How to File Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation in Illinois

Starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Illinois is easy — and the first task is filing your Articles of Incorporation. This guide will walk you through the seven steps required to file the Articles of Incorporation to officially start a nonprofit in Illinois.


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Getting Started

To start a domestic nonprofit corporation in Illinois, you must file the Articles of Incorporation (General Not for Profit Corporation Act) form. This guide covers each step you must take to fill out this document successfully and get on the right track to forming an Illinois nonprofit.

Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name

The first step to filling out the Illinois 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 Illinois:

  • Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of Illinois, including any reserved names.
  • Your nonprofit’s name must include the letters “NFP” at the end of the name if the chosen name implies the organization is anything other than a nonprofit corporation.
  • Your nonprofit’s name can’t include words or phrases associated with a political party without permission from the Illinois Secretary of State.
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Recommended: For a step-by-step guide to naming your nonprofit corporation in Illinois, read our guide on How to Name a Nonprofit in Illinois.

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.

Illinois Corporation/LLC Search
To operate in Illinois, a nonprofit corporation must have a unique name. You can easily check if your chosen name is available by performing a search using the Illinois Corporation/LLC 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.

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent

A registered agent is required to file the Articles of Incorporation in Illinois. An individual resident of Illinois or a domestic or foreign corporation authorized to act as a registered agent may 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. Your corporation can’t serve as its own registered agent.

Requirements for this section include:

  • The name of your chosen registered agent
  • The street address of your chosen registered agent (this can’t be a P.O. Box)
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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 3: Name Your Initial Board of Directors

In article three, disclose the total number of directors on your nonprofit’s initial board of directors as well as the name and street address for each. In order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, your nonprofit must have at least three directors.

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 Illinois article.

Step 4: Describe Your Nonprofit’s Purpose

In article four, describe your nonprofit’s purpose. It must include one or more of the following characteristics for your nonprofit 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

Article four also includes three “yes” or “no” questions you must answer to confirm whether or not your nonprofit is a condominium association, a cooperative housing corporation, or a homeowner’s association.

Step 5: Provide Any Additional Attachments

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

Here’s what you need to know to correctly disclose this information:

On a sheet of paper equal in size to your Articles of Incorporation, describe how your nonprofit corporation’s assets will be distributed upon 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.

Step 6: List Your Incorporator Information

An incorporator is any person who participates in the completion and submission of the Articles of Incorporation. Incorporators must sign and provide their mailing address on this formation document.

Note: If a corporation acts as an incorporator, the name of the corporation along with the state of incorporation must be shown and a duly authorized corporate officer must sign the document.

Step 7: File Formation Documents

There are two ways to file your Articles of Incorporation in Illinois: online or by mail.

File the Illinois Articles of Incorporation

OPTION 1: File Online With Cyberdrive Illinois

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File by Mail

Download Form


Fee: $50

Mailing Address:
Secretary of State, Department of Business Services
501 S. Second St., Room 350
Springfield, IL 62756

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to file the Articles of Incorporation in Illinois?

Filing the Articles of Incorporation for a domestic nonprofit corporation in Illinois costs $50.

How long does it take to start a nonprofit corporation in Illinois?

It typically takes about four weeks to process the Articles of Incorporation for a domestic nonprofit corporation in Illinois. You can expedite this processing time by paying an additional $25 fee.

How do I get a copy of my Articles of Incorporation in Illinois?

You may request a copy of your Illinois Articles of Incorporation either online or by phone at (217) 782-6875.

Illinois Nonprofit Quick Links

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