How to File Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation in North Carolina

Starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in North Carolina 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 North Carolina.

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Getting Started

To start a domestic nonprofit corporation in North Carolina, 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 North Carolina nonprofit.

Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name

The first step to filling out your North Carolina Articles of Incorporation is to list 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 North Carolina:

  • Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of North Carolina, including any reserved names.
  • Your nonprofit’s name can’t contain any words or phrases that imply a purpose other than what’s stated in the Articles of Incorporation.
  • Your nonprofit’s name can’t contain any words or phrases considered grossly offensive.

Recommended: For a step-by-step guide to naming your nonprofit corporation in North Carolina, read our guide on How to Name a Nonprofit in North Carolina.

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.

North Carolina Business Entity Search
To operate in North Carolina, a nonprofit corporation must have a unique name. You can easily check if your chosen name is available by performing a search using the North Carolina 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 2: Indicate Your Corporation Type

If your nonprofit corporation is a charitable or religious organization, check the box in article two. If not, leave it blank.

Step 3: Choose a Registered Agent

A registered agent is required to file the Articles of Incorporation in North Carolina. Either an individual or a corporation with a physical address in North Carolina may fill this role. 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.

Requirements for completing articles three and four include:

  • Your registered agent’s name
  • Your registered agent’s street address (this can’t include a P.O. Box)
  • Your registered agent’s mailing address (if it differs from their street address; a P.O. Box is acceptable here)

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

An incorporator is any person who participates in the completion and submission of the Articles of Incorporation. List the name and address of each incorporator in article five.

Step 5: Confirm Any Members

Check the appropriate box in article six to indicate whether or not your nonprofit will have members.

Step 6: Complete the 501(c)(3) Attachment

In order for your nonprofit to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, you must include some additional statements with your Articles of Incorporation. In North Carolina, you can do this by creating and submitting an attachment that includes the below information. For additional guidance, see the state’s 501(c)(3) Attachment - General Information form.

Outline the Distribution of Assets Upon Dissolution

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.

Name Your Initial Board of Directors

Name your initial board of directors as well as a street address for each. To qualify for 501(c)(3) status, your nonprofit must have 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 North Carolina article.

Describe Your Nonprofit’s Purpose

Your nonprofit’s purpose must include one or more of the following characteristics for it 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 7: Provide Your Principal Office Address

In this section, provide the street address of your nonprofit corporation’s principal office as well as the corresponding telephone number. If your nonprofit has a different mailing address, provide that address as well.

Step 8: (Optional) Identify Company Officials

While you don’t need to complete this section to file your Articles of Incorporation, naming your corporation’s officials here can prove beneficial by helping the organization comply with federal banking regulations.

Step 9: (Optional) Provide a Business Email Address

This information also isn’t required to file your formation documents. The purpose of providing a business email address is to allow the Secretary of State to send you updates on your filing.

Step 10: Choose an Effective Date for Your Filing

Choose if you want your filing to go into effect immediately upon its approval or at a later date.

Note: Your future effective date must be within 90 days of the filing.

Step 11: File Formation Documents

There are three ways to file your North Carolina Articles of Incorporation: online, by mail, or in person. For online filings, you can either upload a PDF form to the North Carolina Secretary of State website, or you can use their “creations wizard” to complete everything online.

File the North Carolina Articles of Incorporation

OPTION 1: File Online With the North Carolina Secretary of State

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File by Mail or in Person

Download Form

Fee: $60

Mailing Address:
Business Registration Division
P.O. Box 29622
Raleigh, NC 27626-0622

Office Address:
Business Registration Division
2 South Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC 27601-2903

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I incorporate a nonprofit in North Carolina?

To incorporate a nonprofit in North Carolina, you must file the completed Articles of Incorporation - Nonprofit Corporation with the Secretary of State.

How do I file the Articles of Incorporation in North Carolina?

To file the Articles of Incorporation, you can submit your completed formation documents to the North Carolina Secretary of State by mail, in person, or online.

How do I find nonprofits in North Carolina?

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

North Carolina Nonprofit Quick Links

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