The first step to incorporating your non-profit is to secure a unique name not already registered with the state. Conduct a Business Entity Search and ensure it’s not already taken and then read through the state statutes (section 10-3401) regarding corporate names.
Once you know the name is unique and acceptable under the law, if needed you can have it reserved for 120 days by filing an Application to Reserve Corporate Name form that will keep it protected while you’re forming until Step 5 where you file the Articles and make the name a part of public record.
Filing fee: $10 or $35 for Expedited
Forming a non-profit corporation requires a qualified Arizona Registered Agent to officially receive and help you process important documents, for example state-level paperwork or legal notices. Do keep in mind this agent must be an Arizona resident or authorized Arizona business entity with a physical street address that’s always available during regular M-F business hours.
In terms of pricing you can either hire on outside professional yourself and expect to pay up to $160/yr, or get a qualified registered agent for free when you incorporate your non-profit through IncFile or Incorporate.com.
An incorporator is simply the individual who delivers or executes your Articles of Incorporation with the state so they can be filed and make your non-profit official. AZ requires at least one. Directors on the other hand are those who help you run your non-profit. You’ll need to select at least one initial director (more are often recommended) to oversee it until formed and new ones are voted in.
These initial directors can be listed in the Articles along with your incorporators. Your official directors and their number will be stated in your bylaws once voted in. To be frank, working with an attorney or incorporation provider comes in handy during this foundational step.
Your bylaws define your non-profit – structure, management, and governance. Common non-profit bylaws include:
To get started, check out this savvy Corporate Bylaws Template with an example that you can customize yourself and get an idea for what they look and sound like. These will be voted on and adopted or amended in your initial meeting in Step 7.
Once you and your team decide it’s time to form the initial corporation before the law and in the public record, either by mail or in person submit your Articles of Incorporation to the state. Some data includes:
Filing Fee: $40 + Optional $35 Expedite
Think of this as the ultimate non-profit binder that contains hard copies of the most important documents, especially state-level filing papers, major contracts, and any legal notices. Are they required? No. But, they’re default within the corporate/non-profit world and come highly recommended for organizational/professional reasons.
You can find them at nearby office supply stores or on Amazon, but we’re huge fans of Corporate Kits which include gorgeous records books/binders, blank certificated, and you can brand them for as little as $99.
Now it’s time to conduct your first non-profit meeting which is going to be very organizational/foundational in nature. Don’t forget to record “minutes” of the meeting and have it signed by all attending directors. Here’s a Corporate Minutes Template to get the ball rolling. The agenda should look something like this:
Those are the basics, but depending on the nature of your non-profit and how many members/directors are at the meeting there could be a lot more to discuss. It’s a huge move in the right direction though, so celebrate afterwards!
Whether you intend on hiring paid employees or not your non-profit needs to have an EIN or an FEIN, which means a 9-digit Employer Identification Number. In essence, it’s like a social security number but it tracks your financial activity to ensure compliance with state/federal tax laws.
There are a variety of ways to get one but the easiest is online directly through the IRS Website. It’ll come in handy when you go to set up your bank account.
It’s time for your non-profit to become 100% compliant in terms of not only licenses/permits, but state and federal taxes. You should be able to apply for tax exempt status now that the corporate entity is established.
Two other helpful resources to add to your bookmarks would be the Phoenix Small Business Administration and the Dept. of Revenue’s Business Licensing section because they can help with financial resources/licensing and get you hooked into the business community.
We saved the best for last. After everything above, and with your EIN in hand, you can now choose which institution to form the financial foundation of your non-profit. Don’t be hasty here. If you haven’t appointed a CFO, be sure that you or someone else takes time to research different local, state, and national banks/credit unions.
If you aren’t familiar with this side of banking, there’s a lot more to it because it’s a corporate account. This means there are different fee structures, financial services, and permissions involved. How many people will be using this account? Be sure that it isn’t mixed with any other accounts, business or personal, so that you’ve got a clean and tidy record of transactions!
Growing a non-profit in the Valley of the Sun, or anywhere in Arizona for that matter, takes strategy and planning to be successful. Thankfully because of the nature of a non-profit you don’t have to go about the planning process alone, you’ve got a board and committees. So it’s time to start putting your heads together and nailing down the specifics of your initiative that includes outreach methods, financials, marketing tactics, precise mission statement, culture, etc.
The process itself is very powerful, not just for the non-profit’s brand but for directors and managers and the whole team as well. It’s incredibly important and the more minds you can meld with on this, the more specific and refined you get the better. To get started, check out LivePlan which will walk you through the entire planning process and allow everyone on your team to contribute – without overlapping. It’s an impressive tool.
If you already have a site, then you already to some degree understand how critical they are in in the non-profit world. They provide stunning value literally across the board. Will it be or become the cornerstone? No, maybe not. Your impact model might not put much emphasis on forming a digital presence, but one is necessary nonetheless.
What will potential donators, supporters, and volunteers find when they search online for your name? There needs to be something people can engage with and use to investigate your project. To get started, look into an all-in-one website builder like Wix or Weebly. They’re very easy to use and won’t break your budget.
Note that this article on how to form a non-profit organization in Arizona isn’t a legal document or legal advice. It’s for informational purposes and the information above is subject to change. For specific legal questions regarding how to form a non-profit organization in Arizona or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.