How to Start a Nonprofit Corporation in Washington (2024 Guide)


Steve Bennett
Steve Bennett
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Start a Nonprofit Corporation in Washington

If you would like to form a corporation in Washington, you should also consider starting a nonprofit corporation since it plays a crucial role in our society, addressing a wide range of community needs and positively impacting countless lives. Starting a nonprofit corporation in Washington can be rewarding, but it requires careful planning, dedication, and a thorough understanding of the various legal and financial requirements.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through Starting a Nonprofit Corporation in Washington, from initial planning to ongoing compliance, so that you can make a meaningful difference in your community.

If you want to know more about nonprofit corporations, you may read the whole article until the end, which the Webinarcare Editorial Team had thorough research. Before starting a nonprofit corporation in Washington, you must cross-check all the factors and be guided by the steps.

What is a Nonprofit Corporation?

A nonprofit corporation is a legal entity formed under a given state’s specific laws and regulations in the United States. It is created to serve a public or mutual benefit rather than generating profits for its owners or shareholders. Nonprofit corporations typically operate in education, healthcare, social services, arts and culture, and environmental conservation.

In a nonprofit corporation, any surplus income the organization generates is reinvested into its programs and services rather than distributed to shareholders or members. This allows nonprofits to focus on fulfilling their mission and addressing community needs without the pressure to maximize profits.

An example of a nonprofit corporation in Washington is Northwest Harvest – A non-profit organization that collects and distributes food to those in need in Washington state..

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Steps on How to Start a Nonprofit Corporation in Washington

To start a nonprofit corporation in Washington, you must follow the below steps that, include research and planning, choosing a corporate name, appointing directors, filing for Articles of Incorporation, creating corporate bylaws, holding the initial board of directors, issuing stock, obtaining required licenses and permits, registering with state tax agencies, Annual reporting and ongoing compliance. All these steps are basic ones. It can be changed depending on the type of corporation you form and the nature of your business.

Step 1: Research and Planning

Before starting your nonprofit corporation in Washington, you must research and plan. This stage is critical to the success of your nonprofit, as it will help you refine your mission, identify potential supporters, and avoid pitfalls. By conducting thorough research and developing a well-informed plan, you can establish a nonprofit corporation that makes a real difference in the lives of those you serve.

Step 2: Choose a Name for the Nonprofit

Once you have a clear vision for your Washington nonprofit corporation, it’s time to choose a name. Your organization’s name should be unique, memorable, and reflective of your mission and purpose. Follow these steps to choose and register your nonprofit’s name in Washington:

Consider the Mission and Purpose when Choosing the Name

Your nonprofit’s name should be closely tied to its mission and purpose, making it clear to potential supporters what your organization is about. Choose a name that is meaningful and easy to remember, as this will help with marketing and fundraising efforts.

Check for Name Availability with the Washington Secretary of State

Before registering your nonprofit’s name, you must ensure another organization still needs to use it in Washington. You can do this by checking the Washington Secretary of State ‘s online database or contacting their office directly.

Register the Name

Depending on your Washington ‘s requirements, you may need to register your nonprofit’s name with the Secretary of State. This typically involves completing a name reservation of 180 days or registration form and paying an online reservation fee of $30, and mail reservation fee of $30. Be sure to follow your state’s specific guidelines and procedures for name registration.

To check the availability of your desired corporate name, you can search the Washington Secretary of State’s business name database and Washington Business Name Search.

If your nonprofit corporation plans to operate under a name other than its legal name, you may also need to register a fictitious or “doing business as” (DBA) name.

The DBA filing can be done by three methods, online, by mail, and in person filing., which costs around $24. In addition, the DBA’s validity in Washington is Indefinite, which you can file in Washington Secretary of State.

You can check out How to File a DBA in Washington for clearer understanding.

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Step 3: Hire a Registered Agent

Hiring a Registered Agent is essential in starting a nonprofit corporation. Registered Agent is a person or company responsible for receiving important legal documents, tax notices, and other correspondence for your nonprofit corporation. They ensure that your nonprofit corporation remains compliant with state regulations and requirements. There are Washington Registered Agent Services to check in forming Washington Nonprofit Corporation.

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Step 4: Establish Governance and Bylaws

With your nonprofit’s name in place, it’s time to establish your organization’s governance structure and create bylaws. These important documents will outline how your nonprofit will be run, including the roles and responsibilities of board members, the decision-making process, and the procedures for managing finances and record-keeping.

