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How To Start A Nonprofit In Arizona

To start a nonprofit corporation in Arizona, begin by filing nonprofit articles of incorporation and a certificate of disclosure with the Arizona Corporation Commission. You can submit both documents online or by mail. The articles of incorporation cost $40 to file, with no separate filing fee for the certificate of disclosure. Once filed with the state, these documents officially create your Arizona nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.


Arizona Nonprofit Filing Options

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Download the Arizona nonprofit articles of incorporation. Fill out the form and submit to the state.

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AZ Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Requirements

To incorporate an Arizona nonprofit, you must complete and file nonprofit articles of incorporation and a certificate of disclosure (see Part 3 below) with the Arizona Corporation Commission. Part 2 covers the articles of incorporation. See the document below and click on any number to see what information is required in the corresponding section.

1. Entity Name

Your Arizona nonprofit’s name should clearly suggest your nonprofit’s purpose and the nature of its activities. The name should also be distinguishable from the names of other businesses and organizations operating in Arizona.

2. Character of Affairs

Arizona requires a short description of the initial purpose of your nonprofit in the Articles of Incorporation, and it doesn’t have to be that detailed. However, if your nonprofit is a charity and wants to obtain 501(c)(3) status tax-exempt status, you’ll need to provide a lengthier attachment that includes the specific language required by the IRS for tax-exempt organizations.

3. Members

Arizona does not require nonprofits to have members, but the nonprofit Articles of Incorporation require you to decide that question in advance of forming your nonprofit. And, yes, corporations, not just natural individuals, are allowed to be members.

4. Known Place of Business Address

Arizona requires your nonprofit Articles of Incorporation to list a street address for its principal office. In section 4.1, the form asks if the known place of business address will be the street address of your statutory agent. If the answer is “Yes,” check the box and move on. If the answer is “No,” enter the appropriate street address in section 4.2. If you hire Northwest as your statutory agent, our name and the street address of our Arizona office will appear in place of yours.

5. Directors

You have to list the name of every director of your nonprofit. You also have to include their business address, which can be the nonprofit’s “known place of business” (which, once again, can be our address when you hire Northwest).

6. Statutory Agent

Your statutory agent (called a “registered agent” in most states) can be an individual or an authorized statutory agent service like Northwest, and you’ll include the name and address of the agent specified. Attach a signed Statutory Agent Acceptance form to your Articles of Incorporation.

7. Certificate of Disclosure

The Certificate of Disclosure is a distinct form submitted alongside your Arizona Articles of Incorporation. The form asks for background information about your nonprofit’s directors, officers, trustees, and/or incorporators—relevant information, that is, about their criminal histories and bankruptcies. The state wants to make sure it can trust the people involved in your nonprofit’s activities. There is no additional filing fee, and you can locate the form on the Arizona Corporation Commission’s website.

8. Incorporator(s)

Your incorporator is the person who completes and signs your articles of incorporation. Incorporators don’t have to be directors, officers, members, or anyone else in your nonprofit, but they must provide their names, addresses, and signatures. If you hire Northwest to form your Arizona nonprofit, we will be your nonprofit’s incorporator.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate an Arizona Nonprofit?

You will pay a $40 state filing fee to register your nonprofit with the Arizona Secretary of State, and an additional $35 if you want to expedite the filing process (there is no filing fee for the Certificate of Disclosure described below).

How Long Does It Take to Start an Arizona Nonprofit?

The standard, non-expedited filing time in Arizona is a whopping 20 days! Pay the $35 expedite fee (in addition to the state’s filing fee), and you can get your articles processed in less than two weeks.

Does an Arizona Nonprofit Need a Registered Agent?

Yes, the state requires every nonprofit to appoint an Arizona statutory agent. A statutory agent (called a registered agent in most states) is an individual or business entity authorized to accept services of process (lawsuits and legal notices) on behalf of your nonprofit.

You can be your own statutory agent or appoint a willing associate, but keep in mind that a statutory agent has to be available at your nonprofit’s registered office during normal business hours. If you take on the job yourself, you can’t get bogged down in lengthy meetings, run errands, travel to meet with donors, or do anything, really, that impacts your availability to accept legal notices. A registered agent’s physical and mailing address, moreover, goes into the public record for your nonprofit, so you can expect a lot of junk mail and unwanted solicitors showing up at your door if you use your own address.

