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How To Start A Nonprofit In Indiana

To start a nonprofit in Indiana, you must file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Indiana Secretary of State. You can file your articles in person, by mail, or online. The articles of incorporation cost $50 for mailed filing and $31 for online filing. Once filed with the state, your articles of incorporation officially create your Indiana nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.


Indiana Nonprofit Filing Options

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

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IN Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Requirements

To incorporate an Indiana nonprofit, you must complete and file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Indiana 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 nonprofit’s name must contain a corporate suffix (either “corporation,” “incorporated,” “company,” “limited,” or a corresponding abbreviation). It must also be distinguishable from the names of other business entities on record with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office, and it can’t state or imply a purpose other than that indicated by your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation or allowed by Indiana state law.

2. Address of Principal Office

Include the street address of your nonprofit’s principal place of business. When you hire Northwest, you can list the street address of our Indiana office in place of yours.

3. Purpose

Include a description of your nonprofit’s purpose. If your organization intends to seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, your statement of purpose must include specific language required by the IRS.

4. Type of Corporation

Identify your nonprofit as either a public benefit, religious, or mutual benefit corporation. Mutual benefit nonprofits exist to serve the mutual needs of its membership (such as a homeowner association) and usually receive their support from membership dues. Religious nonprofits, such as churches and mosques, exist to serve religious ends. Public benefit nonprofits are charities devoted, in some way, to improving the public’s well-being.

5. Registered Agent and Office

Include the name and street address of your nonprofit’s registered agent. This is the person or business entity authorized to receive legal notices and other official state mail on behalf of your nonprofit. Hire Northwest, and our name and Indiana street address go here.

6. Membership

Indicate if your nonprofit corporation will have members. The concept “membership” can mean many things, but it usually refers to individuals or business entities with the right to cast votes in the election of your nonprofit’s directors (among other rights and responsibilities defined by a nonprofit’s bylaws). Indiana nonprofits are not required to have members.

7. Incorporator(s)

Appoint at least one incorporator to sign and submit your articles. An incorporator doesn’t have to be a member, director, or officer. When you hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, we’ll be your incorporator.

8. Distribution of Assets

Indiana requires a nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation to include a dissolution of assets provision. This is basically a plan for how the nonprofit will distribute its income and assets if and when it shuts down in the future. If your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status, your dissolution clause must use specific language provided by the IRS.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate an Indiana Nonprofit?

Indiana charges $50 to nonprofits that mail their printed Articles of Incorporation to the Indiana Secretary of State and $31 for online filing (a $30 base filing fee and a $1 credit card processing fee).

How Long Does It Take to Start an Indiana Nonprofit?

The Indiana Secretary of State’s office typically processes online filings in 24 hours or less. Mailed and hand-delivered filings, however, usually take around one week to process.

Does an Indiana Nonprofit Need a Registered Agent?

Yes, you’re required to appoint an Indiana registered agent to receive service of process (legal notices) on behalf of your nonprofit. You can be your own registered agent, but it isn’t easy. The address of a registered agent’s office (its “registered office”) goes into the public record, so registered agents get targeted by data-sellers and salespeople, and we have to get used to finding excessive junk mail clogging our mailboxes every day. A registered agent also has to be at this publicly listed address during normal business hours, which isn’t an easy promise for any one person to keep. Unless you don’t mind being stuck at the office during business hours, and if you don’t know anyone else you can trust, it’s wiser to hire a registered agent service like Northwest.

Hire Northwest, and your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation can list our Indiana street address in place of yours, which goes a long way toward protecting your privacy, and you can also leave the endless waiting to us. If we ever do receive a lawsuit meant for your nonprofit, we have the infrastructure in place to scan it and send it to you on the day we receive it.


Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Your nonprofit’s federal employer identification number (FEIN or EIN) is a lot like an individual’s social security number, and you’ll need an EIN to seek 501(c)(3) status from the IRS, to open a bank account in your nonprofit’s name, and to more generally manage your nonprofit’s finances.

After the state approves your articles, you can apply for an EIN on the IRS website. Or you can simply add our convenient EIN service when you hire Northwest.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Indiana requires a nonprofit corporation to adopt bylaws, which are basically your organization’s way of controlling the actions of its directors, officers, and members. Your bylaws will cover a lot of ground—your nonprofit’s purpose, procedures for meetings, the period of a director’s tenure, the rights and responsibilities of members and officers (and so on)—which is why it’s so important to write them with a careful eye to the types of situations that a nonprofit corporation might encounter in the future. Make sure that your nonprofit adopts its bylaws before seeking 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS, since the IRS will likely ask to see your nonprofit’s bylaws as part of the application process.

It isn’t easy to write effective bylaws, but Northwest can help. We have a lot of experience working with nonprofit corporations, and we want our clients to be as successful as possible, so we’ve put together an adaptable template for writing Indiana nonprofit bylaws, as well as numerous other free nonprofit forms, to help get you started.


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

To obtain federal tax-exempt status, your nonprofit must submit an Application for Recognition of Exemption to the IRS, pay either a $275 or $600 application fee (depending on the size and nature of your nonprofit), and wait around 3-6 months for the IRS to examine your nonprofit’s purpose, structure, and finances. Most nonprofits seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for public charities and private foundations, which requires that your Articles of Incorporation include specific provisions required by the IRS. The government basically wants to ensure that your nonprofit dedicates itself exclusively to benefiting the public and doesn’t really exist to serve private interests.

If your nonprofit manages to achieve 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status, it will automatically qualify as exempt from the Indiana corporate income tax. However, you’ll need to apply to the Indiana Department of Revenue if you wish to obtain a sales tax exemption for your nonprofit, and you’ll need to renew your exemption with the Department of Revenue each year. Learn more at Northwest’s guide to Indiana state tax exemptions.


Register For Required State Licenses

Does An Indiana Nonprofit Need A Business License?

Indiana doesn’t issue a statewide business license, but individual cities and counties often have licensing requirements of their own. It’s usually best to simply contact your city clerk’s office to find out what local ordinances and regulations apply to your nonprofit’s activities.

Will My Nonprofit Need An Indiana State Tax ID?

Most likely. If your nonprofit takes part in any taxable business activities, such as making sales or hiring and paying employees, you’ll likely need to register with the Indiana Department of Revenue. You’ll also need to be registered with the Department of Revenue if your nonprofit ever decides to request sales tax exemptions for individual fund-raising activities. Simply file the Indiana Business Tax Application (form BT-1) online at the IN Department of Revenue’s website. You’ll receive a taxpayer identification number (TID) once your application once the department approves your application.

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

Not usually. The Indiana Department of Justice only requires nonprofits to register as charities if they hire a professional solicitor. Otherwise, your Indiana charity is automatically exempt from registering.


Open a Bank Account for Your Indiana Nonprofit

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

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

It’s usually wise to call your bank 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).


File the Indiana Nonprofit Business Entity Report

What Is the Indiana Nonprofit Business Entity Report?

Indiana requires nonprofits to file a business entity report every other year (otherwise known as the “biennial report”), which you can submit online at the Indiana Secretary of State’s website. This report basically updates or confirms your nonprofit’s information with the state, including your corporate name and registered agent, and it comes with a $20 filing fee.

When you hire Northwest, we’ll send you reminders when the deadlines for your business entity reports come around, but you can also avoid the hassle altogether by adding our Indiana Biennial Report Service for an additional fee.