How to File Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation in South Dakota

Starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in South Dakota is easy — and the first task is filing your Articles of Incorporation. This guide will walk you through the 12 steps required to file the Articles of Incorporation to officially start a nonprofit in South Dakota.


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Getting Started

Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name

The first step to filling out your South Dakota 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 South Dakota:

  • Your corporation’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of South Dakota, including any reserved names.
  • Your corporation’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 South Dakota, read our guide on How to Name a Nonprofit in South 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.

South Dakota Business Information Search

To operate in South 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 South Dakota business information 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: Describe Your Nonprofit’s Purpose

In the second part of article one, describe your nonprofit’s purpose. To qualify for 501(c)(3) status, that purpose must include one or more of the following characteristics: 

  • Charitable
  • Religious
  • Educational
  • Scientific
  • Literary
  • Testing for public safety
  • Fostering national/international amateur sports competition
  • Preventing cruelty to animals/children

Step 3: Disclose Your Nonprofit’s Duration

Most incorporators form their nonprofit corporations without a duration in mind. If this applies to your organization, check the “perpetual” box in article two. If your nonprofit does have a specific end date, check the second box and disclose that exact date.

Step 4: Confirm Any Members

Confirm whether or not your nonprofit corporation will have members by checking the appropriate box in article three. 

Step 5: List Your Nonprofit’s Principal Office Address

Next, list your nonprofit’s principal office address. Include its street address, its mailing address if that differs from the street address, and an email address (optional).

Step 6: Choose a Registered Agent

A registered agent is required to file the Articles of Incorporation in South Dakota. A noncommercial registered agent, a commercial registered agent, or an office holder within your organization 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:

  • Noncommercial Registered Agent or Individual — List their name, street address, mailing address if that differs from the street address, and email address (optional).
  • Commercial Registered Agent  List their name and commercial registered agent (CRA) number.
  • Office Holder  List the title of the office or other position with the company, the business office’s street address, the mailing address if that differs from the street address, and an email address (optional).

Recommended: Using an affordable registered agent service offers many benefits. For more information on choosing a registered agent service, read our full guide.

Step 7: 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 street address of each incorporator in this section. You must have at least one incorporator, which can be either an individual or a business entity.

Step 8: Name Your Initial Board of Directors

South Dakota requires nonprofit corporations to have three or more directors. To complete this section, provide the following information: 

  • The total number of directors on your nonprofit’s initial board of directors
  • The name of each initial director
  • The street 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 South Dakota article.

Step 9: Designate Member Classes

If your nonprofit will have one or more member classes, use this section to designate the class or classes of members as well as the qualifications and rights of the members of each class.

Step 10: Describe the Election Process for Directors

In this section, describe the process for electing directors to your nonprofit’s board if they won’t be elected or appointed by one or more classes of members.

Step 11: Provide Any Additional Provisions

Use this section to provide any additional provisions, such as details regarding the distribution of your nonprofit’s assets upon its dissolution as required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to obtain 501(c)(3) status. 

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 IRS’ suggested language for corporations and associations.

Step 12: File Formation Documents

You can file your South Dakota Articles of Incorporation in two ways: online or by mail.

File the South Dakota Articles of Incorporation

OPTION 1: File Online With the South Dakota Secretary of State

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File by Mail

Download Form


Fee: $30

Mailing Address:
Secretary of State Office 
500 E. Capitol Ave. 
Pierre, SD 57501

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I start a nonprofit in South Dakota?

You can start a nonprofit corporation in South Dakota by filing the Articles of Incorporation (Domestic Nonprofit Corporation) with the Secretary of State by mail or online.

South Dakota Nonprofit Quick Links

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