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Free Religious Corporation Articles of Incorporation

A religious corporation is a nonprofit formed for religious purposes. When properly formed and managed, religious corporations are usually eligible for federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Our free Religious Corporation Articles of Incorporation template can be customized to fulfill the filing requirements in most states and includes the special language and provisions required by the IRS for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofits.


Religious Corporation Articles of Incorporation – Free Template

Our free Religious Corporation Articles of Incorporation template is easy to use and easy for state agencies to understand and process. Just keep in mind that the form and the instructions below do not constitute legal advice and should not replace competent legal counsel.

What Should Religious Corporation Articles Of Incorporation Include?

The requirements for forming a religious corporation vary from state to state, but our free Religious Corporation Articles of Incorporation include the most common details. You can easily adapt or customize the template to suite your state’s specific needs.

Article 1: Name

Before you file your articles with the state, consider doing a business name search to check for your name’s availability in advance. Most states will expect your nonprofit’s name to be fairly unique (or at least distinguishable from the names of other organizations), and you’ll need to avoid misleading names. You may also need to include a corporate suffix (“corporation,” “inc.,” etc.) at the end of your nonprofit’s name if it’s a corporation.

Article 2: Existence

Your religious nonprofit corporation can exist perpetually (without an end date known in advance), or it can have a fixed dissolution date. Most organizations choose to exist perpetually.

Article 3: Effective Date

An organization’s “effective date” is simply its official start date. A nonprofit’s effective date is usually the same as its filing date—the date the state processes the nonprofit’s articles—but some states allow nonprofits to delay their effective dates for a specified period after filing (usually up to 60 or 90 days).

Article 4: Members

A member is an individual or business entity with a formal relationship to a nonprofit corporation that often includes the right to vote for directors and to otherwise weigh in on other major organizational decisions (selling off assets, for instance, or merging the nonprofit with another organization), though some nonprofits have nonvoting members and many nonprofits don’t have members at all.

Article 5: Type of Nonprofit Corporation

This article identifies the type of nonprofit corporation you intend to form: a religious corporation.

Article 6: Registered Agent and Office

Your religious nonprofit will need to appoint a registered agent to receive service of process (legal notices) on its behalf. This can be an individual, including yourself, but we recommend hiring a registered agent service like Northwest. In any case, your articles will include the name and physical location, called the registered office, where the agent will be available during normal business hours to receive legal notices and other official state documents.

Article 7: Principal Office

Your organization’s principal office is the place where it conducts business, an address that may or may not be in your state of incorporation. Most states require that you list a street address.

Article 8: Mailing Address

Include a mailing address if your nonprofit’s mailing address differs from the address of its principal office.

Article 9: Directors

This article includes basic information (names and addresses) about your nonprofit’s initial directors. State requirements vary, but it’s fairly common for nonprofits to have three or more initial directors.

Article 10: Indemnification

This article secures the nonprofit’s directors, officers, incorporators, members, and employees against personal liability for the nonprofit’s, so long as their actions are legal and in good faith.

Article 11: Purpose

This article describes your nonprofit’s purpose. If your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status, its statement of purpose must contain specific tax-exempt language required by the IRS—language already included in Northwest’s free Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation template. In general, 501(c)(3) status describes public or private charities focused on the pursuit of charitable, religious, educational, or scientific goals.

Article 12: Prohibited Activities

If your nonprofit wants to qualify as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, it must permanently dedicate its income and assets to IRS-approved nonprofit purposes (apart from reasonably compensating individuals for services rendered), ensure that the carrying on of propaganda and/or lobbying never makes up a substantial part of the organization’s activities, and avoid political campaign activism altogether. This article includes specific IRS language disallowing these activities.

Article 13: Distributions Upon Dissolution

Nonprofits seeking 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status must ensure that their income and assets never go toward personally enriching their directors, officers, members, or any other individual—and this includes if or when the nonprofit shuts down. This article—the dissolution clause—ensures that, apart from paying its debts, any distributions made in the event of the nonprofit’s dissolution will go toward furthering its nonprofit goals or get distributed to the federal, state, or local governments exclusively for the public benefit.

Article 14: Incorporator

Your incorporator is the person who signs and submits your Religious Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation to the state. The incorporator does not need to be part of your nonprofit. When you hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, we’ll be your incorporator.

Are Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation requirements the same in each state?

No. Each state determines its own requirements for a religious nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation and sets its own filing fees, filing methods, and processing times. You can typically find this information on your state department’s website, but Northwest has already done the research for you. Simply go to our detailed Nonprofit Guide and select your state to find the information you need.

What is the process for filing Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation?

Religious Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation get filed at the state level (usually with the office of the secretary of state). After the state approves your articles, it’s important to take steps to ensure your organization’s independent legal status by starting a bank account, getting a federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS, register as a charity (if applicable), and obtain any required state licenses and permits.

Does Northwest provide any other free nonprofit forms?

Absolutely! We have free nonprofit articles of incorporation templates for mutual benefit nonprofits and public benefit nonprofits, as well as a template for general use. Select the option below that fits your needs.

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