How to Choose a Registered Agent for Your Nonprofit
A nonprofit’s registered agent is the individual or business entity that accepts tax and legal documents on behalf of the nonprofit organization. A registered agent is also known as a resident agent or statutory agent in some states.
Most states require a nonprofit organization to have a registered agent when you form a 501c3. The agent can be a professional service, yourself, or a colleague given they meet the state's criteria.
Registered agent services offer a number of benefits. To explore your options, check out our Best Registered Agent Services review.
What Is a Registered Agent?
A registered agent is a professional who will serve as your organization’s representative to the state while you operate your business. Some states refer to registered agents as resident agents, statutory agents, or service of process agents.
Your registered agent typically will receive correspondence, such as compliance information and tax notifications, on behalf of your organization. Registered agents also are in charge of accepting service of process documents. This simply means your registered agent will accept the legal summons and documents on your nonprofit’s behalf in the event someone sues your nonprofit.
For most states, the requirements for registered agents include:
- They may be domestic or foreign individuals or business entities.
- Individuals must be residents that are at least 18 years of age.
- Business entities must be registered to operate in the state of formation.
- They must have a physical address (i.e., not just a P.O. box) in the state of formation.
- They must always be available at said physical address during regular business hours.
To learn more about choosing a registered agent for your nonprofit, start by selecting your state below:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia
Can I Be My Own Registered Agent?
Any individual can serve as your nonprofit’s registered agent as long as they meet the requirements listed above. You may choose to act as your nonprofit’s registered agent; you may also select a member of your board of directors or a reliable friend.
If you choose to act as your organization’s registered agent, you must understand the importance of this position. If you miss a filing deadline or lose a document, you could put your nonprofit’s compliance status at risk and the state could revoke your nonprofit’s corporation status.
Many nonprofits and other businesses choose to hire a professional registered agent service to ensure their organization remains in compliance at all times.
Should My Nonprofit Use a Registered Agent Service?
Before you decide to hire a registered agent service, be sure to consider the advantages and disadvantages of this approach.
You might consider hiring a registered agent service for your nonprofit organization for several reasons. Specifically, this approach can:
- Save You Time: When you first start your nonprofit, you need to focus on doing everything you can to make it successful. Hiring a professional registered agent service will allow you to focus on what’s important while the registered agent takes care of all incoming mail and official notices. In addition, they’ll often remind you of upcoming important filings or deadlines.
- Protect Your Personal Privacy and Your Business’s Reputation: Unfortunately, at some point in time, your organization may face a lawsuit. When you hire a professional registered agent service, all service of process notices will be delivered to a business address. If you act as your own registered agent, law enforcement agents could deliver these notices to your home or your place of work, depending on the address on file.
In addition to protecting your privacy and your business’s reputation, registered agent services are accustomed to receiving and properly handling this legal paperwork. This will help ensure your organization doesn’t lose a lawsuit on a technicality because you forgot to file something on time or you mishandled something due to not knowing how the legal system works.
- Ensure Prompt Handling of Your Business Mail: Because a registered agent service’s primary job is to serve as a registered agent for a number of organizations, you can be sure they’ll address any mail they receive promptly. In addition, they’ll be available during their normal business hours to answer any questions you might have about these documents.
- Keep Your Nonprofit Compliant: You must ensure your nonprofit remains compliant with the requirements set forth by the state and the federal government (if you successfully apply for 501(c)(3) status). Hiring a registered agent service will help ensure you don’t miss a single filing.
- Offer Convenience: Registered agents are required to be present at their listed address during business hours. That means hiring a registered agent service will allow you to take off work as needed and choose a flexible working schedule if desired.
- Provide National Support: If you think you may want to grow your organization nationally, choose a national registered agent service so it can continue to support you as your business grows.
The only disadvantage of hiring a registered agent service is that it costs money, whereas you could act as your own registered agent for free.
Do I Need to Hire a Professional Registered Agent Service?
While hiring a professional registered agent service can be a great idea for several reasons, it becomes essential in some situations. If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you should hire a registered agent service for your nonprofit.
- Does your nonprofit keep irregular business hours? As previously noted, your nonprofit’s registered agent must be available at their listed address during standard business hours. If your nonprofit’s operating hours fall outside the standard 9-to-5, you’ll need to hire a registered agent service.
- Do you live out of state? Your nonprofit’s registered agent must be a resident of the state in which your nonprofit is incorporated. If you're not a resident of the state you’re forming your nonprofit in, you’ll need to hire a registered agent in that state to represent your nonprofit.
- Is your nonprofit located in multiple states — or will it be in the future? If your nonprofit currently operates in multiple states — or has plans to do so — you must appoint a registered agent in every state in which it will operate. Because you obviously can’t be in two places at once, it’s essential that you hire a registered agent service.
- Will you operate without a physical address? If you plan to solely operate your nonprofit online, or without a physical address, you won’t have a business address to list on your formation documents and other important legal documents. By hiring a professional registered agent service, you can list their agency’s physical address on all documents.
How Do I Choose a Registered Agent?
You must select a registered agent for your nonprofit when you file your nonprofit’s formation documents. These are typically referred to as the Articles of Incorporation, Certificate of Formation, or Certificate of Incorporation.
Nominating a Registered Agent
Most states offer online filing for nonprofits, and many also offer hard copy formation documents for filing by mail or in person. You will need to list your nonprofit’s registered agent name, physical address, and mailing address (if applicable). Some states also require that your initial registered agent consent to their appointment by either signing the formation documents or by submitting a separate consent document.
How Do I Change My Nonprofit’s Registered Agent
Similar to nominating your initial registered agent, you can typically change your registered agent online, by mail, or in person. Most states offer a statement of change form for businesses to fill out.
Your new registered agent may also need to consent to their appointment by signing the statement of change document.
When working in a nonprofit environment, you have more important things to focus on than checking the mail, filing legal documents, and worrying about remembering compliance deadlines. That’s what a registered agent can do for you. When you hire a professional registered agent service, you can leave these tasks in their capable hands and truly focus on what matters most to your organization.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most states state that anyone age 18 or older may serve as your nonprofit’s registered agent as long as they’re a state resident and available at their listed address during standard business hours during the week. We do, however, recommend all nonprofits use a registered agent service.
Although using a registered agent service can cost your nonprofit between $50 and $300 per year, it will save you time, money, and stress in the long run.
Changing your nonprofit’s registered agent can cost anywhere from $0 to $100, depending on the state.
A statutory agent is another name for a registered agent.
A resident agent is another name for a registered agent.
A service of process agent is another name for a registered agent.
Service of process simply means receiving legal documents, such as a court summons. A court summons is a document that requires a representative of your organization to appear before a judge because of a pending lawsuit.
Most states require nonprofit owners to provide their nonprofit’s registered agent’s name and address when forming your nonprofit. In some states, you will be asked whether you are electing a commercial or noncommercial registered agent. Some states refer to professional registered agents as commercial agents and individual agents as noncommercial.