How to File the Articles of Incorporation for a Washington Nonprofit

Person submitting paperwork.

Filing the Articles of Incorporation is a critical step in starting a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit in Washington. 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 Washington. 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 Washington is easy, just follow these easy steps to file the Washington Articles of Incorporation:

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

What is covered in this guide:

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

Information you will need to file the Washington Articles of Incorporation

To become a nonprofit corporation in Washington you must file the Articles of Incorporation for a Washington Nonprofit Corporation.

Here are the sections that you will need to complete.

Section 1: UBI Number

At this stage, most organizations will not have a UBI (Unified Business Identifier) number. You can select "NO" and one will be assigned to you.

In the rare case that your nonprofit has already filed with another Washington state agency and has received a UBI, then you can include that here.

Section 2: Name of Corporation

Enter the name you have selected.

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

Section 3: Purpose

Describe the purpose of your nonprofit organization and additional provisions.

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 to learn more.

Section 4: Period of Duration

Most organizations are not started with an end date in mind. If this is the case for your nonprofit, select “This Corporation will have perpetual duration.”

If your organization is planning to be in existence for a fixed amount of time put the end date or the number of years it will be in existence.

Section 5: Registered Agent & Registered Office

Read this lengthy section carefully and only fill out the sections that pertain to your organization. You’ll need to include the agent’s name, street address, and consent.

The registered agent can be any entity registered to do business in Washington or any person who is a resident of the state.

Enter the information of the registered agent you have selected.

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

Section 6: Effective Date

This section allows you to determine the date on which your nonprofit corporation officially forms:

Option A: Your organization will officially form on the day the Secretary of State files your Articles of Incorporation

Option B: You select the date of formation (it can be any day up to 90 days after filing)

Section 7: Initial Board of Directors

At least 3 unrelated directors will need to be named.

When filling the form do not use any prefixes such as “Mr.” or “Ms.” and only use the suffix box for titles of lineage such as ‘Jr.’, ‘Sr.’, or ‘III’ but not for designations such as M.D. or Ph.D.

Since this document will become public record you may want to use a post office box address rather than the residential addresses of the directors to maintain privacy.

Enter the information of the directors selected.

Section 8: Incorporator Information

The incorporator is the person who completes, signs, and submits the certification of formation. This person does not need to be a part of your organization. This can be you or a lawyer helping you with the process of formation.

Section 9: Distribution of Assets

Use this section of the articles of incorporation to formally state what the assets of the organization will be used for, and what will happen to the assets if the organization is dissolved.

To be eligible for 501(c)(3) status, you must convince the IRS that the organization’s assets will always only be used for the purposes approved under 501(c)(3) rules. To this end, you must include provisions ensuring that in the event your organization is dissolved, the assets of the organization will be used towards tax-exempt purposes.

Section 5 of this sample document provides an example of these provisions required for 501(c)(3) eligibility.

Section 10: Return Address

In this section, you may provide a mailing address and email for an additional contact person for your filing. If you don’t want this information to become public record, leave this section blank.

How to file the Washington Articles of Incorporation

There are two ways to submit your Articles of Incorporation: 

Online:

File the Articles of Incorporation through the Secretary of State’s online portal.

By Mail:

Submit the Articles of Incorporation to the mailing address below:

Secretary of State
Corporations & Charities Division
801 Capitol Way S
Olympia, WA 98504-0234

 The filing fee is $25.

  • Checks and money orders for mailed forms must be made payable to the "Secretary of State"
  • Accepted credit cards for online filing include Visa, MasterCard, and American Express

Washington Nonprofit Formation FAQ

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

If you file online it typically takes about 2-3 business days. If you file by mail, they will process the forms in the order received and it can take up to 2 months.

If you have filed by mail you can choose to pay an additional $50 to expedite your filing and cut down the processing time.

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

You can call for information at (360) 725-0377 or visit them at their website.