To start a domestic nonprofit corporation in Hawaii, you must file the Articles of Incorporation for a Domestic Nonprofit. This guide covers each step you must take to fill out this document successfully and get on the right track to forming a Hawaii nonprofit.
Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name
The first step to filling out the Hawaii Articles of Incorporation is to list your organization’s name. If you haven’t gone through the process of establishing a name for your organization, here are the requirements for naming a nonprofit in Hawaii:
- Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of Hawaii, including any reserved names.
- Your nonprofit’s name can’t suggest the entity has any other purpose than those disclosed in its Articles of Incorporation.
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.
Hawaii Business Name Search
To operate in Hawaii, a nonprofit corporation must have a unique name. You can easily check if your chosen name is available by performing a search using the Hawaii Business Name 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.
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.
Step 2: Provide Your Mailing Address
In article two, enter the mailing address of your nonprofit corporation’s principal office.
Step 3: Choose a Registered Agent
A registered agent is required to file the Articles of Incorporation in Hawaii. An individual, a domestic entity, or a foreign entity with authorization to conduct business in the state of Hawaii can fill this role. A registered agent’s responsibilities include accepting and forwarding service of process documents for the corporation as well as serving as a point of contact for the entity.
Requirements for this section include:
- The name of your chosen registered agent
- The street address of your chosen registered agent
Step 4: List Your Incorporator Information
Incorporators are the individuals who participate in completing and/or submitting your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation. Each incorporator must list their name and mailing address on this document.
Step 5: Confirm Any Members
In article five, confirm whether or not your nonprofit will have members by checking the appropriate box.
Step 6: Provide Any Additional Attachments
In order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, you must include some additional statements with your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation related to its distribution of assets upon dissolution, its board of directors, and its purpose.
Here’s what you need to know to correctly disclose this information:
Outline the Distribution of Assets Upon Dissolution
Describe how the nonprofit corporation’s assets will be distributed upon its dissolution.
To qualify for 501(c)(3) status, your nonprofit must distribute its assets upon dissolution to approved, tax-exempt purposes only. For more information about the requirements of dissolution and 501(c)(3) status, refer to the sixth section of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS’) suggested language for corporations and associations.
Name Your Board of Directors
Name your initial board of directors as well as their street addresses. To qualify for 501(c)(3) status and complete the formation documents, you are required to name at least three directors. If you have more than three directors to list, include an attachment with the names and addresses of each additional director.
To name your initial board of directors, follow these guidelines:
- 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 Hawaii article.
List Your Nonprofit’s Purpose
Your organization’s purpose must include one or more of the following characteristics to be eligible for 501(c)(3) status:
- Testing for public safety
- Fostering national/international amateur sports competition
- Preventing cruelty to animals/children
Step 7: Provide at Least One Incorporator Signature
At least one incorporator must sign your Articles of Incorporation, agreeing to the validity of all the document’s contents and attachments.
Step 8: File Formation Documents
There are five ways to file your Articles of Incorporation in Hawaii: online, by mail, by fax, by email, or in person.
OPTION 1: File Online With Hawaii Business Express
- OR -
OPTION 2: File by Mail, by Fax, by Email, or in Person
Fee: $26 ($25 filing fee plus $1 State Archives Fee)
Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Business Registration Division
P.O. Box 40
Honolulu, HI 96810
335 Merchant St.
Honolulu, HI 96813
Fax: (808) 586-2733
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to start a nonprofit in Hawaii?
Filing the Articles of Incorporation for a domestic nonprofit corporation in Hawaii costs $26.
How do I start a 501(c)(3) in Hawaii?
Forming a 501(c)(3) organization in Hawaii starts with filing the Articles of Incorporation with the state, including information required by the IRS like:
- Your organization’s purpose
- Your nonprofit’s initial board of directors
- How your nonprofit will distribute its assets upon dissolution
Once you file your nonprofit’s formation documents, you can file for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. Visit the IRS website for step-by-step instructions.
Hawaii Nonprofit Quick Links
IRS: Information for Charities and Nonprofits
IRS: Charity - Required Provisions for Organizing Documents
IRS: Form 990 Series for Tax-Exempt Organizations
IRS: Applying for Tax-Exempt Status
IRS: 501(c)(3) Compliance Guide
US Small Business Administration: Apply for Licenses and Permits
Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: Business Registration
Hawaii Tax & Charities Division
Hawaii Business Express Portal