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How To Start A Nonprofit In Missouri

To start a nonprofit corporation in Missouri, you must file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Missouri Secretary of State. You can submit your nonprofit’s articles online or by mail. The articles of incorporation cost $27 to file. Once filed with the state, your articles of incorporation officially create your Missouri nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.


Missouri Nonprofit Filing Options

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

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

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MO Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Requirements

To incorporate a Missouri nonprofit, you must complete and file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Missouri Secretary of State. 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 needs to be distinguishable from all other businesses on record with the Missouri Secretary of State, and the name can’t state or imply a purpose different from that described in your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation. You can do a preliminary name availability search on the Missouri Secretary of State’s website.

2. Type of Nonprofit

Your Articles should identify your nonprofit as either a public benefit or mutual benefit corporation. (Hint: Most Missouri nonprofit corporations, including 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, are public benefit corporations.)

3. Duration

Choose “perpetual” if you want your nonprofit to operate indefinitely. If you intend to dissolve your nonprofit at a specific date in the future, however, enter that date in the space provided.

4. Registered Agent Information

Include the name and physical Missouri address of your registered agent. The address is your Missouri registered office, which is where your registered agent accepts legal notices on your nonprofit’s behalf. When you hire Northwest, our name and Missouri address go here.

5. Incorporator(s)

Enter the name and address of at least one incorporator. An incorporator is someone who signs and submits your Articles of Incorporation, and it doesn’t need to be an officer, member, or director of your nonprofit.

6. Members

Select “Yes” or “No” to indicate if your nonprofit will have members. A member is a person with the right to vote to elect your nonprofit’s directors.

7. Dissolution

Include an explanation for how your nonprofit’s assets will get distributed if or when it dissolves in the future. If your nonprofit intends to seek federal tax-exempt status, you’ll need to attach dissolution clause that includes the special language required by the IRS.

8. Purpose

Include a description of the purpose for which you’ve incorporated your nonprofit. If you’re intending to seek federal tax-exempt status, attach a detailed purpose clause using the special language required by the IRS.

9. Effective Date

Missouri allows nonprofits to choose an effective date (the date when your nonprofit “starts”) up to 90 days after the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office files your Articles. If you leave this section blank, which is what most filers do, your nonprofit will officially begin upon filing.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate a Missouri Nonprofit?

Missouri charges $27 to file nonprofit articles of incorporation.

How Long Does It Take to Start a Missouri Nonprofit?

The Missouri Secretary of State’s office will process mailed filings in around 5-10 days. File your articles online at the Missouri Secretary of State’s website, and you’ll get a response typically within 5 business days.

Does a Missouri Nonprofit Need a Registered Agent?

Missouri requires your nonprofit corporation to appoint a Missouri registered agent, and the state will reject your Articles of Incorporation if you don’t. Why? Because a registered agent is always available at the same Missouri street address during normal business hours, and this allows the state and the public to reliably contact your nonprofit corporation through your registered agent. That won’t matter much on an ordinary day, but it takes on great importance if or when your nonprofit gets served a legal notice by the state.

You’re allowed to appoint yourself as registered agent or someone you know, but we recommend hiring a commercial registered agent service like Northwest. A registered agent must list a physical Missouri address on your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation, and that address goes into the public record. List your own home or office address and you can expect to be the target of data-sellers, to receive excessive junk mail, and to deal with unwanted solicitors showing up at your door. It’s also difficult to manage a busy, growing nonprofit if you can’t hold long meetings or otherwise leave your desk for extended periods of time.

Northwest offers an effective solution. When you hire Northwest, you can use our Missouri address on your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation, and we’ll be the ones waiting all day at our desks for services of process that may never come. In other words, hiring Northwest means more privacy, more freedom to manage your nonprofit on your own time, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing a professional service is always there to accept legal notices on your nonprofit’s behalf. If we ever receive a legal notice for your nonprofit, we’ll scan it and email a copy to you on the same day.


Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

You’ll need to get an employer identification number (an EIN) as soon as your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation have been approved by the state. You will need an EIN to open a bank account, to apply for federal and state tax exemptions, and to register as a Missouri charity.

