume where you or any of your directors bank personally is the ideal choice. How’s their online banking? What are their free deposit/withdrawal limits? How high are their monthly fees? What kinds of incentives do they specifically offer non-profits?

Where you choose to bank is important so don’t take it lightly. If this will be your first time setting up shop, a) check out this quick breakdown of Non-Profit Accounts, and b) make sure to keep this account completely separate from all other accounts. Don’t muddy the pristine water of your financials.

OPTIONAL) WORK TOWARDS A FUND-PLAN

Write a Business PlanA fund-ready plan is basically a plan that’s ready to show to volunteer groups, non-profit organizations, state agencies, the federal government, philanthropists, etc. So it has everything they’re looking for in terms of core mission statement, outreach methods/goals, financial backing, board members, and so forth.

Think about it, would you donate to a non-profit or really get involved with an initiative that didn’t have a real structure or promise of impact? Point is, if you take the planning side of making a positive change in this world consider yourself one smart cookie. Discover more in the links below.

OPTIONAL) PUBLISH A RESPONSIVE WEBSITE

Build a Business WebsiteWhat does responsive even mean? In terms of web-users, whether it’s a simple landing page, more robust agency-style site, or even a site with an integrated store:

  1. The easier a website is to use, the more responsive it is to your users’ needs – donate, purchase t-shirt, contact, get details, etc.
  2. The site should work well on any device, Apple or Android, desktop, smartphone, tablet, etc.

Thankfully newer more modernized platforms like Wix and SquareSpace are making it easier for small budget non-profits to get up and running. Another big one is WordPress, or even Shopify. To begin discovering the potential, check out WebsiteSetup.org which is a great beginner resource.

Need Help Forming Your Organization?

Have a reliable incorporation service like IncFile or LegalZoom do the work for you. Just answer a few questions about your organization and they’ll take care of the paperwork.

Visit IncFile Or Visit LegalZoom

Note that this article on how to form a non-profit organization in North Dakota 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 form a non-profit organization in North Dakota or business in general, please consult with a non-profit/corporate lawyer or other accredited professional.