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How To Start A Nonprofit In Michigan

To start a nonprofit in Michigan, you must file nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. You can file the articles in person, online, or by mail. The articles of incorporation cost $20 to file. Once filed with the state, your articles of incorporation officially create your Michigan nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.


Michigan Nonprofit Filing Options

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

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MI Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Requirements

To incorporate a Michigan nonprofit, you must file nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Click on any number below to see what information is required in the corresponding section on the form.

1. Corporate Name

Your nonprofit’s name can’t suggest a purpose other than that indicated in your Articles of Incorporation; can’t imply that your nonprofit is a banking corporation, insurance, surety, or trust company; and must be distinguishable from the names of other organizations operating in the State of Michigan. You can do a name search at the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website to make sure your nonprofit’s name is available.

2. Purpose

Michigan does not allow nonprofits to organize merely for “any lawful purpose.” Your nonprofit’s specific purpose must be indicated and described in your Articles of Incorporation. Moreover, if your nonprofit intends to apply for 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status, the IRS will expect specific language and provisions to appear in your statement of purpose.

3. Stock or Nonstock

Michigan is one of the few states that allows nonprofits to issue stock, so your Articles need to identify if your nonprofit is a stock or nonstock corporation. If your nonprofit will issue stock, you’ll list the total number of shares. If your nonprofit will not issue stock, you’ll describe and list the values of your nonprofit’s real property assets and personal property assets, describe your plan for how to finance your organization, and identify your nonprofit as member-managed or director-managed.

4. Registered Agent and Office

Include the name and Michigan street address of your registered agent. When you hire Northwest, you will list our name and the street address of our Michigan registered office.

5. Incorporator(s)

At least one incorporator should sign and submit your articles. Your incorporator doesn’t need to be a director, member, or officer in your nonprofit. When you hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, we’ll be your incorporator.

6. Additional Articles

The form for Michigan’s nonprofit Articles of Incorporation satisfies the state’s basic requirements for forming a nonprofit corporation. However, that doesn’t mean completing the form is enough to satisfy the IRS. If your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, make sure to include a statement of purpose (discussed above), clear limitations on your nonprofit’s activities, and a dissolution of assets provision. You can use the space provided on the state form or pile on as many attachments as you need.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate a Michigan Nonprofit?

You will pay a base state fee of $20 to file the Michigan nonprofit Articles of Incorporation, but Michigan offers several options and additional fees for expedited processing. For example, you can pay a $50 expedite fee for 24-hour processing.

How Long Does It Take to Incorporate a Michigan Nonprofit?

Michigan typically processes nonprofit paperwork within ten business days. 24-hour expedited processing is available for an additional $50. 2-hour processing costs an additional $500 and 1-hour processing is an additional $1,000. All expedite options are available for online, in-person, or mailed filings. The processing times refer to the day the Corporations Division receives your documents.

Is A Michigan Nonprofit Registered Agent Required?

Yes, your nonprofit needs to appoint a Michigan registered agent. This is the person or business authorized to receive services of process (legal notices) for your nonprofit. You can appoint yourself, an associate, or a commercial registered agent service like Northwest. But whatever direction you decide to go, your nonprofit’s registered agent needs to be available at a publicly listed street address during normal business hours. If you take on the job yourself, that means no lengthy meetings, extended traveling to meet with potential donors, or even personal vacations. You have to stay put (pretty much glued to your desk!) to wait for services of process that may never come.

When you hire Northwest, this problem disappears. As a commercial registered agent service, we have the infrastructure in place to make sure someone is always available to accept legal notices on your behalf, and you can even use our Michigan address on your Articles of Incorporation. That means more privacy, less junk mail, more freedom, and even more peace of mind. And if we ever receive a service of process for your nonprofit, we’ll scan it and send it to you on that day.


Get a Federal EIN from the IRS

A federal employer identification number (FEIN or EIN) is a must for any new nonprofit corporation. Your nonprofit will need an EIN if it wants to apply for federal tax-exempt status, register with the Michigan Department of Treasury, open a bank account, or solicit charitable contributions.

