Step 1) Secure Your Non-Profit Name

Choose a Business NameThe 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

Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent

Choose a Registered Agent

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

Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors

Choose the Initial DirectorsAn 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.

Step 4) Draft Non-Profit Bylaws

Register an LLC

Your bylaws define your non-profit – structure, management, and governance. Common non-profit 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 Arizona.

To get started, check out a 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.

Step 5) File Articles Of Incorporation

Business Licenses

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:

  • The name, type, duration of existence, and statement of purpose (provisions for non-profit 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: $40 + Optional $35 Expedite

Step 6) Start A Corporate Records Book

File Annual Reports & Publication Requirements

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.

Step 7) Conduct An Initial Meeting

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of DirectorsNow 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 list of Corporate Minutes Templates to get the ball rolling. The agenda should look something like this:

  • Take attendance and show you have a quorum (minimum number needed).
  • Appoint temporary officers, chairmen, secretary, CEO, etc.
  • Adoption or amendment of the bylaws set down in Step 4.
  • Where to set up a bank account (Step 10), file state reports, etc.

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!

Step 8) Get An EIN

Get an EIN for Your LLC

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.

Step 9) Handle Licensing & Exemptions

Small Business Taxes

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.

Step 10) Open A Business Bank Account

Best Business Bank Account

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!

Need Help Forming Your Organization?

If you’d like help forming a nonprofit, here are two great options:

Swyft Filings ($49 + state fees) is ideal if you’re on a budget but refuse to sacrifice quality. However if you’d like to have access to an attorney past nonprofit formation, Rocket Lawyer ($99 + state fees) is the best option.

Visit Swyft Filings Or Visit Rocket Lawyer

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.