After Missouri approves your nonprofit’s Articles, apply for an EIN at the IRS website. Or you can take advantage of our convenient EIN service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Missouri requires your nonprofit’s incorporators or board of directors to adopt bylaws, and they should do so at least by your nonprofit’s organizational meeting and before applying for federal tax-exempt status with the IRS.

But you would want to adopt bylaws even it wasn’t required by the state. Why? Without bylaws, your nonprofit corporation’s directors and officers will struggle to guide the organization consistently and with a single vision. You wouldn’t be able to provide clear answers to questions like, “What happens if our members want to remove a director?” or “What are each officer’s distinct responsibilities?” Missouri nonprofit bylaws allow a corporation to address many of its likeliest obstacles in advance, which makes them one of your nonprofit’s most important internal documents.

This is where Northwest can help. Instead of trying to write your nonprofit’s bylaws from scratch, when you hire Northwest you can use our free template for writing nonprofit bylaws to help you get started.


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

Missouri will not automatically treat your nonprofit as a tax-exempt entity, but it is possible to obtain tax-exempt status at the federal and state levels. First, you will need to submit an Application for Recognition of Exemption to the IRS. This is a lengthy, complex form that allows the IRS to examine your nonprofit’s history, finances, purpose, and organizational structure. Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code currently recognizes more than two dozen types of tax-exempt business entities, but most nonprofit corporations seek 501(c)(3) status for charitable organizations. If your nonprofit decides to go this route, make sure your Articles include the specific language required by the IRS limiting your nonprofit’s activities to the pursuit of one or more exempt purposes.

Missouri will automatically exempt a recognized 501(c)(3) organization from filing a Missouri corporation income tax return and from paying state corporate franchise taxes. But if your 501(c)(3) nonprofit is also seeking an exemption from the state’s sales and use tax, you will need to submit the Sales or Use Tax Exemption Application (Form 1746) to the Missouri Department of Revenue. Learn more at Northwest’s Missouri Tax Exemptions page.


Register for Required MO State Licenses

Does a Missouri Nonprofit Need a Business License?

Missouri doesn’t require nonprofits (or any businesses) to obtain a statewide business license, but some cities and counties have licensing requirements of their own.

How Does a Missouri Nonprofit Get a Missouri State Tax ID?

To get a Missouri state tax ID, submit a Tax Registration Application to the Missouri Department of Revenue (this can be done online or by mail, and there is no filing fee). You will need a state tax ID to apply for exemption from the Missouri sales tax. Learn more at our Missouri Tax Exemptions page.

Should My Missouri Nonprofit Register as a Charity?

If your nonprofit charity has qualified for federal tax-exempt status under sections 501(c)(3), (c)(7), or (c)(8) of the Internal Revenue Code, you don’t need to register as a charity in Missouri. This exemption is actually unique to Missouri. If your Missouri nonprofit charity also operates anywhere else in the United States, you will need to register as a charity in those states.

However, if your nonprofit doesn’t obtain federal tax-exempt status, and if it solicits charitable donations in Missouri, you will need to register as a charity with the Missouri Attorney General’s office. Make sure to submit your initial registration statement prior to soliciting contributions in Missouri, and renew each year within 75 days after the end of your nonprofit’s fiscal year. The filing fees for both the initial and annual registrations is $15.

Currently, Missouri’s Attorney General doesn’t accept registrations or renewals online, but you can access and print the relevant forms from the MO Attorney General’s website. Learn more at Northwest’s Missouri Charity Registration page.


Open a Bank Account for Your Missouri Nonprofit

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

  • A copy of your Missouri nonprofit articles of incorporation
  • A copy of your nonprofit’s bylaws
  • Your Missouri 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 Missouri Annual Registration Report

Your Missouri nonprofit is required to file an initial and annual registration report with the Secretary of State. Both reports must include updated or confirmed business information (for example: your nonprofit’s name, address, and/or registered agent). The initial registration report must be submitted within 30 days after forming your nonprofit. The annual registration report must be filed by August 31st each year.

When you sign up for Northwest’s registered agent service, we’ll send you reminders about when to file your registration report. Or, you can add our Missouri Registration Report Compliance service for an additional $110, and we’ll file your initial and annual reports for you.