How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation in Illinois

How to Use this Guide

To form a nonprofit corporation follow the steps below or have a professional service handle the paperwork for you:

– IncFile ($49 + state fee) for basic & quick nonprofit formation.

– LegalZoom ($99 + state fee) for the most well-known service available.

Step 1) Secure Your Nonprofit Name

Choose a Business NameTo secure and register your brand name it must be unique, and shouldn’t contain any restricted wording. Keep in mind that there are a number of other naming rules, so be sure to bookmark this section of the IL Nonprofit Act, which covers corporate naming regulations.

Follow these steps:

  1. Choose a name, and ensure it is available by conducting a business name search.
  2. If needed, file a Reservation of Name Application to reserve your name for 90 days ($25 fee).

Quick Note: Before you commit 100% to a name, you may also want to check that there’s a decent URL available for your organization. Use WEEBLY to search your options. If there’s a quality domain name for purchase, we advise buying it right away. Even if launching a website isn’t on your radar right now, it’s going to be soon, and you might as well nail down a domain name now.

Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent

Choose a Registered AgentWhen starting a nonprofit, you are required to designate a registered agent to handle official documents on behalf of your organization. They must be a resident of Illinois, or a business entity registered with the Illinois Secretary of State. Either way, they must have a physical address where they’re available during normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm).

You can designate a registered agent by electing someone within your company, hiring an outside professional, or forming your nonprofit through a service like IncFile to get a registered agent free of charge for one year.

Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors

Choose the Initial DirectorsAn incorporator is simply an individual who executes the Articles of Incorporation so your nonprofit can be made official (you’re required to designate at least one). Directors, on the other hand, are in charge of helping run the nonprofit.

Follow these steps:

  1. Select at least one incorporator to deliver your Articles of Incorporation to the state.
  2. Select three initial directors to oversee your nonprofit until new directors are voted in.

Note: Your initial directors will be listed in the Articles of Incorporation, too. Official directors will be stated in your bylaws once voted in. It’s a good idea to work with an attorney or incorporation provider during this foundational step because there are important corporate formalities to learn.

Step 4) Draft Nonprofit Bylaws

Register an LLCYour bylaws will define the structure, management and governance of your nonprofit. Common nonprofit bylaws include:

  • Detailed info on principle and registered agent offices
  • Management, procedures, and responsibilities of the board
  • Details on each office – Pres., Secretary, Treasurer, etc.
  • How to go about adding/amending bylaws
  • How to handle other corporate formalities required in the state

This Bylaws Fact Sheet from TheLawProject.org is very helpful if you’re unfamiliar with this type of document. Also, corporate bylaws templates are a great way to customize your bylaws but also get an idea of what they should look like. Bylaws will be voted on during your initial meeting (Step 7).

Step 5) File Articles Of Incorporation

Business LicensesOnce you and your team decide it’s time to officially form the nonprofit corporation, you’ll need to file nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the state.

Some of the information you’ll need to disclose on this document includes:

  • The nonprofit name, type, duration of existence, and statement of purpose (provisions for nonprofit vs corp)
  • Complete names & addresses of registered agent, incorporators and directors
  • Any specific provisions/bylaws set forth as part of the internal operations of your organization

Follow these steps:

  1. File your Articles by mail by downloading the form here.
  2. Bookmark this IL Guide for Organizing Nonprofit Corporations PDF and check Publication 557 on the IRS website for comprehensive information regarding your filing.

Filing Fee: $50

Step 6) Start Corporate Records Book

File Annual Reports & Publication RequirementsWhile there’s a variety of modern ways to track and compile your nonprofit’s important data, what we’re talking about here is a physical records book where you keep copies of all your essential documents. Is this required by the state? No. But it’s a great way to stay organized, and even assert the legitimacy of your brand.

Follow these steps:

  1. Collect your important documents.
  2. Search for a corporate binder at your local office supply store or on Amazon, or get a custom corporate kit.

Step 7) Conduct An Initial Meeting

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of DirectorsNow it’s time to conduct your first nonprofit meeting, which will be very organizational/foundational in nature.

The meeting agenda should look something like this:

  • Take attendance and show you have a quorum (minimum number needed).
  • Appoint temporary officers, chairmen, secretary, CEO, etc.
  • Adopt or amend bylaws designed in Step 4.
  • Decide on a bank, file state reports, etc.

Make sure to record meeting minutes and have them signed by all attending directors. (Use a corporate minutes template if you’re unfamiliar.)

Those are the basics, but there may certainly be a lot more to discuss. Regardless, this a huge move in the right direction, so make time to celebrate afterward!

Step 8) Get An EIN

Get an EIN for Your LLCWhether or not you intend to hire paid employees, your nonprofit needs to have an EIN (Employer Identification Number). In essence, it’s like a social security number for your nonprofit — it tracks your financial activity to ensure compliance with state/federal tax laws.

Follow this step:

  • Apply through the IRS Website to get an EIN quickly and free of charge.