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How To Start A Nonprofit In Ohio

To start a nonprofit corporation in Ohio, you must file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State. You can submit your nonprofit’s articles in person, by mail, or online. The articles of incorporation cost $99 to file. Once filed with the state, your articles of incorporation officially create your Ohio nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.


Ohio Nonprofit Filing Options

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

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OH Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Requirements

To incorporate an Ohio nonprofit, you must complete and file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Ohio 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 entities on record with the office of the secretary of state.

2. Principal Office

List the city and county of your nonprofit’s principal office in Ohio. When you hire Northwest, you can list the city and county of our Ohio office.

3. Effective Date

Ohio gives nonprofits the option to delay their start dates up to 90 days after filing. You can leave space blank, as most nonprofits do, if you want your organization to officially begin on its filing date.

4. Purpose

Ohio requires your articles to include a statement of purpose, but it doesn’t need to be particularly detailed because the state allows nonprofits to incorporate for any lawful purpose. However, if your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, you should include (or attach) an extended, detailed statement of purpose using the specific language required by the IRS.

5. Additional Provisions

You can attach additional information and provisions to govern your nonprofit, so long as these provisions are consistent with Ohio state law. If your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, make sure to include all of the tax-exempt language required by the IRS, including a dissolution of assets provision ensuring that your nonprofit’s income and assets will never serve to enrich its members.

6. Statutory/Registered Agent

Your statutory agent (called a “registered agent” in most states) is the individual or business authorized to receive legal notices on behalf of your nonprofit. List the statutory agent’s name and Ohio street address, and the agent must also sign the acceptance “Acceptance of Appointment” section of your articles of incorporation.

7. Incorporator(s)

Appoint at least one incorporator to sign (or electronically sign) and submit your articles. Incorporators do not need to be directors, officers, or members of your nonprofit. When you hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, we’ll be your incorporator.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate an Ohio Nonprofit?

Ohio charges $99 to file nonprofit articles of incorporation, and there are various expedited processing options available if you’d like to speed things up.

How Long Does It Take to Start an Ohio Nonprofit?

Standard processing in Ohio is approximately 7 business days for online and mailed filings. Pay a $100 expedite fee, however, and you can get your mailed or online filing processed within three days of receipt. You can also hand deliver your articles to the Secretary of State’s office and pay an additional $300 for 4-hour processing or $200 for one-day processing.

Does an Ohio Nonprofit Need a Registered Agent?

Absolutely. Ohio requires nonprofit corporations to appoint and maintain an Ohio registered agent (often called a “statutory agent” in Ohio). You can do the job yourself, appoint a willing associate, or hire a commercial registered agent service like Northwest. In any case, your nonprofit’s registered agent must be available during normal business hours at an Ohio street address listed on your organization’s articles of incorporation. This provides a reliable channel for the state to contact your organization if it ever gets sued.

We don’t recommend doing the job yourself. Your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation is a public document, so listing your own residential or office address means displaying that address for the public eye. You’ll likely get targeted by data-sellers, have to deal with excessive junk mail, and find unexpected salespeople popping up randomly at your door. It’s also pretty difficult to manage and grow a new nonprofit when you can’t leave the office for any length of time.

A better option? Sign up for Northwest’s registered agent service. Hiring Northwest helps protect your privacy because your articles of incorporation can list the address of our Ohio office in place of yours. And if we ever do receive a service of process for your organization, we’ll scan it and send it to you on the day we receive it. Our registered agent service frees you up to manage and grow your nonprofit when you want, where you want, and how you want.


Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Your nonprofit will need a federal employer identification number (FEIN or EIN) to apply for federal tax-exempt status, to open a bank account in your nonprofit’s name, and to establish itself more generally as a legitimate entity in the eyes of vendors and potential donors.

Once your Ohio nonprofit incorporates with the state, you can apply for an EIN on the IRS website, by fax, or by mail. Or you can simply add our EIN service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Ohio requires your nonprofit’s board of directors to adopt bylaws at its organizational meeting. This is your first official meeting at which you elect or appoint directors and officers, ratify your bylaws, and settle whatever other business is necessary to truly complete the incorporation of your nonprofit. If your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) status, you’ll want to make sure to adopt your nonprofit’s bylaws before submitting your Application for Recognition of Exemption.

Why do bylaws matter? Bylaws are your nonprofit’s internal rules—basically, the agreement it makes with itself. Without bylaws, your nonprofit’s directors and officers can’t guide the organization along a shared path because they can’t provide ready answers to questions about the nature of membership, voting rights, the tenure and powers of the directors, and the distinct responsibilities of each officer.

It isn’t easy to write effective bylaws, particularly if you’re new to the nonprofit sector, but Northwest can help. We have a lot of experience working with nonprofit corporations, and we’ve put that experience to use by crafting an adaptable template for writing nonprofit bylaws, as well as other free nonprofit forms, to help get you started. You can also download our free attorney-drafted nonprofit bylaws template!


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

Incorporating as a nonprofit doesn’t automatically grant your organization tax-exempt status. That requires submitting an Application for Recognition of Exemptions to the IRS, paying a $275 or $600 filing fee (depending on the size and nature of your nonprofit), and enduring a 3-6 month application process while the IRS examines your nonprofit’s purpose, history, and finances. Although there are more than two dozen types of tax-exempt organizations under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code, most nonprofits seek 501(c)(3) status for charitable organizations. If your nonprofit intends to go this route, be sure that your articles of incorporation include a statement of purpose and dissolution of assets clause using the specific tax-exempt language required by the IRS.

Ohio nonprofits are exempt from the state’s Commercial Activity Tax (CAT), which is Ohio’s version of a corporate franchise tax, and if your nonprofit obtains 501(c)(3) status it can apply for a Sales and Use Tax Blanket Certificate (form STEC-B). Learn more at Northwest’s guide to Ohio state tax exemptions.


Register for Required Ohio State Licenses

Should Your Ohio Nonprofit Register To Pay State Taxes?

Yes. You should register your nonprofit for the relevant state tax accounts (withholding, sales, etc.) with the Ohio Department of Taxation. Register online through the Ohio Business Gateway at

Will Your Ohio Nonprofit Need a Business License?

Ohio doesn’t require a general, statewide business license, but some counties and cities have licensing requirements of their own. It’s best to simply contact your local government to find out which (if any) of your nonprofit’s activities require a local license.

Should Your Nonprofit Register as an Ohio Charity?

If your nonprofit solicits charitable contributions in Ohio, you’ll likely need to register as an Ohio charity with the office of the attorney general and renew each year. Some organizations are exempt (such as churches and parent-teacher associations), but most nonprofit charities should expect to register. The registration and renewal fees vary depending on the amount of contributions your nonprofit receives each year.


Open a Bank Account for Your Ohio Nonprofit

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

  • A copy of your Ohio nonprofit articles of incorporation
  • A copy of your nonprofit’s bylaws
  • Your Ohio 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).


The Ohio Statement of Continued Existence

Every five years your Ohio nonprofit must file a Statement of Continued Existence. This is a report that updates or confirms your nonprofit’s information as it appears on the state’s records, including your corporate name, location, and registered agent information (among other details). You can file your Statement of Continued Existence online at the Ohio Secretary of State’s website or download the report and submit by mail.

There is a $25 filing fee, and the report is due every five years by the end of the anniversary month of your nonprofit’s incorporation. Learn more at Northwest’s guide to Ohio Compliance reports.