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Alabama Nonprofit Service We’re Just Not Annoying®

How to Start a Nonprofit in Alabama

To incorporate a nonprofit in Alabama, you’ll file the Certificate of Formation with the Alabama Secretary of State (via your county probate judge) and pay at least $186 in combined state fees. The main steps to starting an Alabama nonprofit corporation are as follows:

  1. Name your nonprofit and file a certificate of name reservation
  2. File the nonprofit Certificate of Formation
  3. Get a federal EIN tax ID from the IRS
  4. Get a state sales tax ID number from the Department of Revenue
  5. Hold your organizational meeting and adopt bylaws
  6. Apply for federal and/or state tax exemptions
  7. Register as a charity
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Alabama nonprofit Certificate of Formation free download. When you’re done filling out the form, submit it to your state.

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How to File the Alabama Nonprofit Certificate of Formation

To form an Alabama nonprofit, file the Certificate of Formation in the following steps:
Step 1 Reserve your nonprofit's name, and attach the Name Reservation Certificate to your Certificate of Formation
Step 2 Decide if your nonprofit will have members
Step 3 Determine which address you'd like to list publicly
Step 4 Decide if you want to hire a registered agent service to minimize public disclosures
Step 5 Describe your nonprofit's purpose
Step 6 Identify your nonprofit’s initial board of directors (at least three) and list their physical and mailing addresses if different
Step 7 Mail one signed original and two copies of the certificate of formation, along with your filing fees, to the probate judge in the county where you’ll form your nonprofit (the judge’s office will then send your documents to the Alabama Secretary of State)

How Long Does it Take to Start an Alabama Nonprofit?



Pay a $100 expedite fee, and Alabama will process your articles in about five days.



Hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, answer a few questions in your online account, and let our Corporate Guides file your articles online for you.



Alabama takes up to 6 months (!) to process your filing if you don’t pay the $100 expedite fee.

How Much Will It Cost To Incorporate My Arizona Nonprofit?

You will pay approximately $186 in combined fees to incorporate an Alabama nonprofit corporation. This total includes a required $28 fee to reserve your nonprofit’s name online, $100 to the Secretary of State to file your Certificate of Formation, and an additional filing fee that goes to the office of the judge of probate (that fee is $58 in the county where Northwest has its registered office, but the fee might vary county to county). You might also pay an optional $100 expedite fee to speed up your application process.

If you hire Northwest to form your Alabama nonprofit, the total cost, which includes a full year of registered agent service, is $411 for 180-day filing and $511 for expedited 5-day filing.

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How Much Will My Alabama Nonprofit Cost Each Year?

Unlike most states, Alabama doesn’t require an annual report from nonprofit corporations, which means you’ll pay fewer fees generally than if you started a nonprofit in another state. However, you may pay annual fees for local business licenses and permits, but these fees will vary from nonprofit to nonprofit and from location to location.

If your nonprofit is a charitable organization, you’ll pay a $25 fee to renew your registration each year with the Alabama Attorney General.

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Will My Alabama Nonprofit Be Tax-Exempt?

Not automatically. If you want to obtain federal tax-exempt status for your nonprofit, you’ll need to file an Application for Recognition of Exemption with the IRS—a lengthy, difficult process that will take more time than any other stage in forming your nonprofit (sometimes up to 6-9 months). Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code describes more than two dozen types of tax-exempt nonprofits recognized by the IRS, but most nonprofits apply for 501(c)(3) status, which describes public charities and private foundations. If your nonprofit intends to become a 501(c)(3) organization, be sure your Articles contain specific language required by the IRS limiting your nonprofit’s activities exclusively to one or more recognized exempt purposes.

If you manage to obtain federal tax-exempt status from the IRS, Alabama will automatically exempt your nonprofit from paying the state income tax. However, most nonprofits, including charities, still pay sales and use taxes in Alabama. See our Alabama state tax exemptions page for more details.

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Is An Alabama Nonprofit Registered Agent Required?

Alabama requires the appointment of a registered agent to receive services of process (lawsuits) for your nonprofit. It’s possible to take on this job yourself, but keep in mind that a registered agent has to be available at a publicly listed physical address during normal business hours. If you can’t make that commitment, don’t know of someone else you can trust with the job, or don’t want your personal or office address listed publicly on your Certificate of Formation, it’s best to go with an Alabama registered agent service like Northwest.

Hiring a registered agent comes with numerous benefits. When you hire Northwest, you’ll have the option to list the address of our Alabama registered office on your Certificate of Formation. As a result, you’re less likely to get targeted by data-sellers, you’ll receive less junk mail, and you won’t have to deal with a bunch of unwanted solicitors showing up at your door. Furthermore, managing and growing your Alabama nonprofit means leaving your desk, attending meetings, traveling, and soliciting contributions from potential donors. That’s a difficult job if you’re stuck at your desk all day during business hours.

Hire Northwest, and we’ll make sure someone is always available to accept services of process on your behalf. If your Alabama nonprofit ever receives a legal notice, we’ll scan it and send it to you on the day we receive it.

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Should My Alabama Nonprofit Register As A Charity?