  • Choose the Initial Board of Directors: Your nonprofit’s board of directors will guide your organization’s activities and ensure its long-term success. Choose individuals passionate about your mission, bring diverse skills and expertise to the table, and are willing to commit the time and effort needed to fulfill their responsibilities as board members. In Washington, you need to have at least One directors for you to operate a nonprofit corporation.
  • Create Bylaws: Your bylaws are the governing document for your nonprofit, outlining the roles and responsibilities of board members, the decision-making process, and the procedures for managing finances and record-keeping. Be sure to cover board meetings, voting, committees, officer positions, conflicts of interest, and amendment procedures. Your bylaws should be tailored to your organization’s needs and requirements and developed in consultation with an attorney experienced in nonprofit law.
  • Hold the First Board Meeting: Once your bylaws have been drafted, hold your first board meeting to review and approve them. This meeting should also include the election of officers, such as the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. Be sure to document the meeting’s discussions and decisions in meeting minutes, as these records will be important for maintaining your nonprofit’s legal compliance.

Step 5: Incorporate the Nonprofit

The next step in starting your Washington nonprofit corporation is to formally incorporate your organization with the Washington Secretary of State. Incorporation establishes your nonprofit as a separate legal entity and provides limited liability protection for its board members and officers. To incorporate your nonprofit, follow these steps:

Prepare the Articles of Incorporation

The Articles of Incorporation is the legal document formally establishing your nonprofit corporation. This document should include your organization’s name, purpose, Registered Agent, and principal office address. Be sure to follow your state’s specific requirements for the content and format of the Articles of Incorporation.

File the Articles of Incorporation

Once your Articles of Incorporation is complete, please submit them to the Washington Secretary of State’s office, along with any required filing fees. The filing process may vary depending on your state, but it typically involves mailing or submitting the documents online. Keep a copy of the filed Articles of Incorporation for your records.

Filing Articles of Incorporation in Washington may be done with two methods, online and by mail. The Articles of Incorporation fee may vary from different state. However, in Washington, it costs $180 for online and by mail filing.

  • Online Filing: Get the eForm from the SOS site, login/subscribe to the site, fill up the form, submit online
  • Offline filing: Send the form by mail to Secretary of State, Corporations Division. P.O. Box 40234

Step 6: Apply for State and Federal Tax Exemptions

Your organization may be eligible for state and federal tax exemptions as a nonprofit corporation. Obtaining tax-exempt status can save your nonprofit money and make it more attractive to potential donors. To apply for tax exemptions, follow these steps:

Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An EIN in Washington is a unique number the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assigns to your organization. You’ll need this number to apply for tax-exempt status and open a bank account for your nonprofit. You can obtain an EIN by completing the online application on the IRS website or submitting Form SS-4 by mail or fax.

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Apply for Federal Tax-Exempt Status (501(c)(3))

To apply for federal tax-exempt status, you’ll need to complete and submit Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ, depending on the size and complexity of your organization. This application requires detailed information about your nonprofit’s finances, governance, and programs. Be prepared to provide supporting documentation, including your bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, and financial projections. You’ll also need to pay a filing fee, which varies depending on the size of your organization and the form you submit.

Apply for Washington Tax-Exempt Status

In addition to federal tax-exempt status, your nonprofit may be eligible for state tax exemptions. The process for applying for state tax-exempt status varies by state, so research your specific state’s requirements and procedures. This may involve submitting additional forms, documentation, and fees to the Washington State Department of Revenue.

Step 7: Obtain the Necessary Licenses and Permits

Depending on your nonprofit’s activities and location, you may need to obtain various licenses and permits to operate legally—research local, state, and federal requirements and apply for any necessary licenses and permits. Be sure to maintain compliance by renewing licenses and permits as needed and staying up-to-date on any regulation changes.

Step 8: Develop a Fundraising Plan and Strategy

Fundraising is critical to the success of your Washington nonprofit corporation, providing the financial resources needed to carry out your mission and programs. Develop a comprehensive fundraising plan that outlines your goals, strategies, and timelines for raising funds. This plan should include various funding sources, such as grants, donations, and special events. Create marketing materials and strategies to promote your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts and engage potential supporters.

Step 9: Open a Bank Account for the Nonprofit

With your legal and financial foundations in place, it’s time to open a bank account for your nonprofit corporation. Choose a bank that offers services tailored to nonprofits and provides the features and support your organization needs. To open an account, you’ll typically need to provide your EIN, Articles of Incorporation, bylaws, and a resolution authorizing the account opening. Establish proper financial controls and procedures to ensure responsible management of the organization’s funds.

