How to File Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation in Colorado

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


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Getting Started

To start a domestic nonprofit corporation in Colorado, you must file the state’s Articles of Incorporation for a Nonprofit Corporation online. The Secretary of State provides a sample of the full document on their website. This guide covers each step you must take to fill out this document successfully and get on the right track to forming a Colorado nonprofit.

Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name

The first step to filling out the Colorado Articles of Incorporation is to list your organization’s name in article one of the document. If you haven’t gone through the process of establishing a name for your organization, here are the requirements for naming a nonprofit in Colorado:

  • Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of Colorado, including any reserved names.
  • Your nonprofit’s name can’t include any words that imply it’s related to a government agency.
  • Your nonprofit’s name can’t include words like “university,” “bank,” “credit union,” or “trust” as a separate word to convey the organization is engaged in banking or a trust.
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Recommended: For a step-by-step guide to naming your nonprofit corporation in Colorado, read our guide on How to Name a Nonprofit in Colorado.

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.

Colorado Name Availability Search
To operate in Colorado, a nonprofit corporation must have a unique name. You can easily check if your chosen name is available by performing a search using the Colorado Business Database Search tool or the Colorado Name Availability 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: Provide Your Nonprofit’s Address(es)

In article two of the document, you must provide the street address of your nonprofit’s principal office. This information must follow these requirements:

  • Include the street name and number along with any applicable suite, unit, or apartment number.
  • Provide the city, state, and ZIP code.
  • List the country and, if applicable, the province for any address outside the United States.

Note: The street address can’t be a P.O. Box.

You then have the option to provide a mailing address as well. This is important to do if you can’t receive mail at the street address you provided or if your nonprofit’s mailing address differs from its street address.

Step 3: Choose a Registered Agent

A registered agent is required to file the Articles of Incorporation in Colorado. Any party outside your nonprofit corporation with a physical address in the state may fill this role. The responsibilities of a registered agent include accepting and forwarding service of process documents for the corporation as well as serving as a point of contact for the organization.

To complete this section, you must include the following information:

  • Your registered agent’s name
  • Your registered agent’s street address (a mailing address is optional)
  • A statement of consent from your registered agent to confirm their agreement to fill this role (Simply check the corresponding box to confirm your registered agent’s consent.)
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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: List Your Incorporator Information

In article four, provide the name and mailing address of the person forming the nonprofit corporation — otherwise known as an incorporator. Anyone over the age of 18 or a business entity may fill this role.

If you have more than one incorporator, attach a separate sheet to your Articles of Incorporation that lists their name(s) and mailing address(es).

Step 5: Confirm Any Voting Members

If your nonprofit corporation will have voting members, check the box in article five.

Step 6: Describe the Distribution of Your Nonprofit’s Assets Upon Dissolution

In article six, describe how your nonprofit corporation’s assets will be distributed upon its dissolution. If you need additional space, use an attachment.

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 7: Provide Any Additional Attachments

In Colorado, the Articles of Incorporation for a nonprofit corporation don’t provide sections to disclose information about the board of directors and the organization’s purpose. However, if you choose to disclose information in order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status based on IRS requirements, you can check yes in this section to include attachments.

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

Name Your Initial Board of Directors

The state of Colorado doesn’t require you to name your board of directors in your formation documents. However, in order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, a minimum of three board directors is required. 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 Colorado article.

Describe 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:

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

Step 8: Choose Your Filing’s Effective Date

If you want your formation documents to be effective immediately upon processing, leave this section blank. If you prefer to delay the effectiveness of your filing, then provide your chosen effective date and time (time is optional). You may delay your filing’s effective date by up to 90 days.

Step 9: File Formation Documents

In Colorado, you can only file the Articles of Incorporation online.

File the Colorado Articles of Incorporation

File Online With the Colorado Secretary of State

File Online

Fee: $50

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I file the Articles of Incorporation in Colorado?

File your Articles of Incorporation as well as many other business documents online via the Colorado Secretary of State’s online portal.

How long does it take to process the Articles of Incorporation in Colorado?

Processing time for the Articles of Incorporation in Colorado typically takes 24 to 48 hours.

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

The fee to file the Articles of Incorporation for a domestic nonprofit in Colorado is $50. If you choose to reserve a business name prior to forming your nonprofit, the name reservation fee is $25.

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