How to Form a Nonprofit in Rhode Island

Two people forming a nonprofit in Rhode Island

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Starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Rhode Island is easy, just follow these easy steps:

If you’ve been thinking about starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Rhode Island, you have come to the right place. We have developed this comprehensive guide to help you not only start a nonprofit in Rhode Island but also make it successful.

In this guide, you’ll find everything you need about starting your Rhode Island nonprofit, including information on how to name your nonprofit, file articles of incorporation, and how to apply for IRS tax-exempt status. Just follow these 9 easy steps below:

Step 1: Name Your Rhode Island Nonprofit
Step 2: Appoint a Rhode Island Registered Agent
Step 3: Select Your Board Members and Officers
Step 4: Rhode Island Articles of Incorporation
Step 5: Draft Bylaws and Conflict of Interest Policy
Step 6: Conduct an Organizational Meeting
Step 7: Get an EIN
Step 8: Get a Rhode Island State Tax Identification Number
Step 9: Applying for Exemption from State and Federal Taxes (501(c)(3) status)

Step 1: Name Your Rhode Island Nonprofit

The name you select for your nonprofit will establish its brand. It is the first thing most people will learn about your organization. It is important to pick a name that both aligns with your mission and follows the rules for naming in your state.

Rhode Island Nonprofit Naming Guidelines

The name you pick for your organization must not include any word or phrase that suggests that your organization has any other purpose than those that will be listed in its Articles of Incorporation.

You can read the official guidelines for the complete rules on naming a Rhode Island-based organization.

To learn more, read our How to Name a Nonprofit in Rhode Island guide.

Is the Website Domain Name Available?

If you plan to have a website for your organization, you will want to make sure that a suitable URL is currently available on GoDaddy.

You may want to buy any URLs you are interested in, to make sure they are available when you are ready to finalize and create your website.

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

Step 2: Appoint a Rhode Island Registered Agent

A nonprofit corporation in Rhode Island is required to have a registered agent with a Rhode Island address.

What is a Registered Agent? A registered agent is an individual or business entity responsible for receiving important legal documents on behalf of your business. Think of your registered agent as your business' point of contact with the state.

Learn more about registered agents

Incfile provides the first year of registered agent service free with nonprofit formation ($49 + State Fees)

To learn more, read our Rhode Island Registered Agent guide.

Step 3: Select Your Board Members and Officers

The directors of a nonprofit are responsible for overseeing the operations of the organization. The directors come together to form a board.

The officers of a nonprofit (such as the president or the secretary) are individuals with responsibilities, and the authority to execute based on their job descriptions.

Together, the officers and the board will come together to make up the organizational structure of your nonprofit.

The organization structure of your 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Rhode Island MUST include:

  • At least 3 directors not related to each other
  • A president
  • A secretary
  • A treasurer

NOTE: The president and secretary positions cannot be held by the same person.

To learn more, read our guide on How to Select Board Members for Your Rhode Island Nonprofit.

Step 4: Rhode Island Articles of Incorporation

To become a nonprofit corporation in Rhode Island you must file Form 200- Articles of Incorporation with the Rhode Island Department of State.

In order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, the organization’s purpose must explicitly be limited to one or more of the following:

  • Charitable
  • Religious
  • Scientific
  • Literary
  • Testing for public safety
  • Fostering national/international amateur sports competition
  • Preventing cruelty to animals/children

The filing fee is $35.

  • Checks and money orders for mailed forms must be made payable to "RI Department of State"
  • Accepted credit cards for online filing include Visa & MasterCard

To learn more, read our Rhode Island Articles of Incorporation guide.

Step 5: Draft Bylaws and Conflict of Interest Policy

There are two documents that will be central to the running of your nonprofit:

Bylaws: These are the rules that determine how your organization will be governed and run.

Conflict of Interest Policy: These are the rules set to ensure that decisions being made for the nonprofit are based on what is best for the organization, and not being motivated by what is best for individuals.

Learn more about how to write bylaws for your nonprofit

Step 6: Conduct an Organizational Meeting

An organizational meeting is the first official meeting of your nonprofit! Some of the things that are discussed in a typical organizational meeting:

  • Taking attendance to show you have a quorum (minimum number needed)
  • Appointing temporary officers, chairmen, secretaries, etc.
  • Adoption of the bylaws
  • Adoption of conflict of interest policy

Don’t forget to record “minutes” of the meeting and have it signed by all attending directors. Here are some corporate minutes templates to help you get the ball rolling.

Step 7: Get an EIN

An EIN or Employment Identification Number (also called a Federal Tax Identification Number or Federal Employment Identification Number), is used to uniquely identify a business entity. You can think of the EIN as a social security number for your nonprofit.

The EIN is required for your organization whether or not it will have any employees.

To learn more, read our guide on how to get your EIN.

Step 8: Get a Rhode Island State Tax Identification Number

Your organization will need to apply for a State Taxpayer Identification Number online or by using Form BAR: Business Application and Registration.

Mail the paper form to the address below:

Rhode Island Division of Taxation
One Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908

For more information, you can call the Division of Taxation at (401) 574-8829 for registration questions, (401) 574-8700 for Tax Administration, or visit them at their website.

Step 9: Applying for Exemption from State and Federal Taxes (501(c)(3) status)

Applying for Exemption from Federal Taxes:

A nonprofit may be eligible for 501(c)(3) status only if its purpose is limited to one or more of the following:

Charitable, Religious, Scientific, Educational, Literary, Fostering national/international amateur sports competition, Preventing cruelty to animals/children, Testing for public safety


Before a nonprofit can apply for 501(c)(3) status it must:

  1. Elect at least 3 directors not related to each other
  2. Register as a nonprofit with the state
  3. Adopt the bylaws and conflict of interest policy
  4. Have an EIN number

Once these four conditions have been met your nonprofit can apply for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by filing Form-1023 online.

If your application is approved, the IRS will send you a determination letter stating that your organization is exempt from federal taxes under section 501(c)(3).

To learn more, read our guide on How to File Form 1023-EZ.

 

Applying for Exemption from State Taxes:

Once your organization receives the IRS determination letter it will be automatically exempt from state corporate income tax.

For more information, you can call the Department of Revenue at (401) 574-8935, visit them at their website, or visit the address below:

Rhode Island Division of Taxation
One Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908

Once you have formed your Rhode Island nonprofit, we recommend you read our guide on How To Protect your Rhode Island Nonprofit and Keep It Compliant.

State of Rhode Island Nonprofit Quicklinks