How to File Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation in Maryland

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

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Getting Started

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

Step 1: List Your Incorporator Information

The first step to filling out the Maryland Articles of Incorporation is to list the name and address of each of your incorporators. An incorporator is any person — at least 18 years old — who participates in the completion and submission of the Articles of Incorporation.

Step 2: List Your Nonprofit’s Name

Next, enter 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 Maryland:

  • Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of Maryland, including any reserved names.
  • Your nonprofit’s name must include one of these words or its abbreviation: “Company” (if it's not preceded by the word/symbol “and”), “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” or “Limited.”
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Recommended: For a step-by-step guide to naming your nonprofit corporation in Maryland, read our guide on How to Name a Nonprofit in Maryland.

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.

Maryland Business Entity Search
To operate in Maryland, a nonprofit corporation must have a unique name. You can easily check if your chosen name is available by performing a search using the Maryland business entity 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 3: Describe Your Nonprofit’s Purpose

In article three, describe the purpose of forming your nonprofit corporation. That purpose 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 4: Provide Your Nonprofit’s Principal Office Address

Provide the street address of your nonprofit corporation’s principal office in Maryland. The address must include the street, city, and ZIP code. It can’t be a P.O. Box.

Step 5: Choose a Resident Agent

A resident agent, also known as a registered agent in most states, is required to file the Articles of Incorporation in Maryland. Either an adult citizen of Maryland or another existing Maryland corporation may fill this role. A resident 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 resident agent.

Requirements for this section include:

  • The name of your chosen resident agent
  • The street address of your chosen resident 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 6: Name Your Initial Board of Directors

In this section, confirm the number of directors who will serve on your nonprofit’s board and then provide the names of each of your initial directors. In order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, your nonprofit must list at least three directors in its Articles of Incorporation.

When listing your nonprofit’s 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 Maryland article.

Step 7: 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 Maryland 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.

Step 8: Sign and File Formation Documents

In this section, provide the signatures of your incorporator(s) and your nonprofit’s registered agent as well as a return address for this filing. 

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

File the Maryland Articles of Incorporation

OPTION 1: File Online With Maryland Business Express

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File by Mail or in Person

Download Form

Fee: $170 ($100 filing fee + $20 organization and capitalization fee + $50 assessment for the Maryland Not-For-Profit Development Center Fund)

Mailing Address:
State Department of Assessments and Taxation, Charter Division 
301 W. Preston Street, 8th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21201-2395

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I set up a 501(c)(3) in Maryland?

To start a 501(c)(3) organization in Maryland, you must file the Articles of Incorporation for a Tax-Exempt Nonstock Corporation with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation following these IRS guidelines.

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

How do I get an Article of Incorporation in Maryland?

You can obtain the Articles of Incorporation in Maryland by filing online or by downloading this paper form and then submitting your completed version by mail or in person.

What is a nonstock corporation in Maryland?

A nonstock or nonprofit corporation in Maryland is a corporation that lacks the authority to issue capital stock.

Maryland Nonprofit Quick Links

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