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How To Start A Nonprofit In Maine

To start a nonprofit corporation in Maine, begin by filing the Domestic Nonprofit Corporation Articles of Incorporation with the Maine Secretary of State. You can submit your articles in person or by mail. The articles of incorporation cost $40 to file. Once filed with the state, your articles of incorporation officially create your Maine nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.


Maine Nonprofit Filing Options

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Download the Maine Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation. Fill out the form and submit to the state.

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ME Domestic Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation

To incorporate a Maine nonprofit, you must file the Domestic Nonprofit Corporation Articles of Incorporation with the Maine Secretary of State. Click on any number below to see what information is required in the corresponding section on the form.

1. Name

Do a corporate name search at the Maine Secretary of State’s website to make sure your nonprofit’s name is distinguishable from all other Maine businesses on record. Maine doesn’t require the names of nonprofit corporations to include a corporate ending (“corporation,” “inc.,” etc.), but the name can’t state or imply a purpose different from that described in your Articles of Incorporation or permitted by state law.

2. Purpose

Identify if your nonprofit is a public benefit or mutual benefit corporation, and then describe its purpose. Maine doesn’t require a very detailed statement of purpose, but the IRS does. If your nonprofit intends to apply for 501(c) status with the IRS, attach a detailed statement of purpose that includes the language recommended by the IRS.

3. Registered Agent

Name your nonprofit’s registered agent. If you hired a commercial registered agent, include the company’s name and its Commercial Registered Agent number (CRA Public Number). If you went with a noncommercial registered agent, give the agent’s name, Maine street address, and mailing address (if different).

4. Directors

Identify how many directors are on your nonprofit’s initial board (you’re required to have at least three). If later on your nonprofit might have a different number of directors, identify the minimum number allowed (at least three) and the maximum.

5. Members

Identify if your nonprofit corporation will or will not have members. If you will have members, include an attachment identifying the various classes of members (if you will have one or more different classes), how members will get elected or appointed, their qualifications, and their rights.

6. Other Provisions

If you have additional provisions, beyond the state’s requirements, for governing your nonprofit, check the available box on the form and attach those provisions. Possible provisions include, for instance, a detailed dissolution clause, using the IRS recommend language, to clearly dedicate your nonprofit’s income and assets to specific tax-exempt purposes.

7. Incorporator(s)

One or more incorporators must sign and deliver your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation, but this doesn’t need to be a director, officer, or member of your nonprofit. Hire Northwest to incorporate your nonprofit, and we’ll be your incorporator.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate a Maine Nonprofit?

Maine charges a $40 base filing fee to process your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation, but you can speed up the process by paying additional fees. 5-day processing costs an additional $50, and paying an additional $100 gets your documents processed immediately.

How Long Does It Take to Start a Maine Nonprofit?

Once your articles are delivered to the state, it will take about 30 days for the Bureau of Corporations, Elections, and Commissions to process them. For a $50 expedite fee, you can get your documents processed in approximately 5 days.

Deliver your articles in person to the Maine Secretary of State’s office, pay a $100 expedite fee, and get your documents processed immediately. You can also use this option for mailed filings, but your documents will spend extra time in the mail.

Does a Maine Nonprofit Need a Registered Agent?

Yes, you are required to have a Maine registered agent (often called a “clerk” in Maine) for your nonprofit. Your registered agent’s job is to be available at a physical Maine address during normal business hours to accept services of process (lawsuits) on your nonprofit’s behalf. You can do the job yourself or hire a registered agent service like Northwest instead.

We recommend hiring a registered agent service. If you’re trying to manage and grow a new nonprofit, you can’t be tied to your desk waiting for services of process that may never come, and you probably don’t want to deal with the fallout from putting your personal address or office address on your Articles of Incorporation (expect loads of junk mail, visitations from unwanted solicitors, and so on). Hiring Northwest keeps your life just a little more private and gives you the freedom to travel, hold meetings with potential donors, and otherwise focus on what matters: your nonprofit’s goals. Leave the waiting to us.


Get a Federal EIN from the IRS

Do I Need A Tax ID Number (EIN) For A Maine Nonprofit?

Yes, you’re required to get a federal employer identification number (EIN) for your nonprofit. After the Maine Secretary of State processes and approves your Articles, you can apply for an EIN at the IRS website. We also offer a convenient EIN service, for an additional $50 fee, when you hire Northwest.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Does a Maine Nonprofit Need Bylaws?

Definitely. Your Maine nonprofit’s bylaws are the key to self-governance, and they are also required by state law. Your bylaws will define, for instance, the powers and responsibilities of your nonprofit’s officers, the date of the annual meeting, rules for calling special meetings, the conditions of membership, and a host of other questions that need clear answers in advance. You should adopt your bylaws at your nonprofit’s first official meeting. Make sure to hold this meeting before applying for 501(c) tax-exempt status with the IRS.

It’s complicated to write bylaws from scratch, so if you hire Northwest you can use our free template for writing nonprofit bylaws, as well as numerous other free nonprofit forms, to help get you started. Check out our free attorney-drafted bylaws template and learn more about Maine nonprofit bylaws.


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

Will My Maine Nonprofit Be Tax-Exempt?

Not automatically. To obtain federal tax-exempt status, you’ll submit an Application for Recognition of Exemption to the IRS, a form that mainly details your nonprofit’s structure, origins, finances, and purpose. There are more than two dozen types of tax-exempt entities recognized by the IRS in Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code, but most nonprofits seek 501(c)(3) status for public charities and private foundations. If your nonprofit intends to go this route, make sure your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation include the specific 501(c)(3) language and provisions required by the IRS.

If your nonprofit manages to obtain 501(c) federal tax-exempt status, you’ll automatically be exempt from the Maine corporate income tax, but you still need to apply for sales tax and property tax exemptions (which are not guaranteed). Visit our Maine Tax Exemptions page for more details.


Obtain Maine State Business Licenses

Does a Maine Nonprofit Need a Business License?

In Maine, business licenses are managed at the local level, so there isn’t a general, statewide business license. Contact your town office to find out if any of your nonprofit’s activities require a license.

Should Your Maine Nonprofit Register as a Charity?

If your nonprofit will solicit and collect donations, you’ll need to register as a charity with the Maine Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation and renew your registration each year. You can find the appropriate form—the Charitable Organization Application—on the Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation’s website.

The initial registration fee is $25 plus a $25 licensure fee (for a total of $50). After that, you’ll pay $25 each year to renew your registration. Learn more at our Maine Charity Registration page.


Open a Bank Account for Your ME Nonprofit

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

  • A copy of your Maine nonprofit’s articles of incorporation
  • A copy of your nonprofit’s bylaws
  • Your Maine 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 ME Nonprofit Annual Report

What is the Maine Nonprofit Annual Report?

Maine requires nonprofits to file annual reports updating or confirming membership and contact information. There is a $35 fee for nonprofits, and the deadline is June 1st every year. You must file this report each year to remain in good standing with the state.

If you don’t want to bother with your annual report, hire Northwest to take care of it for you. We offer a convenient Maine Annual Report Service for $100 plus state fees.