How to Start a Nonprofit in Montana

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

Step 1: Name Your Montana 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 Montana Is Easy

Despite having a population of only a little over 1 million residents, Montana is home to 11,348 different nonprofit organizations. This includes religious organizations, educational institutions, foundations, and numerous other categories of Montana nonprofits. Bozeman Health, Montana State University-Northern Foundation, and Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation are just a few of the more well-known nonprofit companies located in Montana.

Religious organizations are the largest category of Montana nonprofits by number, with 1,684 religious nonprofits located in the state. Educational institutions are the second-largest with 1,226 organizations, and recreation, sports, and social clubs are the third-largest with 1,139 organizations. 

However, it is health organizations that bring in the most revenue of all Montana nonprofits; combined, nonprofit health organizations in the state earn an average annual revenue of nearly $4.6 billion. Public sector, public co-ops, and veteran organizations earn the second-most at just under $1.3 billion, and religious organizations the third-most at over $1.1 billion. 

Health organizations also employ the largest workforce with 31,734 employees, followed by human service organizations with 14,517 employees, and religious organizations with 7,254 employees. 

There is no shortage of successful nonprofit companies located in the Treasure State. If you would like to add your own nonprofit company to this list, you can form a nonprofit in Montana by following just a few simple steps. 

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

Choosing a name for your company is the first step to creating a nonprofit in Montana. In addition to selecting a name that will resonate with potential donors and members, you will also need to make sure your name is compliant with Montana business name requirements. 

For more advice on naming your Montana nonprofit, you can check out our How to Name a Nonprofit in Montana guide. 

Requirements for Naming a Nonprofit Company in Montana

In Montana, nonprofit companies must choose a name that: 

  • Does not imply that the organization is an entity other than a nonprofit company
  • Does not imply a purpose for the company that is different from the purpose stated in the company’s articles of incorporation

To see the complete list of rules for naming a nonprofit company in Montana, be sure to read the Montana Code

Checking Name Availability 

Your company must have a name that is distinguishable from the name of any other company in Montana. To see if a name is already in use, you can conduct a name search on the State of Montana’s website. 

After confirming that the name itself is available, you may also want to make sure that the name is available as a web domain. This will be key if you plan to create a website for your nonprofit now or at any point in the future.

Once you’ve secured a name and web domain for your company, the next step is to file your new company with the state by working with a business formation service. Here is our top recommendation for business formation services in Montana: 

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Montana

Every nonprofit organization in Montana is required to nominate a registered agent.

Registered agents serve as points of contact between organizations and the state. Your company’s registered agent will be responsible for receiving legal/tax documents on behalf of the company. 

Anyone who is a legal resident of Montana is eligible to act as your company’s registered agent. This includes employees working for your company and even the company’s owner. You can also choose a registered agent service that is authorized to do business in Montana as your company’s registered agent, and this is an option that offers a lot of conveniences and other benefits. 

For more information on what registered agents do and how to select the right one for your company, check out our guide on how to choose a registered agent for your Montana 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 Montana 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.

Montana also requires that the nonprofit’s officers include:

  • A president
  • A secretary
  • A treasurer

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

To learn more about electing a Montana nonprofit board of directors, read our full guide.

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

Your Montana nonprofit will be required to adopt bylaws and a conflict of interest policy before it is eligible to apply for 501c3 status. 

A company’s bylaws are a list of rules that dictate the company’s operating procedures, including details regarding annual meetings, quorum requirements (i.e., the minimum number of members that can be present at a meeting), board member terms, and other administrative issues. 

A conflict of interest policy is designed to ensure that a nonprofit company’s officers and board of directors are always acting in the best interest of the company rather than making decisions designed to benefit themselves or other individual members. 

TIP: Your Montana nonprofit’s bylaws and its conflict of interest policy should both be adopted during your company’s first organizational meeting. 

Step 5: File the Montana Articles of Incorporation

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

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 organization’s assets 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 Your Montana Articles of Incorporation

File Online With the Montana Secretary of State

File Online

Fee: $20

Instructions: Select “Articles of Incorporation for Domestic Nonprofit Corporation,” log in or create an ePass account, and fill out the required fields.

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

Step 6: Get an EIN

The next step to forming a nonprofit in Montana is securing an EIN for your company. 

What Is an EIN? An Employer Identification Number (EIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number, is a lot like a Social Security number for business entities. It is used to identify your company for legal/tax purposes. 

Montana nonprofits are required to have an EIN before they are able to hire employees, open a bank account for the business, or file federal and state taxes. For these reasons, an EIN is a necessity for any organization in Montana. 

You can request an EIN for your company at no charge by contacting the IRS either online or by mail. To learn more about how to get an EIN for your Montana nonprofit, take a look at our EIN Lookup article. 

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 Montana. Use our Montana 501c3 lookup table to find all Montana 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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