You can check out the Washington Best Banks to know which bank will suit your nonprofit corporation.

Step 10: Establish Record-Keeping Systems

Effective record-keeping and reporting are essential for maintaining your nonprofit’s legal and financial compliance and demonstrating transparency and accountability to your supporters. Set up systems for tracking financial transactions, maintaining records of your organization’s activities, and reporting to the IRS, state, and other relevant agencies. Stay up-to-date on reporting requirements and deadlines to ensure your nonprofit remains in good standing. Hiring a CPA in Washington for this reporting system is best.

Step 11: Launch and Promote the Nonprofit

With your Washington nonprofit corporation officially established and your financial and legal foundations in place, it’s time to launch your organization and begin making a difference in your community. Develop a marketing plan to promote your nonprofit’s mission and services, including creating a website, social media presence, and other marketing materials. Network with other nonprofits, community organizations, and stakeholders to build partnerships and collaborations to strengthen your organization’s impact.

Step 12: Ongoing Compliance and Management

Starting a nonprofit corporation is just the beginning – maintaining your organization’s legal and financial compliance is an ongoing responsibility. Stay informed about changes in nonprofit laws and regulations, file required Annual Reports and financial statements, and regularly review and update your bylaws, policies, and procedures as needed. Foster positive relationships with board members, volunteers, and supporters to ensure your nonprofit’s continued success.

Cost of Forming a Nonprofit Corporation in Washington

In forming a nonprofit corporation in Washington, the filing and Annual fees must be paid. Without it, your nonprofit corporation won’t operate. In Washington, the nonprofit costs $180 for online and by mail filing, and should file an Annual Report. You should ensure you comply with all the necessary fees and costs so your Washington nonprofit corporation will run successfully and smoothly.

Is Forming a Nonprofit Corporation in Washington Worth It?

Forming a nonprofit corporation in Washington can be worth it if you are dedicated to a specific cause and prepared to meet the challenges and responsibilities of running a nonprofit organization. It is essential to carefully consider your goals and resources and consult with a Business Attorney in Washington or other professionals experienced in nonprofit formation and management to ensure that you are making the best decision for your situation.

