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. To check for naming conflicts, first conduct a Business Entity Search through the state and be sure to check with Title 35: Part 3 in the state code (subject to change).
Also, once you know your name is unique you can file a Business Name Reservation application with the Montana Secretary of State to protect it until filing Articles of Incorporation in Step 5.
Filing Fee: $10 with Expedition Options
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 A Registered Agent
Your Montana Registered Agent is there so that your nonprofit always, and officially, receives important paperwork on time like state filings, legal notices, important tax forms, and so on.
This is why they must be either a registered individual citizen or business entity in the state, have a physical street address, and be available during all regular business hours/days.
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. They handle this and more depending on your startup package.
Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors
What are incorporators? That’s easy, this is the individual (you can have more than one) who signs and then files your nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the state in step 5.
They don’t have to be an officer or director. Speaking of directors, you’ll need to select at least 3 initial directors to oversee the nonprofit during formation until new more official directors can be voted on/in during your initial meeting in Step 7.
Bookmark the Governance & Leadership page from the MNA because it has more of the finer details in terms of board responsibilities. To be frank, working with an attorney or incorporation provider really comes in handy during this foundational step as well because there are definitely corporate formalities to learn.
Step 4) Draft Nonprofit Bylaws
Without your own bylaws, your nonprofit would be subject to the default rules and statutes concerning these subjects which may not be suitable at all. 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 Montana.
To get started, check out a savvy Corporate Bylaws Template with an example that you can customize yourself. Also, if you have a legal representative or someone that’s familiar with going through state law, here’s a link to the annotated Chapter 2 of the Montana state code.
Step 5) File Articles Of Incorporation
Once you and your team decide it’s time to form the initial corporation, file your nonprofit Articles of Incorporation or submit them via mail to the Sec. of State. Information you’ll need includes:
- The name, type, duration of existence, and statement of purpose (provisions for nonprofit 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: $30
Step 6) Start A Nonprofit Records Book
What we’re referring to here is a physical, often very nice looking “book” or binder where copies of all the most 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 Initial Meeting
Also called the organizational meeting, the first meeting of the board of directors marks the beginning of your Montana nonprofit. In this meeting, you must decide on important matters including:
- Nonprofit bylaws approval or setting the precedent for amending them.
- Designation of officers and committees and their responsibilities.
- Nonprofit accounting and tax period and appointment of CFO/Treasurer.
- Approval of initial transactions and establishing a corporate bank account.
Make sure that you prepare the minutes of the meeting; your attending board of directors will need to sign the document. If needed, check out a Corporate Minutes Template which you can customize.
Step 8) Get An EIN
An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is a 9-digit number required by all business and nonprofit entities under law in order to effectively track their financial activity. Think of it as a social security number for your nonprofit, but it will also make it possible to legally hire paid employees if needed and open up a bank account.
Almost every transaction your nonprofit engages in will require an EIN. That said, you can get one quickly and free of charge by applying online through the IRS Website.