How to File Nonprofit Articles of Organization in Massachusetts

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

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Getting Started

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

Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name

The first step to filling out the Massachusetts Articles of Organization 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 Massachusetts:

  • Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of Massachusetts, including any reserved names.
  • Your nonprofit’s name must indicate it’s a corporation unless it’s a religious institution or church.
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Recommended: For a step-by-step guide to naming your nonprofit corporation in Massachusetts, read our guide on How to Name a Nonprofit in Massachusetts.

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, or use our 501(c)(3) Lookup Table.

Massachusetts Corporate Database Search
To operate in Massachusetts, a nonprofit corporation must have a unique name. You can easily check if your chosen name is available by performing a search using the Massachusetts Business Entity Search tool or the Massachusetts Name Reservation 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: Describe Your Nonprofit’s Purpose

In article two, 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 3: Confirm Any Members and Member Classes

Your nonprofit corporation may have one or more classes of members. If your organization will have voting members or multiple member classes, you may disclose that information either in article three or in your bylaws.

If you choose to disclose that information in this formation document, remember to describe the manner in which your nonprofit will elect or appoint its members, the duration of their membership, and the qualifications and rights of each member class.

If your organization won’t have any members, simply write “none” in this section.

Step 4: Provide Any Additional Attachments

In order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, you must include some additional statements in your Articles of Organization. Because the Massachusetts 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 5: Choose an Effective Date for Your Filing

If your preferred effective date isn’t the date of your filing, state your preferred date in article six.

Note: Your chosen effective date can’t be more than 30 days after the date of your filing.

Step 6: List Your Nonprofit’s Principal Office Address

In article seven, list the street address of your nonprofit’s principal office. This can’t include a P.O. Box.

Step 7: Name Your Initial Board of Directors

Massachusetts requires you to list the names and addresses of your initial board of directors, including the following elected officers:

  • President
  • Treasurer
  • Clerk

In order to complete this document and qualify for 501(c)(3) status, you must list at least three directors. 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 Massachusetts article.

Step 8: Indicate the End of Your Fiscal Year

Indicate the month and day when your nonprofit’s fiscal (tax) year will end. Most organizations choose Dec. 31, but that’s not required.

Step 9: Choose a Registered Agent

A resident agent, also known as a registered agent in most states, is required to file the Articles of Organization in Massachusetts. Either an individual or a business with a physical address in Massachusetts 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 business address of your chosen resident agent
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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 10: Provide Incorporator Signatures and Addresses

Have each of your incorporators sign your nonprofit’s Articles of Organization and list their business or residential address. You also must provide contact information for your corporation on the final page of the document.

Step 11: File Formation Documents

There are four ways to file your Massachusetts Articles of Organization: online, by mail, by fax, or in person.

File the Massachusetts Articles of Organization

OPTION 1: File Online With the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File by Mail, by Fax, or in Person

Download Form

Fee: $35

Mailing Address:
Secretary of the Commonwealth
One Ashburton Place, Room 1717
Boston, MA 02108-1512

Fax: (617) 624-3891

Note: Fax filings must include a Fax Voucher Coversheet

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I amend the Articles of Incorporation in Massachusetts?

To amend your Articles of Organization in Massachusetts, submit your completed Articles of Amendment to the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth.

How do I incorporate a nonprofit in Massachusetts?

You can incorporate your Massachusetts nonprofit by filing the Articles of Organization with the Secretary of the Commonwealth, either online, by mail, by fax, or in person.

How do I find nonprofits in Massachusetts?

Use our handy Massachusetts 501(c)(3) Lookup Table to find nonprofits in Massachusetts. You can use this tool to see if your preferred nonprofit name is in use or not.

Massachusetts Nonprofit Quick Links

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