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How to Start a Nonprofit Organization in the State of Washington

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The name of your nonprofit cannot be the same or similar to other WA corporate names. We recommend that you enter your proposed name in the Washington State Corporations Database Search. You can check if there are any similar names already registered in Washington.


Pick your initial directors ahead of time. All must be listed on your articles of incorporation.


File the Washington Nonprofit Corporation Articles of Incorporation with the WA Secretary of State. You can deliver it in person or by mail along with the filing fee. The best method is to file it online. If you opt for the paper form, you don’t get much room. You will have to attach the list of directors and another page for the purpose. We offer a free template that is far superior.


After you file your nonprofit articles of incorporation, you hold an organizational meeting to vote to approve the corporate bylaws.


Get your EIN number from the IRS.  If you want to be a tax exempt organization, apply for tax exemption with the IRS. If you succeed in getting federal tax exempt status, then you look into Washington Tax Exemption.


Next register with the WA Charities Program if you intend to seek contributions from the public. The Washington Secretary of State handles this too.

Starting a Washington nonprofit must be an intensive team effort. When meeting to make the final decision to start a WA nonprofit, have your officers and directors solidly on board.  Decide who will fund the initial formation fees and expenses and whether the WA nonprofit will pay people back.  Appoint one person, generally the incorporator, to see to filing the nonprofit paperwork.

How much does it cost to start a Washington nonprofit organization?

The filing fee for WA Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation is $30. The WA Secretary of State accepts check, money order, or credit card. They take cash if you deliver it in person. If you file online, the fee is $50. This is actually cheaper because the processing is expedited, but at a discount. The charity registration fee is $60.

How long does it take to form a Washington nonprofit organization?

Washington takes about a month to process your incorporation filing. You can request expedited processing for an additional $50. This makes you active in two to three days. If filing by mail, write EXPEDITE in bold on the envelope.

Does my registered agent have to sign my WA articles?

Yes, but the signature does not need to be original.

How many directors are required in Washington?

One or more.

How many incorporators are required in Washington?

You need at least one incorporator, an individual or another corporation.

Will I have to describe the purpose of the Washington nonprofit?

Give a description of your organization and its goals. Be aware that there is specific language necessary if you plan to apply for a federal tax exemption. Also, understand that the IRS language is no guarantee of tax exemption. Your awesome nonprofit purpose is a more important consideration.

Do I need to register as a Washington Charity?

Yes, if you plan to raise money from the public, your nonprofit organization must register as a WA charity. Sign up for our  Washington registered agent and the registration form will be in your online account.

What are the annual fees to keep my Washington nonprofit organization active?

Your Washington nonprofit will need to file an WA annual report with a $10 filing fee on the last day of its anniversary month. Charities will need to renew their registration each November 30th, or eleven months after the fiscal year end, with a $40 fee.

Is there anything weird about incorporating a nonprofit in Washington?

Both the nonprofit corporate registration and the Charities Program are administered by the same agency, the Secretary of State. For this reason, Washington State is a very popular location for nonprofit organizations. You will register and renew annually by filing a Charitable Organization Registration with the Secretary of State, Charities Program. See our WA Charity Registration page.

Can I register an out of state nonprofit in Washington?

Yes. Just register as a Washington Foreign Nonprofit with the Secretary of State.

Washington Nonprofit Formation Agency:

Washington Secretary of State
Corporations Division

Mail it:

P.O. Box 40234
Olympia, WA 98504-2345

or walk it in:

Dolliver Building
801 Capitol Way South
Olympia, Washington

Phone:  (360) 725-0377

Corporate Compliance
by Local Corporate Guides®