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How To Start A Nonprofit In Colorado

To start a nonprofit corporation in Colorado, begin by filing the Colorado nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Colorado Secretary of State. Colorado requires all applicants to submit articles of incorporation through their online system, and the state charges a $50 filing fee. Once filed with the state, your articles of incorporation officially create your Colorado nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.


Colorado Nonprofit Filing Options

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CO Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Requirements

To incorporate a Colorado nonprofit, you must file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Colorado Secretary of State. Click on any number below to see what information is required in each section of your Colorado nonprofit’s articles of incorporation.

1. Entity Name

You can do a name search at the Colorado Secretary of State’s website to make sure your nonprofit’s name isn’t taken. Colorado doesn’t have strict rules for naming a nonprofit, and it doesn’t require names to have specific endings like “Corporation,” “Corp.,” “Inc.,” and so on. Other states do require endings of this kind, however, so you might include one if your nonprofit intends to operate in more than one state.

2. Principal Office

For your nonprofit’s principal office you must list a street address (along with a mailing address if different). If you hire Northwest, our address will go here.

3. Registered Agent

You can list a willing individual or hire and list a business, like Northwest, that provides registered agent service.

4. Registered Agent Address

This is the street address in Colorado where your registered agent is available during normal business hours. If you hire Northwest, you’ll list our address here.

5. Registered Agent Consent

Colorado requires you tick a box and confirm your registered agent’s consent to perform his or her official duties (so don’t just put a friend’s name down and surprise them later!).

6. Name and Address of the Incorporator

Your incorporator is just the person or entity forming your nonprofit, and it doesn’t have to be you, a director, an officer, or a member of your nonprofit. Hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, and we will be your incorporator.

7. Members

Colorado does not require nonprofits to have voting members, but your Colorado Articles of Incorporation must decide this question in advance. Select “yes” or “no” on the form.

8. Provisions for the Dissolution of Assets

Describe what will happen to your nonprofit’s assets if you decide to shut the organization down. This could involve distributing those assets, for example, to other nonprofits or the government. However, if you intend to apply for federal tax-exempt status, make sure to use the recommended language from the IRS in your dissolution clause. The IRS will want to make sure your nonprofit’s income and assets won’t serve to enrich its members.

9. Effective Date

Colorado allows you to postpone your nonprofit’s start date up to 90 days from your filing date. If this option isn’t for you, just leave this section blank.

10. Individual Causing Delivery

“Individual causing delivery” is just a complicated way of identifying the person who clicks “submit” on your online form. In most cases, this is just the person forming your nonprofit. Our name goes here as well when you hire Northwest.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate a Colorado Nonprofit?

Colorado charges a $50 filing fee to incorporate new nonprofits.

How Long Does It Take to Start a Colorado Nonprofit?

Colorado requires all applicants to submit articles of incorporation through the state’s online system, and it’s common to get a response on the same day.

Does a Colorado Nonprofit Need a Registered Agent?

Yes, you’ll need to appoint a Colorado registered agent to receive legal notices for your nonprofit. The registered agent must be an individual Colorado resident or a business authorized to provide registered agent service, and the agent needs to be available at a physical address during normal business hours.

You can take on the job yourself, of course, but it isn’t easy to manage and grow a nonprofit if you can’t hold lengthy meetings or travel. Hiring with a registered agent service like Northwest simply makes more sense.

If you hire Northwest, we will list our address on your public documents. This protects your privacy and prevents solicitors from showing up at your office or home address. And when we receive legal notices on behalf of your nonprofit, we will scan and send them to you on the day we receive them.


Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

A federal employer identification number (EIN) is a must for opening a bank account in your nonprofit’s name, collecting donations, registering as a charity, and applying for federal and state tax-exemptions.

You can get an EIN from the IRS online after you’ve registered your Colorado nonprofit. Or save some time by adding our convenient EIN service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest to form your nonprofit.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Colorado requires nonprofits to adopt corporate bylaws, though you don’t need to file them with the state. Instead, bylaws are internal documents that guide your organization’s operations. They decide, for example, how long directors serve, how they get replaced, how many members are required to vote on a resolution, and who has power over what. Your nonprofit should adopt its bylaws at its first official meeting (often called the “organizational meeting”), either before filing your Colorado nonprofit Articles of Incorporation or shortly after. Make sure to adopt your bylaws prior to seeking 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status from the IRS.

It isn’t easy to write bylaws, but Northwest is here to help. When you hire us to form your Colorado nonprofit, you’ll get access to free templates for writing your nonprofit’s bylaws, resolutions, meeting minutes, and more. Why? Because we want to serve as your nonprofit’s registered agent service year after year, and for that your nonprofit needs to start successful and stay successful. Your success is our success. That is why we offer you a free attorney-drafted bylaws template along with all important information for incorporating in Colorado.


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

Unfortunately, nonprofits don’t automatically qualify for federal tax-exempt status. That requires a separate application to the IRS, a willingness to go through a long and expensive application process, and careful planning on your part. Currently, the IRS recognizes more than two dozen different types of tax-exempt organizations, but most nonprofits seek 501(c)(3) status for public charities and private foundations. If your nonprofit intends to become a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, your Articles of Incorporation need to include specific language required by the IRS devoting your nonprofit’s activities exclusively 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, it’s also exempt from the Colorado state income tax, but you’ll still have to apply separately to the Colorado Department of Revenue for an exemption from the state sales tax. See our Colorado Sales Tax Exemption page for details.


Register for State Tax Accounts, Licenses, or Permits

Does a Colorado nonprofit need a business license?

Colorado nonprofits aren’t required to seek a general, statewide business license, but counties, cities, and towns typically have their own business license requirements. Contact your local officials about the necessary business licenses in those locations where your nonprofit intends to do business.

Should my Colorado nonprofit register as a charity?

If your Colorado nonprofit solicits donations, you will need to register as a charity with the Colorado Secretary of State (and do it before soliciting donations!). To register create an online account with the Charities Division and pay a $10 filing fee. The renewal deadline for most charitable organizations is April 15th each year. See our Colorado charity registration page for details.


Open a Bank Account for Your Colorado Nonprofit

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

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

We recommend calling your bank ahead of time to determine their requirements. If your nonprofit has several directors and/or officers, you may even need to bring a resolution authorizing you to open the account in the name of your nonprofit.


Submit the Colorado Nonprofit Periodic Report

Colorado nonprofits must submit a yearly periodic report (equivalent to what most states call an “annual report”) to update the state’s records and keep the organization in good standing with the Colorado Secretary of State. The report will state your nonprofit’s name, the name and address of your registered agent, and the address of your principal office.

The filing fee is $10, and you can file online at the Colorado Secretary of State’s website. Your annual filing window starts on the first day of the month in which you originally incorporated your nonprofit and ends on the last day of the month three months later.

Sound complicated? Sign up for Northwest’s Annual Report Filing Service, and we’ll file your periodic report for you—correctly and on time.