To start a domestic nonprofit corporation in Montana, you must file the Articles of Incorporation via the ePass Montana portal. This guide covers each step you must take to complete this online document successfully and get on the right track to forming a Montana nonprofit.
Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name
The first step to filling out the Montana Articles of Incorporation is to list your nonprofit corporation’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 Montana:
- Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of Montana, including any reserved names.
- Your nonprofit’s name can’t lead the public to believe the organization exists for a purpose other than what’s listed in its Articles of Incorporation.
- Your nonprofit’s name can’t imply it’s an entity other than a nonprofit corporation.
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.
Montana Business Entity Search
To operate in Montana, a nonprofit corporation must have a unique name. You can easily check if your chosen name is available by performing a search using the Montana Business 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: Choose a Registered Agent
A registered agent is required to file the Articles of Incorporation in Montana. Either an individual or a business with a physical address in Montana 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.
Requirements for this section include:
- The name of your chosen registered agent
- The physical address of your registered office (this can’t include a P.O. Box)
Step 3: List Your Incorporator Information
An incorporator is any person who participates in the completion and submission of the Articles of Incorporation. List the name and mailing address of each incorporator in this section.
Step 4: Name Your Initial Board of Directors
Next, name your initial board of directors. To qualify for 501(c)(3) status, your nonprofit corporation 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 Montana article.
Step 5: Describe Your Nonprofit’s Purpose
In this section, describe your nonprofit’s purpose. That purpose must include one or more of the following characteristics for your nonprofit to be eligible for 501(c)(3) status:
- Testing for public safety
- Fostering national/international amateur sports competition
- Preventing cruelty to animals/children
Step 6: Outline the Distribution of Assets Upon Dissolution
Describe how your nonprofit corporation’s assets will be distributed upon its dissolution.
Distribution of assets upon dissolution must be for 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.
File the Montana Articles of Incorporation
File Online With the Montana Secretary of State
Instructions: Select "Articles of Organization for Domestic Nonprofit Corporation," log in or create an ePass account, and fill out the required fields.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I start a nonprofit organization in Montana?
You can form a nonprofit in Montana by filing the Articles of Incorporation online via the ePass Montana portal.
Montana 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
Montana Department of Justice: Nonprofit Information
Montana Secretary of State