FAQs

What is a non-profit corporation?
A non-profit corporation is a type of legal entity that operates not for profit, but for public good.
What are the benefits of forming a non-profit corporation in Washington?
Non-profit corporations in Washington benefit from tax-exempt status, limited liability protection, and the ability to solicit tax-deductible donations.
Is it necessary to incorporate a non-profit in Washington?
Yes, a non-profit must incorporate in Washington to be recognized as a legal entity in the state.
How do I choose a name for my non-profit corporation in Washington?
Your name must not conflict with any other non-profit corporation in Washington, and it cannot suggest any illegal activity or a connection with a government agency.
What steps do I need to take to incorporate a non-profit in Washington?
You need to file Articles of Incorporation with the Washington Secretary of State and obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS.
Can I form a non-profit corporation on my own?
Yes, you can form a non-profit corporation on your own by submitting your Articles of Incorporation and EIN to the Washington Secretary of State.
What are the fees for incorporating a non-profit in Washington?
The fee for filing Articles of Incorporation is $50, plus additional charges for expedited filings or filings made on paper.
Does Washington have any residency requirements for officers or directors of non-profits?
No, Washington does not require non-profit officers or directors to be residents of the state.
Can a non-profit corporation have only one director?
Washington state law requires that a non-profit corporation have at least three directors.
How is a non-profit corporation governed in Washington?
A non-profit corporation in Washington is governed by a board of directors elected by the membership of the corporation.
Can a non-profit corporation in Washington engage in political activity?
Yes, a non-profit corporation in Washington is allowed to engage in lobbying and other political activity, but it cannot endorse any political candidates.
Can a non-profit corporation in Washington distribute its profits to members or shareholders?
No, a non-profit corporation in Washington is prohibited from distributing any profits to members or shareholders.
Can a non-profit corporation in Washington be dissolved?
Yes, a non-profit corporation in Washington can be dissolved by the board of directors or by judicial order.
How can a non-profit corporation in Washington change its name or purpose?
A non-profit corporation in Washington can change its name or purpose by filing an amendment with the Washington Secretary of State.
What is the role of the Washington Secretary of State in overseeing non-profit corporations?
The Washington Secretary of State maintains a database of all registered non-profit corporations in the state and ensures compliance with state laws regarding such entities.
Can a non-profit corporation in Washington pay its employees?
Yes, a non-profit corporation in Washington can pay its employees, but their salaries must be reasonable and not excessive.
How can a non-profit corporation in Washington raise funds?
A non-profit corporation in Washington can raise funds through donations, grants, sponsorships, and events.
What kind of reports and filings are required of non-profit corporations in Washington?
Non-profit corporations in Washington must file an Annual Report with the Washington Secretary of State and file annual tax forms with the Internal Revenue Service.
What should I include in my non-profit corporation’s Bylaws?
Your Bylaws should outline how your corporation will run, including roles and responsibilities of the board, committees, and officers; meeting and voting procedures; membership qualifications and classifications; and terms of office.
Can a non-profit corporation in Washington provide benefits to its members?
Yes, a non-profit corporation in Washington can provide benefits to its members as long as they are not excessive or conflicted with the corporation’s not-for-profit purpose.
Can a non-profit corporation in Washington get sued?
Yes, a non-profit corporation in Washington can get sued, but personal assets of the board members are protected by the corporation’s limited liability status.
What is the difference between a charity and a non-profit corporation in Washington?
Charities are one kind of non-profit corporation in Washington that provides money, goods, or services to the public, while non-profit corporations can have various not-for-profit purposes outside of charity.
What is an exempt organization in Washington?
An exempt organization in Washington refers to a non-profit corporation exempt from paying certain taxes through federal or state statutes or regulations.
How long does it take to incorporate a non-profit in Washington?
Incorporating a non-profit in Washington can take up to a few weeks, depending on whether services like expedited processing or professional help are used.
Can a non-profit mission legally involve religious or spiritual components in Washington?
Yes, a non-profit corporation in Washington can have a religious or spiritual mission or components, as long as any activities are in alignment with Washington state law.
How can a non-profit corporation in Washington lose its tax-exempt status?
A non-profit corporation in Washington can lose its tax-exempt status if it intentionally does not comply with state or federal non-profit corporation regulations or engages in financial improprieties.
How can I stay up to date with non-profit corporation law in Washington?
You can review regularly updated online resources like the Washington Nonprofit Handbook and consult with an attorney that has expertise in Washington’s particular non-profit corporation regulations.
How do I start a non-profit corporation in Washington?
To start a non-profit corporation in Washington, you must file articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State.
What are the articles of incorporation?
The articles of incorporation are the legal documents that establish a corporation’s existence and outline its purpose.
What is the Secretary of State?
The Secretary of State is the state official responsible for registering all entities conducting business in Washington.
Can I start a non-profit corporation in Washington if I’m not a resident?
Yes, you can start a non-profit corporation in Washington even if you’re not a resident.
How much does it cost to file articles of incorporation in Washington?
It costs $50 to file articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State in Washington.
Do I need a lawyer to start a non-profit corporation in Washington?
There’s no legal requirement to consult an attorney to start a non-profit corporation in Washington, but it is often advised.
What is a registered agent?
A registered agent is an individual or entity that receives legal documents on behalf of a corporation.
What are bylaws?
Bylaws are the rules and regulations by which a corporation operates.
How do I draft bylaws for my non-profit corporation?
You can use a template from the state or consult with an attorney to draft the bylaws for your non-profit corporation.
Can I choose any name for my non-profit corporation in Washington?
No, your non-profit corporation name must be unique and not already in use by another entity in Washington.
Can I change my non-profit corporation’s name after it’s been established?
Yes, you can change your non-profit corporation name by filing an amendment with the Secretary of State.
Is the non-profit corporation’s name publicly available information?
Yes, the non-profit corporation’s name is publicly available information that can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.
Does my non-profit corporation need to register for state taxes in Washington?
Yes, if your non-profit corporation is doing business in Washington, it must register for state taxes.
What kind of tax-exempt status is available for non-profit corporations in Washington?
Non-profit corporations in Washington can apply for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
How do I apply for tax-exempt status for my non-profit corporation in Washington?
You can apply for tax-exempt status by filing Form 1023 with the IRS.
Will my non-profit corporation automatically be tax-exempt if it’s established in Washington?
No, your non-profit corporation must apply for tax-exempt status to be recognized as tax-exempt.
How often do I need to file annual reports for my non-profit corporation in Washington?
Non-profit corporations must file annual reports with the Secretary of State in Washington every year.
How much does it cost to file an annual report for my non-profit corporation in Washington?
It costs $10 to file an annual report for your non-profit corporation with the Secretary of State in Washington.
What happens if I don’t file an annual report for my non-profit corporation in Washington?
Your non-profit corporation could be administratively dissolved if you fail to file annual reports with the Secretary of State in a timely manner.
Do officers and directors of a non-profit corporation have any legal liabilities in Washington?
Yes, officers and directors can be held personally liable for the actions of the non-profit corporation or its employees.
Are there any particular rules or laws that non-profit corporations must follow in Washington?
Non-profit corporations in Washington must follow state and federal laws governing non-profit corporations, including tax and employment laws.
Can a non-profit corporation in Washington engage in political activities?
Non-profit corporations can engage in some limited political activities, but they must be careful to avoid engaging in partisan political activities.
Can I pay myself a salary as the director of a non-profit corporation in Washington?
Yes, directors can be paid as employees of the non-profit corporation as long as the compensation is reasonable and based on fair market value.
Can my non-profit corporation loan money to its directors or officers in Washington?
In general, non-profit corporations in Washington cannot loan money to their directors or officers.
How do I dissolve a non-profit corporation in Washington?
Non-profit corporations can be dissolved voluntarily by filing a certificate of dissolution with the Secretary of State or involuntarily by court order.
Can I transfer assets from my non-profit corporation to a for-profit organization in Washington?
No, non-profit corporations cannot transfer assets to for-profit organizations, and any attempt to do so can result in revocation of tax-exempt status.
Can employees of a non-profit corporation in Washington form a union?
Yes, employees of non-profit corporations in Washington have the right to form unions and engage in collective bargaining.
Are non-profit corporations in Washington required to maintain certain records and books?
Yes, non-profit corporations in Washington must maintain certain records, including financial records, and make them available for public inspection.
Where can I find more information about starting a non-profit corporation in Washington?
You can visit the Washington Secretary of State’s website or consult with an attorney to find more information about starting a non-profit corporation in Washington.

