How to File Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation in North Dakota

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


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Getting Started

To start a domestic nonprofit corporation in North Dakota, you must complete and file the Articles of Incorporation online via the Secretary of State’s FirstStop portal. This guide covers each step you must take to fill out this document successfully and get on the right track to forming a North Dakota nonprofit. 

Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name
Step 2 and 3: Disclose Your Office Location
Step 4: Choose a Registered Agent
Step 5: Choose a Formation Date 
Step 6: Describe Your Nonprofit’s Purpose
Step 7: List Your Incorporators
Step 8: Include Any Additional Provisions
Step 9: File Formation Documents

(Check out our other guides for a look at how to start a nonprofit organization or how to file articles of incorporation in other states.)

Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name

The first step to filing your North Dakota Articles of Incorporation is to 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 North Dakota:

  • Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of North Dakota, including any reserved names. 
  • Your nonprofit’s name can’t contain the words “limited partnership” or “limited liability company.”
  • Your nonprofit’s name can’t imply it was formed for any purpose other than what’s listed in the Articles of Incorporation. 
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Recommended: For a step-by-step guide to naming your nonprofit corporation in North Dakota, read our guide on How to Name a Nonprofit in North Dakota

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.

North Dakota Business Search

To operate in North Dakota, 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 Dakota business 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

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 incorporate 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 and 3: Disclose Your Office Location

List the street address and mailing address of your principal office location.

Step 4: Choose a Registered Agent

A registered agent is required to file the Articles of Incorporation in North Dakota. Either an individual or a corporation with a physical address in North Dakota 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 this section include:

  • Your registered agent’s type (i.e., commercial or noncommercial)
  • Your registered agent’s name
  • Your registered agent’s street address (this can’t include 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 5: Choose a Formation Date

You must choose whether your nonprofit will begin at the time of filing the Articles of Incorporation or at a specific date.

Step 6: Describe Your Nonprofit’s Purpose

Next, describe your nonprofit’s purpose. 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

You must also specifically note whether or not your nonprofit is a religious organization or a Community Development Corporation.

Step 7: List Your Incorporators

An incorporator is any person who participates in the completion and submission of the Articles of Incorporation. List each incorporator and their addresses.

Step 8: Include Any Additional Provisions

To qualify for 501(c)(3) status, your nonprofit must include some additional statements in its Articles of Incorporation. Because the North Dakota online filing portal doesn’t have sections related to your initial board of directors or the distribution of assets upon dissolution, use an attachment to provide details on both topics. 

Here’s what you need to know to successfully complete this attachment:

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 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. If no board of directors is named at the time of filing, the incorporators must elect the first board or act as directors until a board is created.

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 Dakota article. 

Step 9: File Formation Documents

You can file your Articles of Incorporation in North Dakota online.

File the North Dakota Articles of Incorporation

File Online With the North Dakota FirstStop Portal

File Online

Fee: $40

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I start a nonprofit in North Dakota?

You can start a nonprofit in North Dakota by filing the Articles of Incorporation online via the Secretary of State’s FirstStop portal.

North Dakota Nonprofit Quick Links

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