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How To Start A Nonprofit In North Dakota

To start a nonprofit corporation in North Dakota, you must file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the North Dakota Secretary of State. You can submit your nonprofit’s articles by fax or by mail (there are no online submissions). The articles of incorporation cost $40 to file. Once filed with the state, your articles of incorporation officially create your North Dakota nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.


North Dakota Nonprofit Filing Options

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Download the North Dakota 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 North Dakota nonprofit. All for free.

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ND Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Requirements

To incorporate a North Dakota, you must complete and file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the North Dakota 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 Corporation

Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from the names of other business entities on file with the North Dakota Secretary of State, and the name cannot include words like “bank,” “banker,” “trust,” or “trust company.” You can do a preliminary business name search at the North Dakota Secretary of State’s website.

2. Principal Executive Office

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

3. Registered Agent

List the name and North Dakota street address of your nonprofit’s registered agent. This can be an individual or an authorized business entity residing in North Dakota. When you hire Northwest, our name and address go here.

4. Effective Date

You can elect to have your nonprofit’s effective date (its start date) be the day when the Secretary of State files your articles, or you can choose a start date up to 90 days after the date of filing. Some businesses will do this for tax purposes, but most nonprofits choose to “start” on the day the state files their articles of incorporation.

5. Purpose

North Dakota requires a statement of purpose, but it doesn’t have to be very detailed (“any lawful nonprofit purpose” would work), but the IRS is a different story. If your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status, your articles need to include a detailed statement of purpose using the specific tax-exempt language required by the IRS.

6. Other Provisions

You can use this section to add any optional provisions for governing your nonprofit, so long as those provisions are consistent with state law. In general, the form North Dakota provides for its nonprofit articles of incorporation must be expanded if your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS. Check out Northwest’s guide to 501(c)(3) tax-exempt language to see each provision required by the IRS.

7. Incorporator(s)

Include the names and addresses of your nonprofit’s incorporators (at least one). An incorporator doesn’t need to be part of your organization. When you hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, we’ll be your incorporator.

8. Contact Information

Lastly, include a name, daytime telephone number, and email address of a contact person available to discuss your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation (if necessary). The contact information listed won’t appear in the public record.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate a North Dakota Nonprofit?

North Dakota charges $40 to file nonprofit articles of incorporation.

How Long Does It Take to Start a North Dakota Nonprofit?

It can take up to 20 business days for the state to process your filing.

Does a North Dakota Nonprofit Need a Registered Agent?

Absolutely. North Dakota requires nonprofit corporations to appoint and maintain a North Dakota registered agent to receive services of process (legal notices) and other legal mail on their behalf. You can do the job yourself, but we recommend hiring a commercial registered agent service like Northwest.

Why? Because the job looks easier than it actually is. Your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation will list your registered agent’s North Dakota street address, and your articles are a public document. If you list your own residential or office address, you can expect to get targeted by data-sellers and salespeople, and you’ll need to get used to a mailbox crammed with junk mail. A registered agent also has to be at that location during normal business hours—not an easy commitment to make when you’re trying to manage and grow a new nonprofit.

Hire Northwest, and these problems simply disappear. Your articles of incorporation can list our North Dakota street address in place of yours, and you can leave it to us to wait around all day for legal notices that may never come. If your organization ever does get sued, we have the infrastructure in place to scan your service of process and send it to you on the day we receive it.


Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Your North Dakota nonprofit will need a federal employer identification number (FEIN or EIN) to open a bank account, establish yourself as a legitimate presence in the ND nonprofit sector, and apply for federal tax-exempt status. After the state approves your articles of incorporation, you can apply for an EIN at the IRS website, by fax, or by mail. Or you can simply add our convenient EIN service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Your board of directors is required to adopt bylaws to govern your North Dakota nonprofit. This usually happens at the organizational meeting—the first official meeting held after incorporating with the state—at which your organization also elects directors and officers and settles any other business necessary to get things going. If your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) status from the IRS, make sure to adopt your bylaws before applying. The IRS only wants to deal with a fully-formed nonprofit.

It isn’t easy to write effective, comprehensive bylaws, but Northwest can help. When you hire Northwest, you can use our adaptable template for writing nonprofit bylaws, as well as numerous other free nonprofit forms, to help your organization strong successfully and stay successful.


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

Incorporating as a nonprofit doesn’t grant your organization tax-exempt status. That comes from the IRS, and, like everything having to do with the IRS, it is complicated, expensive, and time-consuming. You’ll need to submit an Application for Recognition of Exemption to the IRS, pay a $275 or $600 filing fee (depending on your nonprofit’s size and nature), and endure the 3-6 month application process while the IRS examines your nonprofit’s articles, bylaws, finances, and history. There are over two dozen types of tax-exempt organizations, but most nonprofits seek 501(c)(3) status for public charities and private foundations. If your organization intends to go this route, make sure your articles of incorporation include a statement of purpose and dissolution of assets clause using the specific tax-exempt language required by the IRS.

If your North Dakota nonprofit manages to obtain 501(c)(3) status, it will be exempt from the state’s corporate income tax, but only certain nonprofits qualify for an exemption from the state’s sales tax. Learn more at Northwest’s guide to North Dakota state tax exemptions.


Register for Required North Dakota State Licenses

Will My North Dakota Nonprofit Need a Business License?

North Dakota doesn’t issue a general, statewide business license, but you may need local licenses or permits for some of your nonprofit’s activities. Contact your city clerk’s office to find out which (if any) local ordinances and licenses apply.

Should My North Dakota Nonprofit Register as a Charity?

If your nonprofit will solicit or distribute charitable contributions in North Dakota, you’ll likely need to register with the Secretary of State’s office. It costs $25 to submit the initial Charitable Organization Registration Statement (form SFN 11300) and $10 each year to submit the Charitable Annual Report (form SFN 59568).

Don’t mistake the “charitable annual report” for the typical “annual report” required of all nonprofits. They are distinct filings. Learn more at Northwest’s guide to registering a North Dakota charity.


Open a Bank Account for Your North Dakota Nonprofit

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

  • A copy of your North Dakota nonprofit articles of incorporation
  • A copy of your nonprofit’s bylaws
  • Your North Dakota 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 North Dakota Nonprofit Annual Report

North Dakota requires nonprofit corporations to file annual reports by January 31st each year. The purpose is update (or just confirm) the information the state has on record about your nonprofit, including your corporate name, registered agent information, address, and information about your organization’s directors and officers (among other details). You have to file by mail, and you can download the annual report form from the North Dakota Secretary of State’s website. There is a $10 filing fee.

It’s important to file your nonprofit’s annual report on time because the state will charge extra ($15 instead of $10) for reports filed after January 31st and administratively dissolve your nonprofit if you wait too long to file the report. If you’d rather not deal with the hassle at all, you can add our convenient North Dakota Annual Report Service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.