Also Read

Why You Should Start Washington Nonprofit

One of the main reasons why you should consider starting a nonprofit in Washington is the ability to address pressing social issues and make a positive impact on the lives of others. Whether you are passionate about environmental conservation, supporting underprivileged youth, or providing healthcare services to those in need, starting a nonprofit allows you to focus on a cause that is near and dear to your heart.

Another benefit of starting a nonprofit in Washington is the opportunity to build a strong sense of community and connect with like-minded individuals who are also dedicated to making a difference. By working together with volunteers, donors, and supporters, you can leverage the power of collective action to create lasting change and address systemic challenges in your community.

Furthermore, starting a nonprofit allows you to foster a culture of giving and philanthropy, inspiring others to get involved and support your cause. By organizing events, fundraisers, and awareness campaigns, you can raise awareness about important social issues and mobilize resources to support those in need.

In addition, starting a nonprofit in Washington can also provide you with valuable opportunities for personal and professional growth. From developing leadership skills to honing your organizational and fundraising abilities, running a nonprofit will challenge you to continually learn and grow as you navigate the complexities of managing a successful organization.

Moreover, by starting a nonprofit in Washington, you can tap into a wealth of resources and support systems to help you achieve your goals. Whether you are in need of legal advice, fundraising strategies, or marketing assistance, there are numerous organizations and networks available to provide guidance and assistance as you navigate the process of starting and running a nonprofit.

Finally, starting a nonprofit in Washington can be a deeply rewarding experience that allows you to leave a lasting legacy and make a meaningful impact on the world. By dedicating your time, energy, and resources to a cause that you are passionate about, you have the power to create positive change and improve the lives of others in your community.

In conclusion, starting a nonprofit in Washington is a unique opportunity to address pressing social issues, build a sense of community, and make a meaningful impact on the world. If you are looking to give back and make a difference, I urge you to consider starting a nonprofit and joining the ranks of individuals who are committed to making the world a better place.

Conclusion

Starting a nonprofit corporation is a rewarding and challenging endeavor that requires careful planning, dedication, and a thorough understanding of the various legal and financial requirements. By following the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well on your way to creating a nonprofit that makes a meaningful difference in your community. As you embark on this journey, remember to stay focused on your mission and your organization’s impact on the lives of those you serve. Never underestimate the power of a passionate, committed team working together to improve the world.

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