Your first step to incorporating your non-profit is to secure it’s name, which then becomes official once you file Articles of Incorporation.
Filing Fee: $25
All non-profit entities need to have a registered agent for, well, essentially one reason – so they can’t say, “We never received that document.” to any state or federal agency. It will be your agent’s responsibility to officially receive and provide “Service of Process” to all state filings, tax documents, legal notices, and so on. This is why they must have a AR address, be registered/certified with the state, and hold regular M-F business hours.
That said, you can work with a professional and expect to pay up to $160/yr, or get a qualified agent free when you start a non-profit through IncFile or CorpNet. They handle this along with much more depending on which startup package you opt for.
Arkansas requires a minimum of one Incorporator – the individual(s) responsible for signing/filing the Articles of Incorporation with the state. Pretty straightforward. However, if your non-profit will be governed by a Board of Directors vs. members things can get more interesting.
Initial Directors are recruited to oversee the non-profit while it’s being formed, then when you conduct your initial meeting in Step 7 directors are voted on/in. While the state only requires 3 initial directors, more are often advised with larger platforms – treasurer, president, secretary, etc. If possible it’s a good idea to either hire the best non-profit lawyer you can afford or partner with professional incorporation services who can provide expert assistance in terms of incorporators and directors.
An incorporated non-profit needs to have bylaws, or rules and regulations, that first and foremost determine how it’s governed. They’re the foundation of your internal culture, and if they aren’t in place default state guidelines takeover. They should include:
If this is all new to you, use a savvy Corporate Bylaws Template which you can customize for your non-profit and get an idea of the paperwork-side of bylaws.
Once you and your board believe everything is in order and you’re ready to form the non-profit in the eyes of the law/public record, you’ll have your incorporators sign and file Articles of Incorporation with the Arkansas Secretary of State. Just don’t attempt to file prematurely! Do you have your initial board of directors, name, registered agent/office and so forth?
This is going to require original signatures and ask you to declare some of the basics: non-profit name, purpose/mission, director/incorporator/registered agent info, etc.
Filing Fee: $50 mail or $45 online
Aside your digital data storage, this is a physical book or binder where you put copies of the most important documents that comprise your non-profit organization: formation/registration, core licenses & permits, minutes of meetings, huge contracts, annual reports and taxation documents, etc.
To get one for your non-profit you can grab a quality records book at any nearby office supply store, order them online through Amazon, or get a professional Corporate Kit which let you brand the book/slip case, provide blank certificates, and more for as little as $99.
For your initial meeting assemble incorporators/directors and get ready to establish the foundation of your non-profit. Be sure to record “minutes” of the meeting and all attendees and have it signed by directors for your records book. Topics you’ll cover will vary but should include:
If you found the bylaws template useful, check out a similar Corporate Minutes Template you can also customize and use to provide initial structure until you and your board get the hang of things should it be necessary.
An EIN is a federal “Employer” Identification Number but your non-profit is required to have one even if you don’t plan on hiring any official employees. The 9-digit number, similar to a social security number, is used to track your non-profits financial activity once you use it to set up a bank account in Step 10.
Because it’s needed by every legal business entity in America, they’re not hard to get. The quickest and easiest way is by submitting a request directly through the IRS Website.
Now’s the point to ensure your non-profit is 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 corporation is established.
Three other great resources to add to your bookmarks list would definitely be the AR Dept. of Finance & Admin, the AR Small Biz & Tech Dev Center, and this State Brochure. Never underestimate the endless potential between the non-profit and business communities.
This is a very important step that should’ve been heavily discussed during your initial board meeting. Where will your organization set up shop and begin building its financial foundation? There’s local, state, and national banks as well as credit unions to consider.
It’s not a permanent decision. You can choose a smaller, more local institution early on to leverage the more curated incentives and then move to a larger national-size bank if/when it becomes time to do so. Do some homework. Get familiar with business fee structures and figure out which core business services you’ll need. If it’ll be helpful, breeze through this quick breakdown of Non-Profit Accounts.
It’s common to “wing it” during the initial bootstrapping phases of starting a non-profit which tend to be fast and furious. Goals and objectives are immediate and close to home. But don’t forget to think forward a bit, into the possibly near future where outside funding and attracting partners, donators, and volunteers will require something more official and concise.
To be taken seriously with non-profit organizations, angel funds, or VCs you’ll need an very well-organized mission statement and plans on how you aim to achieve it. You’ll need to show them structured financials and forecasts. You’ll need to have serious outreach methods and other important core fundamentals figured out. If you need help putting all this together, we highly recommend a planning software called LivePlan, which will walk you through the entire process.
From astonishing outreach/marketing potential to ecommerce and crowd funding, non-profit websites aren’t optional anymore. Not as far as we can tell anyway. The issue is if you don’t have an in-house designer you trust, and this is your first rodeo, what do you do? Where can you turn that isn’t a time-sink and a drain on your budget?
These days platforms like Wix and Weebly have a lot to offer. And let’s not forget about SquareSpace which is still one of the mighty titans of the digital world. Don’t worry, websites don’t need to be as complex as they once were. The internet’s changing.
Note that this article on how to start a non-profit organization in Arkansas 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 start a non-profit organization in Arkansas or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.