Hire Northwest as your Arizona statutory agent, and you’ll avoid these problems altogether. Our address, not yours, will appear on your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation and other state forms, and you’ll received scanned copies of any legal notices we receive on the day we receive them.


Notification of Formation (Newspaper Publication)

Arizona requires new nonprofits to publish a notification of formation in a local newspaper for three weeks in a row, but you can only do so after the Arizona Corporation Commission approves your articles of incorporation. Your approval letter from the Commission will include directions for where and how your notification should be published.

The publication fees will vary by newspaper, and two counties—Maricopa and Pima County—don’t charge a fee. If you hire Northwest as your Arizona registered agent service, you will publish your notification of formation in Pima County, the county where our registered office is located, so it won’t cost you a thing.


Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

A federal employer identification number (a FEIN or EIN) is pretty much basic to doing business in the nonprofit sector, even if it isn’t strictly and always “required.” You’ll need an EIN to open a bank account in your nonprofit’s name, to collect donations, and to apply for federal and state tax exemptions—which means getting an EIN is pretty much a must.

After your nonprofit’s registration goes through with the Arizona Corporate Commission, you can apply for an EIN at the IRS website. You can also save time by adding our EIN service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Arizona requires your nonprofit to adopt bylaws at your organizational meeting. This is your first official meeting where you truly complete the process of forming your nonprofit, and it can happen before or shortly after you file your Articles of Incorporation with the state. Just make sure to hold your organizational meeting before applying for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status with the IRS.

Why are bylaws important? Your bylaws spell out how your nonprofit works—who the directors are, for instance, how they get appointed, how long they serve, what responsibilities each officer has, who gets to vote and who doesn’t, and so on—which means your bylaws are an essential to shaping the day-to-day and long-term behavior of your nonprofit.

If you hire Northwest to form your Arizona nonprofit, you won’t have to write your bylaws from scratch. We offer a professional and adaptable free template to write your Arizona nonprofit bylaws, in addition to our numerous other free forms to help you get started.


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

The IRS doesn’t automatically grant tax-exempt status to nonprofit organizations, but the option is available if you’re willing to endure the lengthy, expensive application process. Currently, the IRS recognizes more than two dozen types of tax-exempt nonprofits, but most nonprofits get formed with charitable goals in mind and seek 501(c)(3) status for public charities and private foundations. If your nonprofit intends to become a 501(c)(3) organization, make sure your Articles of Incorporation include the 501(c)(3) language required by the IRS limiting your nonprofit’s activities to the exclusive pursuit of one or more recognized exempt purposes. Learn more at Northwest’s detailed Guide to 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status.

If you apply to the IRS and obtain federal tax-exempt status for your nonprofit, Arizona will usually exempt your nonprofit from the Arizona corporate income tax, and you might be eligible for other Arizona state tax exemptions as well. However, you’ll need to apply for each state tax exemption individually at the Arizona Department of Revenue.


Register for State Tax Accounts, Licenses, or Permits

Does an Arizona nonprofit need a business license?

Arizona doesn’t require nonprofits to obtain a statewide business license, but many counties, cities, and towns have their own licensing requirements for particular kinds of business activities. To learn more, visit the Arizona Department of Revenue’s website.

Should an Arizona nonprofit register as a charity?

As of September 2013, most charities soliciting donations in the the state of Arizona no longer have to register with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office. Currently, Arizona requires only Veteran’s Charitable Organizations to register.


Open a Bank Account for Your Arizona Nonprofit

To open a bank account for your Arizona nonprofit, you will need to bring the following items with you to the bank:

  • A copy of your Arizona nonprofit articles of incorporation
  • A copy of your nonprofit’s bylaws
  • Your Arizona nonprofit’s EIN

We recommend calling your bank ahead of time before going in and asking what their requirements are. If your nonprofit has several directors and/or officers, you may also want to bring a resolution to open a bank account that states that the person going to the bank is authorized by management open the account in the name of your nonprofit.


Submit your Arizona Nonprofit Annual Report

Your nonprofit’s annual report keeps your contact, membership, and statutory agent information current with the state (among other details). The filing fee is $10, and the deadline is the yearly anniversary of your nonprofit’s incorporation. You can file by mail or online at the Arizona Corporation Commission’s website.

If you want to avoid the hassle altogether, sign up for Northwest’s Arizona Annual Report Service for nonprofit corporations, pay $110, and let us file your annual report for you—correctly and on time.