Any organization that collects donations in the State of Alabama must register as a charity with the Alabama Attorney General. There is a $25 registration fee, and Alabama charities renew their registrations each year within 90 days of the end of their fiscal year. The annual renewal fee is also $25.

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Does My Alabama Nonprofit Need a Federal EIN?

If you’re planning to open a bank account in your nonprofit’s name, get state permits, register as a charity, collect donations, or apply for federal or state tax exemptions, you’re going to need a federal employer identification number (FEIN or EIN).

Once you form your Alabama nonprofit, you can apply for an EIN online at the IRS website or by phone. Or you can save yourself the trouble and add our convenient EIN service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.

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Does An Alabama Nonprofit Need A Business License?

Most Alabama businesses (including nonprofits) need various business licenses to operate in Alabama, but the types of licenses required, as well as the fees, get determined locally through the county licensing commission or county probate office.



How Do I Get A State Tax ID?

To get an Alabama tax account number, access “My Alabama Taxes” (MAT) at the Alabama Department of Revenue website. The application is free, but it will take between 3-5 business days to receive your account number. You will need your Alabama tax ID to apply for Alabama state tax exemptions.

Can I Register An Out Of State Nonprofit In Alabama?

You can register an out of state nonprofit (also called a “foreign nonprofit”) by filing a certificate formation with the Alabama Secretary of State. Visit our Alabama foreign nonprofit page for details.

Does An Alabama Nonprofit Need Bylaws?

Alabama requires a nonprofit’s board of directors to adopt bylaws at its organizational meeting. This is your first official meeting where your nonprofit endorses its Certificate of Formation, elects officers, approves its bylaws, and otherwise truly completes the process of incorporation. You can hold your organizational before or after Alabama approves your Certificate of Formation, but make sure the meeting happens before you apply to the IRS for 501(c) federal tax-exempt status. The IRS will expect your nonprofit to be fully organized before you submit your Application for Recognition of Exemption.

Why do bylaws matter? Bylaws are all about self-control. Bylaws help a board of directors follow a consistent, agreed-upon path while managing and guiding a nonprofit’s activities. Bylaws say, for example, how long the directors stay in office and which powers and responsibilities belong to which officers. For these reasons and more, your bylaws are your nonprofit’s most essential internal document. Hire Northwest to form your Alabama nonprofit, and your account will include an adaptable template for writing nonprofit bylaws as well as other free forms to help you get started.

What is the Alabama Nonprofit Statute?

Code of Alabama - Title 10a, Chapter 3 Nonprofit Corporations

Alabama Nonprofit Certificate of Formation Requirements

Name Reservation

You’ll need to reserve a name for your Alabama nonprofit before filing your Certificate of Formation (this required name reservation is unique to Alabama). You can conduct a preliminary name search and reserve your name at the Alabama Secretary of State’s website for a $28 fee. Your name reservation request will get processed immediately, and you’ll receive a name reservation certificate. Attach that certificate to your Certificate of Formation.


Alabama does not require nonprofits to have members, but the Certificate of Formation requires you to decide, one way or another, in advance of forming your nonprofit. If you identify your nonprofit as having members, the State of Alabama expects your nonprofit’s bylaws to define the powers of its members and the limitations placed upon them.


The form needs to identify the individual or business preparing your Certificate of Formation (typically the same person or business as your incorporator). When you hire Northwest to form your Alabama nonprofit, we’ll be your preparer.

Principal Office

List the street address for your principal office (a PO Box won’t work) and a mailing address if different. If you hire Northwest, you can list our address here.

Registered Agent

List an individual resident of Alabama (yourself or a willing associate), or you can hire an authorized registered agent service like Northwest. If the street and/or mailing addresses of your registered agent’s office differs from that of your principal office, you will list those as well.


The form for your Alabama Certificate of Formation already includes a general statement of purpose, and the state only requires an additional sentence or two to briefly indicate your nonprofit’s purpose. However, if you’re planning to apply to the IRS for federal tax-exempt status, you should attach a lengthier statement of purpose that includes the specialized language recommended by the IRS.


Your nonprofit’s incorporator is the individual or business who signs and delivers your Certificate of Formation, and an incorporator does not need to be a director, member, or officer in your nonprofit. If you hire Northwest as your registered agent service, we will be your incorporator.

Board of Directors

Your Alabama nonprofit will need at least three directors. List their names, street addresses, and mailing addresses (if different) on your Certificate of Formation, and add an attachment if your nonprofit has more than three.

Additional Provisions

If you have special provisions you’d like to put on your Alabama nonprofit, so long as those provisions are consistent with Alabama law, check the “additional provisions” box at the end of your Certificate of Formation and attach a description of the previsions you have in mind. Possible provisions include clauses limiting how your nonprofit’s money gets spent and what will happen to its income and assets upon dissolution.

Mail Multiple Copies

Mail one signed original and two copies to the county probate office in the county where you’re forming your nonprofit. Remember to include separate filing fees for the county probate judge ($58 in the county where Northwest’s registered office is located, but the fee might vary from county to county) and the Alabama Secretary of State ($100).

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