How to File the Articles of Incorporation for a Nonprofit

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

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

What is covered in this guide:

  1. Information you will need to file the Articles of Incorporation
  2. How to file the Articles of Incorporation
  3. Nonprofit Formation FAQ
Two people exchanging business paperwork.

Information You Will Need to File the Articles of Incorporation

To become a nonprofit corporation in your state, you must file formation documents known commonly as the Articles of Incorporation. Some states refer to this document as a Certificate of Formation or a Certificate of Incorporation.

Use our guides below to learn how to file the Articles of Incorporation in your state:

While each state’s formation documents vary, here are some common sections that you will need to complete to file the Articles of Incorporation.

Entity Name

Enter the name you have selected. Ensure that your name is distinguishable from other business names in your state and that it follows your state’s naming guidelines.

For help with selecting a name for your nonprofit read our comprehensive guide on how to name a nonprofit and then check to see if that name exists with our free 501c3 Lookup tool.

Registered Agent

Most states require nonprofits to list a registered agent and/or registered office address. Your registered can be any entity registered to do business or any person who is a resident of the state. Your organization cannot act as its own registered agent.

Some states refer to registered agents as statutory agents, resident agents, or agents for service of process.

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


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.

Incorporator(s) Signature(s)

Incorporators are the people who complete, sign, and submit the Articles of Incorporation. These people do not need to be a part of your organization and might be you or a lawyer helping you with the process of formation.

Your state may ask for additional incorporator information, such as their address.

How to File the Articles of Incorporation

Depending on your state, you can file your nonprofit Articles of Incorporation online, by mail, or even by delivering it in person.

Nonprofit Formation FAQ

How long does it take to process the Articles of Incorporation?

The processing time for Articles of Incorporation primarily depends on your filing method (e.g., online, by mail, etc.), but can also be impacted by expedited services or state backlogs. This can take anywhere from one day to several weeks.