How to File a Nonprofit Certificate of Formation in Alabama

Starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Alabama is easy — and the first task is filing your Certificate of Formation. This guide will walk you through the nine steps required to file a Domestic Nonprofit Corporation Certificate of Formation to officially start a nonprofit corporation in Alabama.


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Getting Started

To start a domestic nonprofit corporation in Alabama, you must file a Domestic Nonprofit Corporation Certificate of Formation. This guide covers each step you must take to fill out this document successfully and get on the right track to forming an Alabama nonprofit.

Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name

The first step to filling out an Alabama Certificate of Formation is to list your organization’s name on line one of the document and attach a copy of your name reservation. If you haven’t gone through the process of establishing a name for your organization, here are the requirements for naming a nonprofit in Alabama:

  • Your nonprofit’s name must be unique within your state, including any reserved names.
  • Your nonprofit’s name must include “incorporated,” “corporation,” or an abbreviation of either.
  • Your nonprofit’s name can’t, however, include any words that may imply it’s related to a government agency or use the words “university,” “bank,” or “trust” without necessary permissions.
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Recommended: For a step-by-step guide to naming your nonprofit corporation in Alabama, read our guide on How to Name a Nonprofit in Alabama.

Search the Availability of Your Name

After selecting potential names — ideally, at least four or five — it’s important to search for their availability in your state. You can do this by conducting the four recommended searches outlined below.

Alabama Business Entity Search
To operate in Alabama, a nonprofit corporation must have a unique name. You can easily check if your chosen name is available by performing a search using the Alabama Business Entity Search tool.

Domain Name Search
We strongly recommend that you also check to see if your business name is available as a web domain (URL). Even if you don't plan to create a business website today, you may want to buy the web address to prevent others from acquiring that domain name. It’s a free search.

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Federal Trademark Search
You can easily check if someone already trademarked your chosen nonprofit name by using the federal Trademark Electronic Search System. This is important even if you don’t plan to form your nonprofit right away.

Once you confirm that no one else already trademarked your chosen name, you can apply for a trademark for your nonprofit.

Web and Social Media Search
A strong social media presence will play a key role in expanding your reach to potential donors as well as clients that will use your services. That makes it important to search the web and popular social media platforms for your desired name before registering it to ensure it’s available on all the platforms where you plan to promote your organization.

File a Name Reservation
Alabama requires domestic nonprofit corporations to file a name reservation before filing their Certificate of Formation. To file a name reservation in Alabama:

  • Submit a name reservation online along with the $27 (subscribers) or $28 (non-subscribers) filing fee. This can be completed at the time of formation.
  • Or, submit a Name Reservation Request Form by mail along with the $25 filing fee. This must be submitted at least two weeks prior to formation.

Note: You must attach a copy of the name reservation to the formation documents you file with the State of Alabama.

Step 2: Confirm Any Members and Your Mailing Address

Establish whether or not your nonprofit will have members and then check the appropriate box on line three of the Certificate of Formation.

Include the address of the organization’s principal office on line four as well as the mailing address, if it’s different from the principal office address.

Step 3: Choose a Registered Agent

A registered agent is required to file a Certificate of Formation in the state of Alabama. When filling out your Certificate of Formation, enter the name and address of your registered agent on lines five and six of the document.

What Is a Registered Agent?

A registered agent serves as the official contact for your nonprofit by receiving official documents on its behalf, such as compliance notices and tax documents. Your registered agent also is responsible for accepting service of process documents in the event of a lawsuit.

Requirements for an Alabama Registered Agent

A registered agent for a nonprofit corporation in Alabama can be anyone with a physical address within the state. However, your organization can’t fill this role.

While you aren’t required to include proof of consent from your registered agent with this filing, you must list their name and address.

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Recommended: Using an affordable registered agent service offers many benefits. For more information on choosing a registered agent service, read our full guide.

Step 4: Describe Your Nonprofit’s Purpose

On line seven, describe the purpose for which you formed your nonprofit corporation. This is one of the most important sections of this document because your federal tax exemption depends on the purpose of your organization aligning with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requirements.

Your organization’s purpose must include one or more of the following characteristics to be eligible for 501(c)(3) status:

  • Charitable
  • Religious
  • Educational
  • Scientific
  • Literary
  • Testing for public safety
  • Fostering national/international amateur sports competition
  • Preventing cruelty to animals/children

Step 5: Verify Its Duration

Most nonprofit corporations aren’t formed with a duration in mind. But, if a specific end date for your organization is applicable, you should include an attachment that outlines it along with your formation documents.

Step 6: List the Incorporator(s) Names and Address(es)

On the ninth line of this document, you must list the name(s) and address(es) of the incorporator(s). An incorporator is whoever files the Certificate of Formation — whether that’s someone who’s a part of the organization, a lawyer, or another chosen party. If your nonprofit corporation has multiple incorporators, you should list them on a separate, attached sheet.

Step 7: Name Your Initial Board of Directors

The state of Alabama requires you to name a minimum of three board directors on your Certificate of Formation. If you plan to list more than three, you must attach a separate page with that information. When listing your nonprofit’s initial board of directors, follow these requirements:

  • Don’t include any prefixes, such as “Mr.” or “Ms.”
  • If applicable, use titles of lineage.
  • If applicable, use designations like “M.D.” or “Ph.D.”

For a complete guide to forming your nonprofit’s board of directors, read our How to Develop a Board of Directors for a Nonprofit in Alabama article.

Step 8: Provide Any Additional Attachments

In order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, you must include some additional statements in your Articles of Incorporation. These relate to your nonprofit’s board of directors and the distribution of assets upon dissolution.

Changing Your Board of Directors

By including an attachment to your nonprofit’s Certificate of Formation, you can alter the policies involved in changing its board of directors by filing an amendment. Otherwise, your nonprofit’s bylaws will represent the requirements for its board of directors and will need to be changed in order to make changes to the board.

Supplemental Provisions

To qualify for 501(c)(3) status, you must include a provision attached to your Certificate of Formation that specifies exactly how your nonprofit will use its funding and what will happen to its funding if/when the organization dissolves. You can find a sample of such a provision on the IRS website. Specifically, in the event of dissolution, all of the nonprofit’s profits should be used for tax-exempt purposes.

Step 9: File Formation Documents

Once you complete your formation documents, you must file them with the Secretary of State. You must include the original plus two copies of the Domestic Nonprofit Corporation Certificate of Formation as well as the Certificate of Name Reservation.

Note: The signatures provided on your Certificate of Formation represent legal consent to the filing of this formation document as well as the agreement and knowledge of the listed registered agent.

File an Alabama Certificate of Formation

OPTION 1: File Online With Alabama Interactive

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File by Mail

Download Form


Fee: $200

Mailing Address:
Secretary of State, Business Services
P.O. Box 5616
Montgomery, AL 36103

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get a Certificate of Formation in Alabama?

Download a fillable Certificate of Formation from the Domestic Corporations section of the Alabama Secretary of State’s website.

How long does it take to file a Certificate of Formation in Alabama?

Processing a Certificate of Formation in Alabama typically takes one to four weeks.

How much does it cost to start a nonprofit in Alabama?

Filing a Certificate of Formation in Alabama requires a $100 state filing fee. Beyond that, you may accrue additional fees as you complete other steps to start a nonprofit corporation like filing a name reservation and county fees which will vary depending on location.

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