Step 1) Verify Your Nonprofit Name
Choosing a name is the first act of branding you’ll do for your nonprofit. In order to benefit your brand, your name needs to be memorable and capture the organization’s mission. However, it also needs to meet some legal requirements in order to be approved in Arkansas. Your nonprofit name must not:
- Mislead about the organization’s purpose
- Contain any profanities/restricted wording
- Be confusingly similar to any entity name currently registered in Arkansas
Having a name that sets you apart from any other entity in Arkansas is as important for branding as it is for legal compliance. Think about it -- if your name is too similar to that of an existing business, how is anyone supposed to remember you?
What To Do:
Once you’ve decided on an ideal name, do a business name search through the Secretary of State to see if it’s available. If it is, you can either reserve it or wait to lock it down until you file your Articles of Incorporation with the state.
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 Registered Agent
Next, you need to appoint a registered agent in Arkansas for your nonprofit. A registered agent is a person or company that’s responsible for accepting important legal documents on behalf of your organization.
If you appoint a person, they must be a resident of Arkansas with a street address in the state; if you appoint a company, they must be legally authorized to represent businesses in Arkansas.
Arkansas allows nonprofit members to act as the organization’s registered agent, but there are a few reasons why you, or another member, may not want to. For instance:
- If you can’t commit to maintaining normal business hours at your home or work address
- If you don’t want to publically link your personal address to the organization
- If you’re worried about missing important notices or deadlines
If all of the issues above don’t concern you, you can feel free to list yourself as your organization’s registered agent. But before you jump the gun, we recommend at least taking a look at some professional registered agent service providers’ rates.
What To Do:
Read our guide to learn more about what registered agent duties entail. If you come to the conclusion that a professional service is your best bet, we advise getting a registered agent in Arkansas through an online incorporation company like Incfile. They include a full year of registered agent services in their nonprofit formation package.
Step 3) File Articles Of Incorporation
Now it’s time to register your nonprofit with the state! After this step you’ll be an official Arkansas nonprofit organization.
Registering your organization requires filing Articles of Incorporation with the Arkansas Secretary of State. This document will ask for:
- Your nonprofit’s name and purpose
- Whether you’re a public, mutual or religious corporation
- Whether or not the organization will have members
- A description of how assets would be distributed upon dissolution
- Your registered agent’s name and street address
- The names, addresses and signatures of your incorporators
A designated officer will also have to fill out a contact information page attached at the end of the document. The information you provide there is where the organization’s annual reporting form will be sent!
What To Do:
Arkansas’ Secretary of State allows you to file your Articles of Incorporation online, which costs $45.00 and everything will be taken care of through their digital application.
Step 4) Get An EIN
Now that you’ve legally formed your organization with the state, you’re eligible to apply for an EIN. An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is like a professional social security number — it’s the federal government’s vehicle for tracking your organization’s financial activity.
The majority of businesses are required to get an EIN, but they’re especially important for nonprofit organizations seeking federal tax exemption.
What To Do:
We think the best way to obtain an EIN is by using the IRS online application. This method is totally free, and you’ll get your identification number as soon as you finish filling it out. However, there are a few other ways you can obtain an EIN for free if the online method doesn’t suit you. Check out our EIN guide for details.
Keep in mind that if you end up buying a comprehensive nonprofit formation package, this service will probably be included automatically.
Step 5) Meet With Directors & Establish Bylaws
Your organizational meeting is a vitally important moment in the life of your nonprofit. This is when you’ll sit down with your board of directors and flesh out:
- Each member’s role and responsibilities
- What actions may or may not be taken without a meeting
- Your fiscal year
- Your first meeting minutes
- Your nonprofit bylaws
Basically, it’s when you’ll build an all-around solid foundation for your organization. Establishing your bylaws should take up a decent amount of time during this meeting. This document will govern the way your nonprofit runs for as long as it’s in existence, so put in the necessary time and energy to make sure it’ll guide the organization in the right direction.
What To Do:
To make sure you go into this meeting totally prepared, you might consider taking advantage of some online templates. Rocket Lawyer offers meeting minute and bylaw templates specifically for nonprofits, which is great since nonprofits have different needs than for-profit corporations. If you have any other specific concerns or points of confusion, you can always consult Arkansas’ nonprofit corporation statutes, too!
Step 6) Start A Corporate Records Book
Now that you’ve gathered quite a few important documents, it’s time to establish the place they’ll be kept. A corporate records book is where you’ll keep all of your legal paperwork and other records, like your:
- Articles of Incorporation
- Nonprofit bylaws
- Tax forms
- Meeting minutes
While it’s not a legal requirement to have a super-fancy corporate records book, it is important to keep all your corporate records organized, as you’ll be coming back to them time and time again.
You may feel that your organization only needs a simple binder, or on the other hand, maybe you’d benefit from a customized corporate kit. Corporate kits include extra pieces like a custom seal, printed bylaws, and meeting minutes, in addition to an engraved leather binder.
What To Do:
Decide whether or not you think your organization could really benefit from a corporate kit. Again, they’re not legally required — their purpose is more to help you communicate the legitimacy of your organization, both internally and externally.