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Ohio Nonprofit Service We’re Just Not Annoying®

How to Start a Nonprofit in Ohio

To incorporate a nonprofit in Ohio, file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State. This filing officially creates your nonprofit, but it is really just one step toward pursuing your organization’s goals. The main steps to starting an Ohio nonprofit are as follows:

  1. File nonprofit articles of incorporation
  2. Get a federal EIN tax ID from the IRS
  3. Register for Ohio state tax accounts, licenses, and permits
  4. Hold your organizational meeting and adopt bylaws
  5. Apply for federal and/or state tax exemptions
  6. Register as a charity
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Ohio nonprofit Articles of Incorporation free download. When you’re done filling out the form, submit it to your state.

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How to File Ohio Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation

To form an Ohio nonprofit, file articles of incorporation in the following steps:
Step 1 Choose a name for your nonprofit
Step 2 Decide what address you’d like to list publicly
Step 3 Describe your nonprofit’s purpose
Step 4 Determine if your nonprofit will seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS
Step 5 Decide if you want to hire a registered (statutory) agent service to minimize public disclosures
Step 6 Appoint at least one incorporator to sign and submit your articles
Step 7 File online and pay with a credit card or mail your articles to the Ohio Secretary of State / PO Box 670 (or PO Box 1390 for expedited filing) / Columbus, OH 43216 with a check or money order

How Long Does it Take to Start an Ohio Nonprofit?

1

Lightning Fast

Hand-deliver your articles to the Secretary of State’s office in Springfield and pay $300 for four-hour expedited processing or $200 for one-day processing.

2

Fast

File online or by mail, pay a $100 expedite fee, and get your articles processed in within two days of receipt.

3-7

Routine

File online or by mail, skip the expedite fees, and get your articles processed in 3-7 business days.

How Much Does It Cost To Incorporate An Ohio Nonprofit?

Ohio charges $99 to file nonprofit articles of incorporation in 3-7 business days, and there are various expedited processing options available if you’d like to speed things up. Hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, and your total cost, which includes a full year of registered agent service, is $324 for 7-day processing and $424 for expedited 2-day processing.

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How Much Does An Ohio Nonprofit Cost Each Year?

If your nonprofit is a charity, you’ll pay a variable annual fee to the Ohio Office of the Attorney General based on your nonprofit’s annual contributions. Otherwise, Ohio doesn’t charge a bunch of state filing fees to nonprofits, although your organization will pay $25 every five years to submit a Statement of Continued Existence to the Secretary of State.

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What is The Ohio Nonprofit Statement Of Continued Existence?

Every five years your Ohio nonprofit must file a Statement of Continued Existence. This is a report that updates or confirms your nonprofit’s information as it appears on the state’s records, including your corporate name, location, and registered agent information (among other details). You can file your Statement of Continued Existence online at the Ohio Secretary of State’s website or download the report and submit by mail.

There is a $25 filing fee, and the report is due every five years by the end of the anniversary month of your nonprofit’s incorporation. Learn more at Northwest’s guide to Ohio Compliance reports.

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Is An Ohio Registered Agent Required?

Absolutely. Ohio requires nonprofit corporations to appoint and maintain an Ohio registered agent (often called a “statutory agent” in Ohio). You can do the job yourself, appoint a willing associate, or hire a commercial registered agent service like Northwest. In any case, your nonprofit’s registered agent must be available during normal business hours at an Ohio street address listed on your organization’s articles of incorporation. This provides a reliable channel for the state to contact your organization if it ever gets sued.

We don’t recommend doing the job yourself. Your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation is a public document, so listing your own residential or office address means displaying that address for the public eye. You’ll likely get targeted by data-sellers, have to deal with excessive junk mail, and find unexpected salespeople popping up randomly at your door. It’s also pretty difficult to manage and grow a new nonprofit when you can’t leave the office for any length of time.

A better option? Sign up for Northwest’s registered agent service. Hiring Northwest helps protect your privacy because your articles of incorporation can list the address of our Ohio office in place of yours. And if we ever do receive a service of process for your organization, we’ll scan it and send it to you on the day we receive it. Our registered agent service frees you up to manage and grow your nonprofit when you want, where you want, and how you want.

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Will My Ohio Nonprofit Be Tax-Exempt?

Incorporating as a nonprofit doesn’t automatically grant your organization tax-exempt status. That requires submitting an Application for Recognition of Exemptions to the IRS, paying a $275 or $600 filing fee (depending on the size and nature of your nonprofit), and enduring a 3-6 month application process while the IRS examines your nonprofit’s purpose, history, and finances. Although there are more than two dozen types of tax-exempt organizations under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code, most nonprofits seek 501(c)(3) status for charitable organizations. If your nonprofit intends to go this route, be sure that your articles of incorporation include a statement of purpose and dissolution of assets clause using the specific tax-exempt language required by the IRS.

