Step 1) Secure Your Nonprofit Name
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
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 GoDadddy 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 A Registered Agent
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 Incfile (see details). They handle this and more depending on your startup package.
Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors
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.
Step 4) Draft Nonprofit Bylaws
This is somewhat complex subject, but here are two primary notes in state law concerning nonprofit 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 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.
Step 5) File Articles Of Incorporation
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
Step 6) Start A Corporate Records Book
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.
Step 7) Conduct An Initial Meeting
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:
- 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
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.