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How To Start A Nonprofit In Arkansas

To start a nonprofit corporation in Arkansas, begin by filing nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Arkansas Secretary of State. You can file the document online or by mail. The articles of incorporation cost $45 to file online and $50 to file by mail. Once filed with the state, your articles of incorporation officially create your Arkansas nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing your nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.


Arkansas Nonprofit Filing Options

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

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Our free account and tools will walk you through starting and maintaining an Arkansas nonprofit. All for free.

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AR Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Requirements

To incorporate an Arkansas nonprofit, you must complete and file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Arkansas Secretary of State. See the document below and click on any number to see what information is required in the corresponding section.

1. Name of the Corporation

Your Arkansas nonprofit corporation is not required by state law to have a corporate ending like “Corp.” or “Inc.” However, many states do require a nonprofit corporation to have a specific ending, so you may want to include a similar ending to maintain uniformity throughout your organization. Search the Arkansas Secretary of State’s website to find if your nonprofit’s name is available. You can reserve your nonprofit’s name, if you wish, by filing an Application for Reservation of Corporate Name.

2. Type of Nonprofit

Arkansas requires that your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation identify your nonprofit as a public benefit, mutual benefit, or religious corporation. See Northwest’s general Start a Nonprofit page to see which definition applies to you.

3. Members

Indicate if your nonprofit will or will not have members.

4. Power of the Corporation

This section asks for a general description of your nonprofit’s activities, and it emphasizes that your nonprofit will not distribute its income and assets to its members and not engage in any activities, such as propaganda, inconsistent with state and federal laws for tax-exempt organizations. Both the print and online articles of incorporation available from the Arkansas Secretary of State allow you to use the IRS’s suggested language in place of your own.

5. Purpose

As with the previous section, this section allows you to directly adopt the IRS suggested language for describing your nonprofit’s purpose. Arkansas is basically providing your nonprofit with a foundation to seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

6. Distribution of Assets on Dissolution

As with the previous two sections, you can use the IRS suggested language, provided on the form, to describe what will happen to your nonprofit’s assets upon its dissolution (that is, if and when it shuts down for good). If you intend to apply for 501(c)(3) status, definitely use the language provided by the IRS. If not, or if your plans for how to distribute your nonprofit’s assets differs from the form’s general description, check “Other as described” and describe those plans in the space provided.

7. Registered Agent and Address

You’ll need to list the name and address of your nonprofit’s Arkansas registered agent. This could be an individual resident of Arkansas, such as yourself, or a business that provides a registered agent service. When you hire Northwest as your registered agent service, our information goes here.

8. Incorporator Information

Arkansas requires that at least one incorporator signs and dates your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation, but the incorporator doesn’t have to be a director, officer, or member of your nonprofit. If you hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, we’ll be your incorporator.

9. Optional Information and Provisions

If you want to include additional provisions or the names and addresses of your nonprofit’s directors, include an attachment with your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate an Arkansas Nonprofit?

When you incorporate an Arkansas nonprofit, you’ll pay a $50 filing fee if you mail your articles to the Arkansas Secretary of State and $45 if you file online.

How Long Does It Take to Start an Arkansas Nonprofit?

Register by mail and Arkansas will process your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation in around 1-2 weeks. File online, and you can expect a response from the state in around 2 business days.

Does an Arkansas Nonprofit Need a Registered Agent?

Yes, you’re required to appoint an Arkansas registered agent for your nonprofit. You can take on this responsibility yourself, but it’s a difficult role for any one person to fill. You’ll need to list a registered office (the office of your registered agent) on your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation, which becomes part of the public record, and your registered agent has to be at that location during normal business hours to accept services of process (lawsuits and other legal notices). It isn’t easy to manage and develop an organization if you can’t travel or even leave your desk for extended periods during the day.

It’s simply wiser to hire an expert registered agent service like Northwest. Not only are we always there during normal business hours, but you can use our registered office to help protect your privacy. Our address, not yours, will appear on your articles of incorporation, so you’ll receive far less junk mail and avoid putting up with solicitors knocking on your door throughout the day. And when we receive services of process on behalf of your nonprofit, we’ll scan them and send them to you on the same day. Think of Northwest as a shield that allows you the flexibility and freedom to develop your nonprofit’s vision on your own terms.


Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Getting a federal employer identification number (FEIN or EIN) is an essential part of starting your nonprofit. You’ll need an EIN to open a bank account in your nonprofit’s name, to get credit with vendors, and to apply for federal and state tax exemptions.

After your nonprofit’s registration goes through with the State of Arkansas, you can apply for an EIN at the IRS website. Or you can save yourself the bother by adding our convenient EIN service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Arkansas requires nonprofits to adopt bylaws at their organizational meetings. This is your nonprofit’s first official meeting after incorporating at which you’ll appoint or elect directors, establish officers’ responsibilities, establish constraints on membership, and otherwise decide how to pursue your nonprofit’s collective vision. There are no hard and fast rules for when this organizational needs to take place, but make sure your nonprofit adopts its bylaws before seeking 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS.

Bylaws aren’t easy to write from scratch, but Northwest is here to help. If you hire Northwest, we’ll provide free forms to help guide your nonprofit, including an adaptable template for writing bylaws. Why? Because we want you to come back year after year to renew our registered agent service, and that means you need to start out successfully and stay successful. Your success, after all, is our success. That is why we offer a free template with important information to know when adopting bylaws in Arkansas.


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

To qualify for federal tax-exempt status, you have to file an Application for Recognition of Exemption with the IRS, and you have to prove that your organization exists to serve IRS-approved exempt purposes. Although the IRS recognizes more than two dozen types of tax-exempt organizations, most nonprofits seek 501(c)(3) status for public charities and private foundations. If your nonprofit intends to become a 501(c)(3) exempt organization, your Articles should include the special language required by the IRS specifically limiting your nonprofit’s activities to one or more exempt purposes. Learn more at Northwest’s Guide to 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status.

If your nonprofit qualifies for federal tax-exempt status, you’ll likely be able to avoid Arkansas’ corporate income tax, and you could be eligible for an exemption from the Arkansas state sales tax. Visit our Arkansas state tax exemption guide to learn more.


Register for State Tax Accounts, Licenses, or Permits

Does an Arkansas nonprofit need a business license?

Arkansas doesn’t require nonprofits to obtain a statewide business license, but some counties and cities have their own licensing requirements.

Should my Arkansas nonprofit register as a charity?

If your Arkansas nonprofit will solicit and collect charitable donations, you most likely need to submit a Charitable Organization Application for Registration to the Arkansas Secretary of State. There are exceptions for religious nonprofits and nonprofits that don’t collect more than $1,000 each year, but most nonprofits have to register as an Arkansas charity and renew each year. There are no registration or renewal fees.


Open a Bank Account for Your Arkansas Nonprofit

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

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

It’s wise to call your ahead of time to check its requirements. Some banks may require you to bring a resolution authorizing you to open a bank account in your nonprofit’s name (particularly if your nonprofit has several directors and/or officers).


Submit Your Arkansas Nonprofit Annual Report

Arkansas requires nonprofit corporations to file annual reports to keep their contact, membership, and registered agent information current in the state’s records. You can mail the report to the Arkansas Secretary of State, or you can file online at the Secretary of State’s website. There is no filing fee, and the report is due by August 1 each year.

And if you don’t want to bother keeping up with your annual report’s requirements and deadline, Northwest offers a convenient Arkansas nonprofit annual report service for $100 plus state fees.