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How To Start A Nonprofit In Hawaii

To start a nonprofit corporation in Hawaii, you must file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. You can submit your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation online or by mail, and it costs $26 in combined fees to file (plus a $2.50 processing fee if you pay with a credit card). Once filed with the state, your articles of incorporation officially create your Hawaii nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.


Hawaii Nonprofit Filing Options

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

Do It Yourself Online

Our free account and tools will walk you through starting and maintaining a Hawaii nonprofit. All for free.

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Hire us to form your Hawaii nonprofit. Includes registered agent service, adaptable nonprofit templates & more.

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HI Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Requirements

To incorporate a Hawaii nonprofit, you must complete and file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. See the document below and click on any number to see what information is required in the corresponding section.

1. Corporate Name

Your Hawaii nonprofit’s name can’t state or suggest that it exists for a purposes other than those allowed by Hawaii law or indicated in your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation, but the name does not need to include a corporate ending (“Corporation,” “Inc.,” etc.). Your nonprofit’s name should also be distinguishable from other business entities on file with the state of Hawaii. Conduct a preliminary name search at the Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs, Business Registration Division’s website.

2. Principal Office

Include a mailing address for your nonprofit’s initial principal place of business. When you hire Northwest, you can put our Hawaii mailing address here.

3. Registered Agent

Include the name, county, and Hawaii street address of your nonprofit’s Hawaii registered agent. Your registered agent is the individual or business authorized to receive legal notices on your nonprofit’s behalf. When you hire Northwest, you’ll list our name and Hawaii street address here.

4. Incorporator(s)

List the name and address of at least one incorporator (you can list more than one if you have more). An incorporator is just a person authorized to complete, sign, and submit your articles of incorporation. Hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, and we’ll be your incorporator.

5. Membership

Indicate if your nonprofit will or will not have members. A member is basically an individual or business entity with the right to vote for your nonprofit’s directors.

6. Additional Provisions

The form Hawaii provides for a nonprofit’s articles of incorporation is fairly minimal, and it should do fine if you’re not seeking federal or state tax exemptions. But if your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status, the basic requirements for Hawaii’s nonprofit articles of incorporation won’t work for you. Instead, you’ll need to expand your articles to include a statement of purpose and a provision governing the dissolution of your nonprofit’s assets (in case it ever shuts down), and these additional provisions will need to use the specific tax-exempt language and provisions required by the IRS.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate a Hawaii Nonprofit?

Hawaii charges all filers at least $26 in combined fees to file nonprofit Articles of Incorporation, which includes the $25 filing fee and a $1 State Archive fee. Online filing costs an additional $2.50, and you also have the option to pay a $25 expedite fee to speed up the application process.

How Long Does It Take to Start a Hawaii Nonprofit?

Standard processing in Hawaii is approximately 10 business days, but you can speed up the process to around 3 business days if you pay the $25 expedite fee.

Does a Hawaii Nonprofit Need a Registered Agent?

Yes, you’re required to appoint a Hawaii registered agent to receive legal notices for your nonprofit. You can appoint yourself, someone you know, or a registered agent service, but just keep in mind that your registered agent must be available during normal business hours at a Hawaii street address listed on your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation. If you put down your own residential or office address, expect to always have a mailbox full of junk mail, and don’t be surprised to find salespeople showing up at your door.

A better option? Hire Northwest, put our Hawaii address on your articles instead, let us do the waiting, and devote your time to managing and growing your nonprofit on your own terms. Need to hold a lengthy meeting? No problem. If a legal notice arrives, we’ll be there to get it. Need to travel? Again, no problem. If a service of process arrives from the state of Hawaii while you’re gone, we’ll scan it and send it to you on the day we receive it.


Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

A federal employer identification number (FEIN or EIN) is a little like your nonprofit’s social security number, and getting one is a must for any new nonprofit attempting to open bank accounts, set up accounts with vendors, or apply for federal and state tax exemptions. After the Hawaii Secretary of State approves your articles, you can apply an EIN through the IRS website. Or you can add our convenient EIN service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Hawaii expects your nonprofit’s board of directors to adopt bylaws at its organizational meeting. This is your nonprofit’s first official meeting, held after the state files your articles of incorporation, at which your nonprofit appoints its officers, ratifies a conflict of interest policy, and adopts its bylaws (among other organizational business). It’s important to hold this meeting before your nonprofit applies to the IRS for recognition as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity, since the IRS only wants to deal with a fully formed nonprofit.

What are bylaws, and why do they matter? Bylaws are your nonprofit’s internal rules. They govern, for instance, how someone becomes a director, the range and limitations of each officers’ responsibilities, the rights of members, and a host of other questions that need clear answers in advance. If you’re concerned that you don’t have the experience necessary to write effective bylaws, Northwest can help. When you hire Northwest, you’ll gain access to our adaptable template for writing bylaws, as well as numerous other free nonprofit forms to help get you started.


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

To seek federal tax-exempt status for your nonprofit, submit the Application for Recognition of Exemption to the IRS, pay either $275 or $600 depending on the size and nature of your nonprofit, and prepare to wait 3-6 months or more while the IRS examines your nonprofit’s history, purpose, formation documents, and finances. Currently, the IRS recognizes over two dozen different types of exempt organizations under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code, but most nonprofits seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for public charities and private foundations. If your nonprofit is a charitable organization, be sure your articles of incorporation include the special tax-exempt provisions using the exact language provided by the IRS.

If your nonprofit manages to obtain 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status, your organization won’t have to pay the Hawaii state income tax. However, your nonprofit will need to apply directly to the Hawaii State Tax Commission if you intend to seek a general excise tax exemption and other Hawaii state tax exemptions that may be available to your nonprofit.


Apply for Required State Business Licenses

Does a Hawaii Nonprofit Need a Business License?

Hawaii doesn’t issue a statewide business license (at least not by that name), but your nonprofit needs to submit a Basic Business Application to the Hawaii Department of Taxation (Form BB-1). This is a consolidated application for those tax accounts, such as the withholding tax and general excise tax (GET), that may be relevant to your nonprofit’s activities. Additionally, some Hawaii cities and counties may require licenses and permits of their own.

Should a Hawaii Nonprofit Register as a Charity?

Most Hawaii nonprofits that solicit charitable contributions need to register as a Hawaii charity with the Attorney General’s Tax and Charities Division. The Attorney General’s website provides an online registration system, and your nonprofit needs to set up an account to register. There is no registration fee, but each year Hawaii nonprofits submit a financial report (also called an annual report) to the Attorney General and pay an annual fee based on the organization’s gross revenue for that year. Here’s how the fees break down:

Annual Gross Revenue Annual Fee
Less than $25,000 None
$25,000 to less than $50,000 $25.00
$50,000 to less than $100,000 $50.00
$100,000 to less than $250,000 $100.00
$250,000 to less than $500,000 $150.00
$500,000 to less than $1 million $200.00
At least $1 million but less than $2 million $250.00
At least $2 million but less than $5 million $350.00
$5 million and over $600.00

There are some exceptions, including parent-teachers associations, some religious corporations, nonprofit hospitals, and charitable organizations that consistently receive less than $25,000 in annual contributions, but most nonprofits should expect to register, file an annual financial report with the Attorney General, and pay an annual fee each year.


Open a Bank Account for Your Hawaii Nonprofit

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

  • A copy of your Hawaii nonprofit articles of incorporation
  • A copy of your nonprofit’s bylaws
  • Your Hawaii 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 the Hawaii Nonprofit Annual Report

Hawaii requires nonprofit corporations to file a yearly report updating their information on the state’s records (corporate name, registered agent information, directors, etc.). You can file online for $3.50, by mail for $6.00, or in person at the Hawaii Secretary of State’s office for $6.00. You also have the option to add $25 for expedited processing (around 1-3 business days).

If you’d rather not bother keeping up with these deadlines, filing options, and fees, sign up for our Hawaii Annual Report Service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.