How to Start a Nonprofit in Arizona

To start a nonprofit in Arizona and get 501c3 status, follow these steps:

Step 1: Name Your Arizona Nonprofit
Step 2: Choose Your Statutory Agent
Step 3: Select Your Board Members & Officers
Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy
Step 5: File the Articles of Incorporation
Step 6: Get an EIN
Step 7: Apply for 501c3

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Starting a 501c3 Nonprofit in Arizona Is Easy

Currently, there are tens of thousands of nonprofits in the state of Arizona — in Phoenix alone, there are 17,747.

Nonprofits are important to local economies. Out of the 28,453 organizations currently registered in Arizona, they employ over 300,000 people — those people then use their own money to invest back into the local economy. It’s a win-win for cities to have nonprofits there, especially as they help those who need support. 

Out of the nonprofits in Arizona, the majority are religious organizations. If you’re looking for an area to get into that has the fewest nonprofits, then mutual assistance organizations or animal organizations might be right for you with 818 and 1,001 total organizations in the state.  

Some of the nonprofits currently running in Arizona include:

  • Easter Seals Blake Foundation
  • Grand Canyon Conservancy
  • Barrow Neurological Foundation
  • Make-A-Wish Foundation of America 

Some other large organizations in the state, and those that tend to employ many, also include organizations such as Banner Health and FKA Scottsdale Healthcare Hospital. 

Nonprofits in Arizona bring in over $43 billion in revenue annually — that’s on top of having over $79 billion in assets. On average, each of these organizations employs around 1 to 10 people, but larger nonprofits begin to have greater employee pools. For example, 39 of the nonprofits in Arizona employ over 1,000 people. 

The organizations with the most employees usually include universities, charter schools, hospital systems, developmentally disabled centers, and general hospitals. 

No matter what you want to do with your nonprofit, you have to get started with formation — with the state and with the IRS.

To start a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization in Arizona, you must first start a nonprofit in Arizona according to the rules of the state and then apply for 501c3 status with the IRS.

Learn more about 501c3 eligibility in our What is a 501c3 guide.

Want to form a nonprofit elsewhere? Check out our other How to Start a Nonprofit guides. Also, check out our best nonprofit formation services review.

Step 1: Name Your Arizona Nonprofit

Deciding on a name for your organization is the first step to creating your nonprofit. To start with, choose a name that meets Arizona’s naming requirements for nonprofit corporations. Read more here to see what is or is not acceptable: How to Name a Nonprofit in Arizona.

1. Follow the naming guidelines:

  • If the name of your organization includes any of the following words you must first get written approval from the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions: Bank, banking, banque, credit union, trust company, trust, thrift, savings bank, loan association, savings association, savings and loan association, deposit, building and loan association, banc, banc, banker, banque.

Check out these official guidelines to see all the rules for naming your business in Arizona.

2. Is the name available in Arizona? After you choose a suitable name, make sure it’s still available by completing a name search through the State of Arizona website.

3. Is the URL available? It’s a good idea to check and see if your business’s name is available as a web domain. You can save the URL to prevent other people from using it in the future, even if you don’t want a website yourself.

With a name chosen and a URL saved, now you can choose a professional service to help with the completion of your Arizona nonprofit formation. We recommend:

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Statutory Agent in Arizona

Your nonprofit is required to nominate an Arizona statutory agent for your organization.

What is a statutory agent? A statutory agent is also called a registered agent. This agent is either a person or business entity that will receive legal documents on your behalf. Essentially, the statutory agent is your business’s main legal point of contact.

Who can be a statutory agent? A statutory agent can be an Arizona resident or a corporation, such as a registered agent service. The agent must be authorized to perform business in Arizona. You or other individuals in your company may become statutory agents for your company, or you can choose a third-party agent.

Do you need more help choosing a registered agent? Read our helpful guide on how to choose a registered agent for your Arizona nonprofit.