Ohio nonprofits are exempt from the state’s Commercial Activity Tax (CAT), which is Ohio’s version of a corporate franchise tax, and if your nonprofit obtains 501(c)(3) status it can apply for a Sales and Use Tax Blanket Certificate (form STEC-B). Learn more at Northwest’s guide to Ohio state tax exemptions.

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Do I Need A Tax ID Number (EIN) For An Ohio nonprofit?

Yes, your nonprofit will need a federal employer identification number (FEIN or EIN) to apply for federal tax-exempt status, to open a bank account in your nonprofit’s name, and to establish itself more generally as a legitimate entity in the eyes of vendors and potential donors.

Once your Ohio nonprofit incorporates with the state, you can apply for an EIN on the IRS website, by fax, or by phone. Or you can simply add our EIN service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.

Should My Ohio Nonprofit Register To Pay State Taxes?

Yes. You should register your nonprofit for the relevant state tax accounts (withholding, sales, etc.) with the Ohio Department of Taxation. Register online through the Ohio Business Gateway at business.ohio.gov.

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Will My Ohio Nonprofit Need A Business License?

Ohio doesn’t require a general, statewide business license, but some counties and cities have licensing requirements of their own. It’s best to simply contact your local government to find out which (if any) of your nonprofit’s activities require a local license.

Do I Have To Register My Nonprofit As A Charity In Ohio?

If your nonprofit solicits charitable contributions in Ohio, you’ll likely need to register as an Ohio charity with the office of the attorney general and renew each year. Some organizations are exempt (such as churches and parent-teacher associations), but most nonprofit charities should expect to register. The registration and renewal fees vary depending on the amount of contributions your nonprofit receives each year.

Can I Register An Out Of State Nonprofit In Ohio?

Yes. To expand your out-of-state nonprofit’s operations to Ohio, you’ll need to register with the Ohio Secretary of State and provide a Certificate of Good Standing from your home state. Learn more at Northwest’s guide to Ohio foreign nonprofits.

Does An Ohio Nonprofit Need Bylaws?

Yes, Ohio requires your nonprofit’s board of directors to adopt bylaws at its organizational meeting. This is your first official meeting at which you elect or appoint directors and officers, ratify your bylaws, and settle whatever other business is necessary to truly complete the incorporation of your nonprofit. If your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) status, you’ll want to make sure to adopt your nonprofit’s bylaws before submitting your Application for Recognition of Exemption.

Why do bylaws matter? Bylaws are your nonprofit’s internal rules—basically, the agreement it makes with itself. Without bylaws, your nonprofit’s directors and officers can’t guide the organization along a shared path because they can’t provide ready answers to questions about the nature of membership, voting rights, the tenure and powers of the directors, and the distinct responsibilities of each officer.

It isn’t easy to write effective bylaws, particularly if you’re new to the nonprofit sector, but Northwest can help. We have a lot of experience working with nonprofit corporations, and we’ve put that experience to use by crafting an adaptable template for writing nonprofit bylaws, as well as other free nonprofit forms, to help get you started.

Ohio Nonprofit Articles Of Incorporation Requirements

Name of Corporation

Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from the names of other entities on record with the office of the secretary of state.

Principal Office

List the city and county of your nonprofit’s principal office in Ohio. When you hire Northwest, you can list the city and county of our Ohio office.

Effective Date (Optional)

Ohio gives nonprofits the option to delay their start dates up to 90 days after filing. You can leave space blank, as most nonprofits do, if you want your organization to officially begin on its filing date.

Purpose

Ohio requires your articles to include a statement of purpose, but it doesn’t need to be particularly detailed because the state allows nonprofits to incorporate for any lawful purpose. However, if your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, you should include (or attach) an extended, detailed statement of purpose using the specific language required by the IRS.

Additional Provisions (Optional)

You can attach additional information and provisions to govern your nonprofit, so long as these provisions are consistent with Ohio state law. If your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, make sure to include all of the tax-exempt language required by the IRS, including a dissolution of assets provision ensuring that your nonprofit’s income and assets will never serve to enrich its members.

Statutory/Registered Agent

Your statutory agent (called a “registered agent” in most states) is the individual or business authorized to receive legal notices on behalf of your nonprofit. List the statutory agent’s name and Ohio street address, and the agent must also sign the acceptance “Acceptance of Appointment” section of your articles of incorporation.

Incorporator(s)

Appoint at least one incorporator to sign (or electronically sign) and submit your articles. Incorporators do not need to be directors, officers, or members of your nonprofit. When you hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, we’ll be your incorporator.

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by Local Corporate Guides®