How to Start a Nonprofit in Arkansas

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

Step 1: Name Your Arkansas Nonprofit
Step 2: Choose Your Registered 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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Form Your Nonprofit

Starting a 501c3 Nonprofit in Arkansas Is Easy

Starting a nonprofit is easy in Arkansas — and there are many people who already run them. Over 15,637 nonprofits currently exist in Arkansas, employing over 150,000 people and bringing in over $25 billion in revenue each year. The majority of nonprofits are based in Little Rock and Fayetteville.

Nonprofits are usually helpful to local communities, which is why they’re a good investment. For example, they can employ dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people. Starlite Club of Hot Springs, Hospice of the Ozarks, and Goodwill Industries of Arkansas are just a few of the nonprofits that employ well over 100 people each. 

There are varying employment numbers per nonprofit, but 29 of them employ at least 1,000 people.

Some of the major nonprofit industries in Arkansas include religious organizations, educational institutions, and human service organizations. Interestingly, the least common nonprofits are social science research centers, with just 12 nonprofits in the state. Depending on what you’re interested in doing, you could fill a much-needed niche in the state. 

The nonprofits you’ll be joining when you open yours include businesses such as:

  • Winrock International
  • Heifer International
  • Walton Family Foundation

And, if you want to join the highest-ranking organizations, you may want to become a company that is a private foundation, general hospital, public utility service, religious organization, or pension retirement fund. 

With these statistics in mind, it’s time to start putting together the details for your nonprofit.

To start a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization in Arkansas, you must first start a nonprofit in Arkansas 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 Arkansas Nonprofit

Before you can open your nonprofit, you need to choose a name. You’ll need to find a name that sticks to the rules and regulations in the state, and you’ll also want one that people can remember easily.

For more details on the exact restrictions on your nonprofit’s name, check out: How to Name a Nonprofit in Arkansas.

1. Follow the naming guidelines:

  • The name of your organization must:
    • Not be misleading to the public and accurately describe your organization’s purpose. It should have the same purpose as the one stated in your articles of incorporation.
    • Be notably different (distinguishable) from businesses already operating in Arkansas.
    • Avoid using words that could be considered “grossly offensive.”

For your nonprofit in Arkansas, the name doesn’t have to have an organizational designation like “Ltd.,” “Inc.,” “Company,” or “Incorporated.”

Go through the Nonprofit Corporation Act (Section 401) to see all the requirements for naming your nonprofit.

2. Is the name available in Arkansas? Use the State of Arkansas’ name search to make sure your business’s name hasn’t been taken.

3. Is the URL available? There may come a time when you want to use your company’s web domain, so it’s a good idea to check for it now. If it’s taken, you may want to choose a name. Remember, even if you don’t want to have a website, taking the URL can prevent others from using it in your place. 

Now that you’ve established your business’s name and have elected to obtain the URL as well, you’ll be able to move on to choosing a professional service that can help you finish the Arkansas nonprofit formation process. Our recommendation is to go with a company that has decades of experience and positive customer interactions, such as:

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Arkansas

You will need to nominate an Arkansas registered agent to represent your organization.

What is a registered agent? Your registered agent is the main point of contact with the state and will be the legal representation for your business.

Who can be a registered agent? Registered agents must be residents or corporations within Arkansas. Many businesses use registered agent services, which are authorized to run in Arkansas. You may elect an individual working with your company (including yourself) to take over the role, or you can choose a registered agent that is a third party.

Want more help finding a registered agent? Read our guide to choosing a registered agent for your Arkansas 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

Both Arkansas and the IRS require 501c3 nonprofits to have at least three directors to be eligible for 501c3 status. The majority of directors should not be related to each other.

Arkansas also requires that the nonprofit’s officers include:

  • A president
  • At least one vice president
  • A secretary
  • A treasurer

Officers can hold multiple titles if the bylaws allow for it.

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

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

To obtain eligibility for 501c3 status, your nonprofit needs these two documents:

  1. Bylaws 
  2. Conflict of interest policy

What are bylaws? Bylaws discuss the rules and procedures by which your company will operate. 

What is a conflict of interest policy? A conflict of interest policy makes sure that the people running the company, such as officers or your board of directors, only makes decisions that are in the best interests of the nonprofit.

NOTE: During your first meeting, you’ll need to adopt these two documents. This is also the meeting during which your directors and officers will be officially appointed.

Step 5: File the Arkansas Articles of Incorporation

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

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 Arkansas.

File Online

– OR –

Option 2: File by mail.

Download Form

State Filing Cost by Mail: $50

State Filing Cost Online: $45

Arkansas Secretary of State
Business and Commercial Services
1401 West Capitol Ave, Ste. 250
Victory Building
Little Rock, AR 72201

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

Step 6: Get an EIN

What is an EIN? An EIN is an abbreviation for “Employer Identification Number.” It can also stand for the Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN). This number is used to identify your business — the federal government uses it much like your personal Social Security number. 

Is there a reason why I need an EIN? An EIN is required:

  • If you want to open a business banking account
  • To file your business’s taxes
  • To be able to hire employees

How do I get an EIN? You can find more information about an EIN through our EIN Lookup guide, but the simple answer is that the IRS will give you one for free when you form your business online or by mail.

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 Arkansas. Use our Arkansas 501c3 Lookup table to find all Arkansas 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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