How to File Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation in Kentucky

Starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Kentucky is easy — and the first task is filing your Articles of Incorporation. This guide will walk you through the 11 steps required to file the Articles of Incorporation to officially start a nonprofit in Kentucky.


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Getting Started

To start a domestic nonprofit corporation in Kentucky, you must file the Articles of Incorporation - Nonprofit Corporation. This guide covers each step you must take to fill out this document successfully and get on the right track to forming a Kentucky nonprofit.

Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name

The first step to filling out the Kentucky 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 Kentucky:

  • Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of Kentucky, including any reserved names.
  • Your nonprofit’s name must end with “company,” “corporation,” “limited,” or the abbreviation “Corp.,” “Inc.,” “Co.,” or “Ltd.”
  • Your nonprofit’s name can’t imply a purpose other than what’s stated in its Articles of Incorporation.
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Recommended: For a step-by-step guide to naming your nonprofit corporation in Kentucky, read our guide on How to Name a Nonprofit in Kentucky.

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.

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

Find a Domain Now

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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: Describe Your Nonprofit’s Purpose

In article two, 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

Step 3: Choose a Registered Agent

A registered agent is required to file the Articles of Incorporation in Kentucky. Any of the following may fill this role: an individual, a domestic corporation, a domestic non-corporation, a domestic limited liability company (LLC), a foreign corporation, a foreign non-corporation, or a foreign LLC authorized to transact business in Kentucky.

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’s office (this can’t include a P.O. Box)
  • Consent from your registered agent either via their signature on the Articles of Incorporation or by submitting a Statement of Consent along with your formation documents
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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: Provide Your Nonprofit’s Mailing Address

In article four, provide the mailing address for your nonprofit’s principal office.

Step 5: Name Your Initial Board of Directors

In article five, name your board of directors and include a mailing address for each. In order to complete this document and qualify for 501(c)(3) status, you must list 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 Kentucky article.

Step 6: 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 address of each of your nonprofit’s incorporators in article six, using an attachment if you need more space.

Step 7: Choose an Effective Date for Your Filing

Your Articles of Incorporation will take effect once you file the document unless you provide another effective date in article seven. The date you list here can’t be prior to the date on which you file this formation document.

Step 8: List Your County of Operation

In this section, list the county in which your nonprofit corporation will operate.

Step 9: Select the Best Description of Your Nonprofit

Check the box that best describes your nonprofit from the options provided.

Step 10: Provide Any Additional Attachments

In order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, you must include some additional statements in your Articles of Incorporation. Because the Kentucky formation document doesn’t include a section related to asset distribution upon dissolution, use an attachment to 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.

Note: If this form doesn’t comply with the Articles of Incorporation you wish to file (i.e., you want to include additional articles, signatures, etc.), please disregard this form and instead submit a drafted, executed copy of your Articles of Incorporation according to KRS 271B.

Step 11: File Formation Documents

There are three ways to file your Kentucky Articles of Incorporation: online, by mail, or in person.

File the Kentucky Articles of Incorporation

OPTION 1: File Online With the Kentucky Business One Stop Portal

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File by Mail or in Person

Download Form


Fee: $8

Mailing Address:
Michael Adams
Office of the Secretary of State
P.O. Box 718
Frankfort, KY 40602-0718

Office Address:
Room 154, Capitol Building
700 Capital Ave.
Frankfort, KY 40601

Note: Checks must be made payable to the “Kentucky State Treasurer”

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I start a 501(c)(3) in Kentucky?

To start a 501(c)(3) organization in Kentucky, you must file the Articles of Incorporation - Nonprofit Corporation with the Kentucky Secretary of State following these IRS guidelines.

Once the state of Kentucky processes your formation documents, you may then complete the application process for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

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

You can obtain a copy of your Articles of Incorporation by submitting a Request for Corporate Documents to the Kentucky Secretary of State by fax to (502) 564-5687 or by mail to the address below:

Division of Business Filings
Business Filings
P.O. Box 718
Frankfort, KY 40602

Kentucky Nonprofit Quick Links

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