How to File the Articles of Incorporation for a California Nonprofit

Person submitting paperwork.

Filing the Articles of Incorporation is a critical step in starting a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit in California. Whether you have been running a charity for a while or are just starting out, your nonprofit organization will need to fill out the Articles of Incorporation and file them with the State of California. This will allow you to file for 501(c)(3) status and reap the benefits of having an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Want to form a nonprofit elsewhere? Check out our other How to Start a Nonprofit guides.

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Starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in California is easy, just follow these easy steps to file the California Articles of Incorporation:

If you are starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in California, you have come to the right place. After reading the comprehensive guide for California nonprofit formation, follow this guide to file the California Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State.

What is covered in this guide:

  1. Information you will need to file the California Articles of Incorporation
  2. How to file the California Articles of Incorporation
  3. California Nonprofit Formation FAQ

Information you will need to file the California Articles of Incorporation

To become a nonprofit corporation in California you must file Form ARTS-PB-501(c)(3): the articles of incorporation for a nonprofit public benefit corporation.

Here are the sections that you will need to complete.

Mail Submission Cover Sheet

  1. Contact Person’s: Name and Email Address
  2. Entity: Name, Number (if applicable), and applicable comments
  3. Return Address

Section 1: Corporate Name

Enter the name you have selected.

For help with selecting a name for your nonprofit read our comprehensive guide on how to name a California nonprofit.

Section 2: Business Address

Enter your nonprofit’s complete address. It cannot be a P.O. Box.

Section 3: Service of Process aka Registered Agent & Registered Office

The registered agent can be any entity registered to do business in California or any person who is a resident of the state. Your organization cannot act as its own registered agent.

Any person you designate as the registered agent must have already explicitly consented to act as the registered agent for your organization even though you do not need to include proof of consent with your Form ARTS-PB-501(c)(3).

Enter the information of the individual or corporation you selected.

For more information read our guide: What is a registered agent? and The California Registered Agent Guide.

Section 4: Purpose Statement

4a) Select one or both boxes that correctly identify the purpose of your nonprofit.

4b) If you selected public purposes in Section 4a or you plan to file for state tax exemptions, you must complete this section. Describe the purpose of your nonprofit organization.

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

NOTE: You can read the IRS guidelines on their website.

Section 5: Additional Statements

These statements are used to align your Articles of Incorporation with the federal and state government’s requirements to be eligible for 501(c)(3) and tax-exempt statuses. These statements may not be altered in any way.

Section 6: Signatures

All initial incorporators must sign and date the form affirming everything written in the form. You are also affirming that the registered agent listed has already consented to be the registered agent for this nonprofit organization.

How to file the California Articles of Incorporation

There are three ways to submit your Articles of Incorporation:

Online:

File the Articles of Incorporation using the California bizfile Online portal.

By Mail:

Submit the Articles of Incorporation to the mailing address below:

Secretary of State
Business Entities Filing Unit
P.O. Box 944260
Sacramento, CA 95814

In-Person:

Submit the Articles of Incorporation to the office address below:

Business Entities
1500 11th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

The filing fee is $30, with a $15 counter service fee for in-person filings.

  • Checks and money orders for mailed forms must be made payable to the "Secretary of State"
  • Accepted credit cards for online filing include Visa and Mastercard
  • Cash payments are accepted for in-person filings

California Nonprofit Formation FAQ

How long does it take to process Form ARTS-PB-501(c)(3)?

The state regularly publishes its current processing times, which are available on the Secretary of State's website.

How can I expedite this process?

If you want to expedite the processing of your form, you can utilize the state’s Preclearance and Expedited Filing Services for an additional fee.

How do I contact the Secretary of State for more information?

You can call for information at (916) 657-5448 or visit them at their website.