Step 3: Select your Directors & Officers

The directors of an organization come together to form a board of directors. This board of directors is responsible for overseeing the operations of the nonprofit. 

The president, secretary, and other members of the nonprofit who have individual responsibilities and authorities are known as officers

While Arizona only requires nonprofit corporations to have at least one board member, the IRS requires nonprofits to have at least three directors to be eligible for 501c3 status. The majority of directors should not be related to each other.

Arizona does not have any specific officer requirements, meaning titles are left up to the nonprofit to determine in its bylaws.

To learn more about electing an Arizona nonprofit board of directors, read our full guide.

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

Before you’ll be eligible to seek out 501c3 status, your nonprofit has to have two important documents prepared: 

  1. Bylaws 
  2. Conflict of interest policy

What are bylaws? Bylaws explain the rules of your nonprofit — they describe how your nonprofit will operate.

What is a conflict of interest policy? A conflict of interest policy makes sure the board of directors and officers only make decisions that benefit the nonprofit rather than individual members. 

Both of these documents need to be adopted by your nonprofit during your first organizational meeting.

Step 5: File the Arizona Articles of Incorporation

To register your nonprofit, you will need to file the Articles of Incorporation with the State of Arizona.

To ensure that your nonprofit is eligible to apply for 501c3, in the Articles of Incorporation you must explicitly state the following:

1. Purpose:

In order to qualify for 501c3 status, the organization’s purpose must explicitly be limited to one or more of the following:

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

2. Dissolution:

You must explicitly state what the assets of the organization will be used for, and what will happen to the assets if the organization is dissolved. 

To be eligible for 501c3 status, the assets of your organization must only ever be used for purposes approved under section 501c3. 

Section 5 of this sample IRS document provides an example of these provisions required for 501c3 eligibility. 

File the Articles of Incorporation

Option 1: File online with the state of Arizona.

File Online

– OR –

Option 2: File by mail or in-person.

1. Form CFCVLR – Cover Sheet
2. Articles of Incorporation
3. Form C082 – Director Attachment
4. Form C084: Incorporator Attachment
5. Form M002: Statutory Agent Acceptance
6. Form CF0001: Certificate of Disclosure

State Filing Cost: $40

Arizona Corporation Commission
Corporations Division
1300 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

To learn more, read our Arizona Articles of Incorporation guide.

Step 6: Get an EIN

What is an EIN? An Employer Identification Number (EIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN), is a number used by the government to identify your business. You can think of it like a Social Security number for your business. 

Why do I need an EIN? You need an EIN to:

  • Open a business banking account as a business entity
  • Hire employees
  • Pay your business’s taxes

How do I get an EIN? To get an EIN, you’ll need to file to form your company. The IRS will then send you an EIN for free. Take a look at our EIN Lookup to learn more.

Step 7: Apply for 501c3 Status

Before a nonprofit can apply for 501c3 status it must, 

  1. Elect at least 3 directors not related to each other
  2. File the Articles of Incorporation with the required provisions (As covered in Step 5)
  3. Adopt the bylaws and conflict of interest policy
  4. Have an EIN number

Once these four conditions have been met your nonprofit can apply for 501c3 tax-exempt status by filing Form-1023 online. 

If your application is approved, the IRS will send you a determination letter stating that your organization is exempt from federal taxes under section 501c3. 

See if your nonprofit has 501c3 status in Arizona. Use our Arizona 501c3 lookup table to find all Arizona nonprofits.

FAQ: Starting Your Nonprofit

When should an organization apply for federal tax exemption?

Form 1023 must be filed within 27 months from the end of the first month your organization was created.

How long will it take for the IRS to process Form 1023/1023-EZ?

Soon after sending your application you should receive an acknowledgment of receipt of your application. 

If your application is simple and complete, IRS will send your determination letter within 180 days for Form 1023.

If you have not heard from them by that time you can call (877) 829-5500 to inquire about your application. 

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