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How To Start A Nonprofit In Georgia

To start a nonprofit corporation in Georgia, you must file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Georgia Secretary of State. You can submit your nonprofit’s articles online or by mail. The articles of incorporation cost $100 to file. Once filed with the state, your articles of incorporation officially create your Georgia nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.


Georgia Nonprofit Filing Options

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

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GA Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Requirements

To incorporate a Georgia nonprofit, you must complete and file nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the Georgia Secretary of State, and you should also include a Transmittal Information Form with your articles (see below). See the document below and click on any number to see what information is required in the corresponding section.

1. Corporate Name

Your nonprofit’s name must contain the word “corporation,” “incorporated,” “company,” “limited,” or the abbreviation “Corp.,” “Inc.,” “Co.,” or “Ltd.” The name can’t be obscene or use words that imply a corporate purpose other than the purpose sanctioned by your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation and Georgia law. It can’t exceed 80 characters, and it must be distinguishable from other organizations operating in Georgia.

2. Nonprofit Statement

Your Georgia nonprofit Articles of Incorporation must include the following statement (word for word): “The corporation is organized pursuant to the Georgia Nonprofit Corporation Code.”

3. Registered Office and Agent

Include the name, street address, and county of your Georgia registered agent. This is the “registered office” where the state will deliver service of process (legal notices) and other official state mail. When you hire Northwest to serve as your registered agent, our information goes here.

4. Membership

Indicate if your Georgia nonprofit will have members by including one of the following simple statements: “The corporation will have members” or “The corporation will not have members.”

5. Principal Address

Include your nonprofit’s principal address—the address of its principal place of business—if this differs from its registered office. You can put a PO Box address here if you wish, or you can use Northwest’s Georgia address instead.

6. Optional Provisions

Georgia doesn’t require nonprofits to describe their purpose, but if your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS, include an additional section that uses the specific language required by the IRS to limit your nonprofit’s activities exclusively to the pursuit of one or more exempt purposes approved by the IRS. The IRS will expect to see this language on your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation when you submit an Application for Recognition of Exemption.

7. Execution

At least one incorporator or attorney must sign and date your articles of incorporation, as well as state his or her position as either an incorporator or an attorney.

How Much Does It Cost To Start A Georgia Nonprofit?

Georgia charges $100 to file Articles of Incorporation and an additional $100 for expedited processing within 3 business days

Additionally, you’ll pay a $40 fee to publish a notification of your intent to incorporate in a Georgia newspaper, $35 to register as a Charity with the Securities and Charities Division of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, and $30 for your nonprofit’s initial Annual Registration report ($40 if filed using a paper form).

How Long Does It Take To Start A Georgia Nonprofit?

Once your Articles of Incorporation are filed, it takes the state about 12 business days to process your formation documents. Expedited processing within 3 business days is available for $100. You can get same-day service for $250 and 1-hour service for $1,000.

What Is The Transmittal Information Form?

The Transmittal Information Form asks for basic information about your nonprofit—your corporate name and type, information about your incorporator and registered agent, and an acknowledgment that a your nonprofit has or will mail a Notice of Intent to Incorporate to a local newspaper—and you can find it online at the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. Submit the Transmittal Information Form with your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation. There is no separate filing fee.

Is A Georgia Nonprofit Registered Agent Required?

Yes, you’re required to get a Georgia registered agent to receive legal notices (service of process) for your nonprofit. You can do the job yourself, but there are pitfalls to doing so. A registered agent has to list a Georgia street address on your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation, which is a public document, so whatever address you list becomes part of the public record. You’ll also actually have to be at that address during normal business hours, which means you can’t hold lengthy meetings, travel for any extended period of time, or doing anything else that might make you unavailable if a service of process ever shows up at your door.

A better option? Hire Northwest registered agent service, and your Articles can list the address of our Georgia office in place of yours. This will cut back on junk mail, prevent unwanted solicitors from showing up at your door, and give you the freedom to manage and grow your nonprofit on your own terms. If you ever receive any legal notices from the state, we will scan and send the documents to you on the day we receive them.


Publish an Intent to Incorporate

What Is An Intent To Incorporate?

