Step 1) Secure Your Non-Profit Name

Choose a Business NameYour first step to incorporating your non-profit is to secure it’s name, which then becomes official once you file Articles of Incorporation.

  1. Conduct a Business Entity Search to ensure it’s unique.
  2. Go through the Arkansas statutes concerning non-profit naming.
  3. If needed, have it reserved for 120 days by filing an Application for Reservation of Corporate Name form.

Filing Fee: $25

Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent

Choose a Registered Agent

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.

Step 3) Select Incorporators & Directors

Choose the Initial DirectorsArkansas 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.

Step 4) Draft Non-Profit Bylaws

Register an LLC

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:

  • How meetings are to be conducted and how often.
  • How new officers and directors are elected and replaced.
  • How voting takes place, disputes handled, and records kept/managed.
  • Adding/Amending bylaws (any changes must be reported to the IRS after incorporation).
  • How to handle other non-profit organization formalities in the state of Arkansas.

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.

Step 5) File Articles Of Incorporation

Business Licenses

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

Step 6) Start Corporate Records Book

File Annual Reports & Publication Requirements

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.

Step 7) Conduct Initial Meeting

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of Directors

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:

  • Voting on the appointment of critical officers and their duties,
  • Voting on and approving/amending bylaws.
  • Establishing a tax year and accounting period.
  • Approving initial transactions, committees, and more.

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.

Step 8) Get An EIN

Get an EIN for Your LLC

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.

Step 9) Handle Licensing & Exemptions

Small Business Taxes

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.

Step 10) Open A Business Bank Account

Best Business Bank Account

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.

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 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.