How to File Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation in Rhode Island

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

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Getting Started

Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name

The first step to filling out your Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island:

  • Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of Rhode Island, including any reserved names. 
  • Your nonprofit’s name can’t imply the organization’s intent or purpose is anything other than what’s stated in the Articles of Incorporation.
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Recommended: For a step-by-step guide to naming your nonprofit corporation in Rhode Island, read our guide on How to Name a Nonprofit in Rhode Island

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.

Rhode Island Business Entity Search

To operate in Rhode Island, a nonprofit corporation must have a unique name. You can easily check if your chosen name is available by performing a search using the Rhode Island 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.

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: Disclose Your Nonprofit’s Duration

Most incorporators form their nonprofit corporations without an end date in mind. If this is the case for your organization, check the “perpetual” box in this section. Otherwise, check the second box and disclose your nonprofit’s specific date of dissolution. 

Step 3: 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

If necessary, you may use an attachment to complete this section. If you do so, remember to check the box at the bottom of this section to indicate the existence of an attachment.

Step 4: Provide Any Additional Provisions

In order for your nonprofit to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, you must include some additional statements with your Articles of Incorporation. Because the Rhode Island formation document doesn’t include a section related to the distribution of assets upon dissolution, use article four or an attachment to describe how your organization will distribute its assets upon 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

If you use an attachment to provide this information, remember to check the box at the bottom of this section to indicate the existence of that attachment.

Step 5: Choose a Registered Agent

A registered agent is required to file the Articles of Incorporation in Rhode Island. Either a resident or a business entity qualified to do business in Rhode Island 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 this section include:

  • The name of your registered agent
  • Your registered agent’s 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 6: Name Your Initial Board of Directors

In order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status and complete this formation document, your nonprofit must name at least three directors. Requirements for completing this section include: 

  • The total number of your initial directors
  • The name and address of each initial director 

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 Rhode Island article.

Step 7: List Your Incorporator Information

An incorporator is any person who participates in the completion and submission of the Articles of Incorporation. In this section, list the name and address of each incorporator. 

Step 8: Choose an Effective Date for Your Filing

Indicate your chosen effective date for your formation documents by checking the appropriate box in this section. You have two options:

  • The date received (upon filing); or 
  • A later effective date you provide (this can’t be more than 30 days after the initial filing date).

Step 9: File Formation Documents

You can file your Rhode Island Articles of Incorporation in three ways: online, by mail, or in person.

File the Rhode Island Articles of Incorporation

OPTION 1: File Online With the Rhode Island Business Services Online Filing System

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File Form 200 by Mail or in Person

Download Form

Fee: $35

Filing Address:
Business Services Division 
148 W. River Street, Suite 1 
Providence, RI 02904

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I start a nonprofit in Rhode Island?

You can incorporate a nonprofit in Rhode Island by filing the Articles of Incorporation for a Non-Profit Corporation with the Department of State’s Business Services Division by mail, in person, or online.

How much does it cost to start a nonprofit in Rhode Island?

Filing the Articles of Incorporation for a Rhode Island nonprofit costs $35.

How do I find nonprofits in Rhode Island?

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

Rhode Island Nonprofit Quick Links

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