Any new Georgia nonprofit must publish a notice of intent to incorporate in a local newspaper (that is, in the county of your nonprofit’s registered office). You’ll pay a $40 fee for the publication, and the publication has to be in a newspaper acceptable to the county clerks (in what’s called an “official legal organ of the county”). Contact your county clerk to determine which newspapers are acceptable, and mail your noticed of intent no later than the day after filing your Articles of Incorporation with the GA Secretary of State. Learn more Northwest’s guide to How to Publish Your Notice of Incorporation in Georgia.


Get a Federal EIN from the IRS

Your nonprofit will need a federal employer identification number (FEIN or EIN) if it intends to apply for federal and state tax exemptions, open a bank account (at least at most banks), and navigate its finances and business dealings more generally. After the state approves your articles of incorporation, you can apply for an EIN on the IRS website. Or you can let us deal with the IRS for you and add our EIN service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Georgia requires your nonprofit’s incorporators or board of directors to adopt bylaws at its organizational meeting. This is the first official meeting where you finish organizing your new nonprofit. Why? Because bylaws define how your nonprofit works internally. They say, for example, who is on the board of directors, how long they get to stay there, how they can be replaced, and what their powers and duties are (among numerous other details about officers, membership, meeting minutes, and so on). Basically, bylaws define and limit the powers of everyone involved in your nonprofit.

Bylaws are tough to write, which is why Northwest provides an adaptable template for writing nonprofit bylaws, as well as numerous other free nonprofit forms, when you hire us to form your nonprofit or sign up for our registered agent service. Check out our free attorney-drafted nonprofit bylaws template and learn more about Georgia nonprofit bylaws.


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

Will My Georgia Nonprofit Be Tax-Exempt?

Georgia nonprofits pay federal and state taxes unless they apply for (and obtain) the available tax exemptions. At the federal level, nonprofits that qualify as exempt organizations under 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code don’t have to pay federal taxes, so long as they submit the Application for Recognition of Exemption to the IRS and pay the required fees ($275 for smaller nonprofits submitting Form 1023-EZ and $600 for everyone else). Obtaining 501(c)(3) status for public charities and private foundations, the most common exempt organization, requires that a nonprofit includes specific tax-exempt language required by the IRS devoting its activities exclusively to the pursuit of one or more tax-exempt purposes. The IRS will send your nonprofit a determination letter if and when it recognizes your status as a tax-exempt entity.

What About Georgia State Tax Exemptions?

If your nonprofit manages to get 501(c)(3) status, it will be exempt from the Georgia state income tax, so long as you include copies of your IRS determination letter when you file your nonprofit’s state tax return, but pretty much every nonprofit (including most charities and religious organizations) pays the Georgia sales and use tax. The GA Department of Revenue’s website contains a list of those few organizations, such as nonprofit food banks and blood banks, that are also exempt from the state’s sales tax. Learn more at our Georgia tax exemptions page.


Obtain GA State Licenses

Does A Georgia Nonprofit Need A Business License?

Georgia doesn’t issue a general, statewide business license, but many counties and cities have their own business licensing requirements, and the requirements vary widely for nonprofits (with some counties and cities exempting 501(c)(3) organizations altogether). It’s best to call the business license office at your local city hall to find out the precise requirements for your nonprofit.

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

If your nonprofit will solicit charitable donations from the public, you must register as a Georgia charity with the Charitable Organizations Office of the Secretary of State’s office. This should happen prior to soliciting contributions in Georgia. You’ll pay a $35 initial application fee, submit a Charitable Organization Registration form (Form C-100), and whatever additional documents required by the GA Securities and Charities Division. You’ll renew your registration for $20 each year.


Open a Bank Account For Your GA Nonprofit

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

  • A copy of your Georgia nonprofit articles of incorporation
  • A copy of your nonprofit’s bylaws
  • Your Georgia 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 GA Initial and Annual Reports

The “initial” and “annual” registration reports, both required for nonprofits by the State of Georgia, are really the same report. The initial registration report is just the first registration report your nonprofit submits (within 90 days of incorporating), and the annual registration report is due between January 1st and April 1st each year after. The form simply asks you to update or confirm your entity’s name, registered agent information, the names and addresses of officers, and other basic information about your nonprofit. The filing fee for the initial and annual registration report is $30.

When you hire Northwest, we’ll send you initial and annual reminders about the deadlines for your Georgia registration reports, but you can also bypass the headache altogether and add our Georgia Annual Registration service for an additional $100 plus state fees. We’ll take care of filing your initial and annual registration reports, so you don’t have to worry about it.