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How To Start A Nonprofit In Pennsylvania

To start a nonprofit corporation in Pennsylvania, you must file the nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations. You can submit your articles online, in person, or by mail. The articles of incorporation cost $125 to file. Once filed with the state, the articles of incorporation officially create your Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission requires taking several additional steps.


Pennsylvania Nonprofit Filing Options

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Pennsylvania nonprofit Articles of Incorporation free download. When you're done filling out the form, submit it to your state.

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PA Articles of Incorporation Nonprofit Requirements

To form a Pennsylvania nonprofit, you must complete and file the nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations. See the document below and click on any number to see what information is required in the corresponding section.

1. Name of Corporation

The name of your nonprofit cannot be recognizable as similar to any other PA corporate names on record. You can file a name reservation, but we recommend that you call the Department of State or search your desired name on the Business Entity database. Pennsylvania Nonprofit Corporation Code does not require the name to contain a corporate designator or ending.

2. Registered Office or Provider

List the Pennsylvania street address of your nonprofit’s registered office or the name of your commercial registered office provider. When you hire Northwest to serve as your commercial registered office provider, our information goes here.

3. Purpose

Describe your nonprofit’s purpose. If your nonprofit intends to seek 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status from the IRS, make sure your statement of purpose includes the specific tax-exempt language required by the IRS.

4. Pecuniary Gain

The form includes the following statement (which must appear in your articles): “The corporation does not contemplate pecuniary gain or profit, incidental or otherwise.” This is basically an affirmation that your nonprofit exists to serve public (not private) interests.

5. Nonstock or Stock Share

Indicate whether or not your organization will issue shares.

6. For Unincorporated Associations

This section is for unincorporated associations seeking to incorporate as a nonprofit corporation. By checking the box, you indicate that a majority of your members have authorized the incorporation.

7. For Nonprofit Corp.

Indicate whether or not your nonprofit will have members.

8. For Nonprofit Cooperative Corp.

This section is only for nonprofit cooperative corporations, and it asks for a description of the common bond of membership among its members or shareholders. Answer in terms appropriate to your organization, if applicable.

9. Incorporator(s)

Include the names and addresses of each of your nonprofit’s incorporators. An incorporator signs and submits your articles to the state. When you hire Northwest to incorporate your nonprofit, our information goes here.

10. Effective Date

Include your nonprofit’s effective date (the date of its official creation). Hint: For most organizations, the effective date and the filing date are the same.

11. Additional Provisions

Attach any additional, optional provisions for governing your nonprofit. If your organization intends to seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, make sure your articles include every tax-exempt provision, including a dissolution of assets provision, required by the IRS.

12. Signatures

Lastly, your nonprofit’s incorporators should sign and date the form.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate a Pennsylvania Nonprofit?

Pennsylvania charges $125 to file nonprofit articles of incorporation.

How Long Does It Take to Start a Pennsylvania Nonprofit?

Pennsylvania processes filings within 40 business days. The state has a few expedited options, but they are quite expensive ($100 for same-day service and $1,000 for 1-hour processing) and only available if you deliver your articles in person.

Does a Pennsylvania Nonprofit Need a Registered Office?

Yes, Pennsylvania requires nonprofits to list a registered office address or a commercial registered office provider on the nonprofit articles of incorporation. Which option is right for you? A registered office is simply the Pennsylvania street address where the state can deliver legal notices to your nonprofit. If you choose to list an address instead of a provider, you’ll need to list a physical Pennsylvania address where someone will be available consistently to receive service of process on behalf of your nonprofit. That address goes into the public record.

A better option, in our view, is to hire a Pennsylvania commercial registered office provider like Northwest. Our address is already filed with the state, and we have the infrastructure in place to scan and send you any legal notifications we receive on the day we receive them. Our service provides you with the flexibility to manage and grow your nonprofit on your own terms.


Publish the Notice of Intent to Incorporate

Pennsylvania requires nonprofits to publish a Notice of Intent to Incorporate in two separate newspapers, one of which must be a legal newspaper. The publishing fees for the different newspapers vary, but your total will likely come to over $100. Fortunately, the state provides a list of of Pennsylvania legal publications.


Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Your Pennsylvania nonprofit will need to a federal employer identification number (FEIN or EIN) to apply for 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status and open a bank account (along with numerous other financial matters). After the state approves your articles of incorporation, you can apply for an EIN on the IRS website, by fax, or by mail. Or you can add Northwest’s convenient EIN service at checkout for an additional $50 fee, and we’ll get your EIN for you.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Your Pennsylvania nonprofit should adopt bylaws at its organizational meeting (the first official meeting after incorporating with the state). You’ll need your nonprofit’s bylaws to open a bank account and to apply for 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status with the IRS. Other federal and state agencies may want to see your nonprofit’s bylaws at some point in the future.

Why do bylaws matter? Bylaws set the tone and direction for your nonprofit. They define, for instance, the individual responsibilities for each officer, term limits for directors, whether or not your organization will have voting members, and so on.

It can be difficult to write effective bylaws for a new nonprofit, but hiring Northwest can help. When you sign up for our services, you can use our adaptable template for writing nonprofit bylaws, along with numerous other free nonprofit forms, to help guide you and get you started.


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

Will My Pennsylvania Nonprofit Be Tax Exempt?

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.

What About Pennsylvania State Tax Exemptions?

Pennsylvania nonprofits pay the state’s corporate income tax, even if they obtain 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS. However, your nonprofit may be eligible for an exemption from the Pennsylvania sales tax. To apply, submit a Sales Tax Exemption Application to the PA Department of Revenue. Learn more at Northwest’s guide to Pennsylvania state tax exemptions.


Obtain Pennsylvania State Licenses

Does a Pennsylvania Nonprofit Need a Business License?

Pennsylvania doesn’t issue a statewide, general business license, but local areas often have licensing requirements of their own.

Should My Pennsylvania Nonprofit Register as a Charity?

If your PA nonprofit will collect charitable donations, it will need to register as a Pennsylvania charity with the Bureau of Charitable Organizations (part of the PA Department of State). To register, file Form BCO-10—the Charitable Organization Registration Statement. Your nonprofit’s initial registration fee will likely be $15 unless you’ve been operating in other states already. The fee for renewing your charity’s registration varies depending on your nonprofit’s total national contributions received each year. Learn more at Northwest’s guide to registering a Pennsylvania charity.


Open a Bank Account for Your PA Nonprofit

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

  • A copy of your Pennsylvania nonprofit articles of incorporation
  • A copy of your nonprofit’s bylaws
  • Your Pennsylvania 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 PA Nonprofit Decennial Report

What is a Pennsylvania Decennial Report?

Unlike most states, Pennsylvania doesn’t require nonprofits to submit an annual report (unless the organization’s information has changed). Instead, you’ll submit a decennial report every ten years in years ending in “1” (2021, 2031, 2041, etc.). The report simply asks you to update or confirm your nonprofit’s information as it appears on the state’s records, including your corporation’s name and registered office information. The PA dicennial report costs $70 to file.

This is an easy report to forget, but you can relieve yourself of the burden by adding our Decennial Report Compliance service, for an additional fee, when you hire Northwest.