As soon as your Michigan nonprofit is officially incorporated, you can get an EIN from the IRS by applying online. Or you can sign up for our EIN service for an extra fee when you hire Northwest.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Does A Michigan Nonprofit Need Bylaws?

Yes, Michigan requires a nonprofit corporation to adopt bylaws, which usually happens at the first official meeting after incorporating with the state. Your nonprofit needs to have established its bylaws before seeking 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS, and the Michigan Attorney General will also expect to see your nonprofit’s bylaws when it registers as a Michigan charity.

Why Are Bylaws Important?

Bylaws are your nonprofit’s internal rules, and without bylaws your directors can’t guide the organization along a clear, consistent path. How long is a director’s tenure? Will your nonprofit have voting members? Are there different classes of members? What responsibilities are specific to each officer? (And so on !) Without clear answer to questions like this, your organization is flying blind.

Writing effective bylaws is probably one of the most difficult parts of forming a new nonprofit, but Northwest can help. When you hire Northwest, you’ll gain access to our adaptable template for writing nonprofit bylaws, as well as numerous other free nonprofit forms to get things started. Why? Because we want you to come back year after year and renew our services, and that means your nonprofit needs to start successfully and stay successful. Your success, in other words, is our success.


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

Will My Michigan Nonprofit Be Tax-Exempt?

Unfortunately, incorporating as a nonprofit doesn’t automatically mean your organization is tax-exempt. To obtain federal tax-exempt status, you need to submit the Application for Recognition of Exemption to the IRS and be willing to go through a lengthy, expensive application process. You also must dedicate your nonprofit’s revenue and assets exclusively (and perpetually) to one or more tax exempt purposes recognized by the IRS to qualify, which means careful attention to the wording in your Articles of Incorporation and bylaws is a must. You can find the relevant language and provisions required by the IRS at Northwest’s Guide to 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status.

What About Michigan State Tax Exemptions?

If or when your nonprofit manages to obtain federal tax-exempt status, your nonprofit will automatically exempt from the Michigan state corporate income tax and the sales and use tax. However, you will need complete and submit a Michigan Sales and Use Tax Certificate of Exemption present the certificate (to sellers and vendors, for instance) when transacting business. Learn more at Northwest’s guide to Michigan tax exemptions.


Obtain Required State Licenses

Does A Michigan Nonprofit Need A Business License?

Michigan doesn’t issue a statewide business license, but many cities and counties have licensing requirements of their own. Check with your city clerk’s office to find out what local ordinances and permit requirements apply to your nonprofit’s activities in addition to contacting the office of Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

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

If your nonprofit solicits charitable contributions, you’ll most likely need to register as a charity with the Michigan Attorney General. This involves submitting an Initial Solicitation Form (CTS-01) and an annual Renewal Solicitation Form (CTS-01) seven months after the end of your nonprofit’s fiscal year. There are no fees to register or renew with the MI Attorney General.

The Michigan Solicitations Act exempts some organizations and activities, such as charities that exclusively use volunteers and receive less than $25,000 in annual contributions, but most charities should expect to register and renew each year. Learn more at Northwest’s guide to registering a Michigan charity.


Open a Bank Account For Your MI Nonprofit

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

  • A copy of your Michigan nonprofit’s articles of incorporation
  • A copy of your nonprofit’s bylaws
  • Your Michigan 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 MI Nonprofit Annual Report

What Is the Michigan Nonprofit Annual Report?

The Michigan annual report updates your nonprofit’s contact and organizational information with the state (directors’ names, registered agent’s address, etc.), comes with a $20 filing fee, and is due on or before October 1st each year. The state will mail a copy of the form to your nonprofit’s registered agent three months before the deadline, and you can return it by mail or deliver it in person. But the easiest option is to file online.

Rather not bother? Take advantage of our convenient Michigan Annual Report Service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest, and we’ll complete and submit your annual report ourselves.