How to Start a Nonprofit in North Dakota

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

Step 1: Name Your North Dakota 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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Starting a 501c3 Nonprofit in North Dakota Is Easy

There are currently 6,174 nonprofit organizations located in North Dakota, and more are being formed every year. Combined, these North Dakota nonprofits generate $7 billion in average revenue per year, employ a workforce of 68,838 people, and own assets totaling $18 billion in value. 

Numerous well-known nonprofit organizations call North Dakota home, including Altru Health System, Essentia Health, and University of Mary. These organizations alone bring in more than $50 million in revenue per year. 

Nonprofit organizations in North Dakota are broken down into dozens of different categories. This includes categories such as:

  • Recreation, sports, and social clubs
  • Religious organizations
  • Educational institutions 

The largest category of nonprofit organizations in North Dakota includes religious organizations, with 978 nonprofits under this category. Educational institutions are the second-largest category with 698 organizations, and recreation, sports, and social clubs are the third-largest with 563. 

It is health organizations, however, that generate the most revenue. Each year, nonprofit health organizations in North Dakota bring in a combined average of nearly $2.4 billion in revenue. Public sector, public co-ops, and veteran organizations generate the second-most revenue with almost $2.1 billion, and religious organizations come in third with over $601 million per year. 

These statistics showcase that there is plenty of room for new nonprofits in the state. If you would like to get your North Dakota nonprofit up and running, you can officially form your company in just a few simple steps. 

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

Choosing a unique and searchable name for your company is an all-important first step when forming a North Dakota nonprofit. Along with serving as a cornerstone of your company’s messaging and branding, having a name for your nonprofit is also a requirement for filing your company with the state. 

For more help choosing the ideal name for your nonprofit, feel free to check out our detailed guide on naming a North Dakota nonprofit

Nonprofit Naming Guidelines 

There are several state-mandated rules regarding what an allowable name for a North Dakota nonprofit company is. These rules include: 

  • The company name cannot contain the words “limited liability company” or “limited partnership”
  • The company name must be distinguishable from the name of any other pre-existing North Dakota company
  • The company name cannot infer a purpose for the organization that is different from the purpose stated in its articles of incorporation

To see a complete list of rules on naming a North Dakota-based organization, be sure to read the North Dakota nonprofit naming statute (10-33-10, page 11). 

Confirming Name Availability 

To make sure that there isn’t another North Dakota company already using the name you’ve chosen, you can conduct a name search on the State of North Dakota’s website. 

Securing a Web Domain 

If you plan to create a website for your North Dakota nonprofit, it’s a good idea to secure your web domain ahead of time. Make sure that the business name you choose will also be available as a web domain by searching available options.

After choosing a name for your nonprofit and securing a web domain, you will then need to file your company with the state. The easiest way to do this is to enlist the help of a business formation service. While there are many to choose from, we highly recommend one with proven speed and reliability. 

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Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in North Dakota

You will be required to nominate a registered agent for your nonprofit before you are able to complete the process of forming your company.

You can think of a registered agent as being a point of contact between your company and the state. When the state of North Dakota needs to send your company legal documents, it will send them to your registered agent, who is then responsible for receiving them and forwarding them to their appropriate recipient. 

There aren’t many restrictions regarding who can and cannot be a registered agent in North Dakota, and anyone who is a legal resident of the state is eligible. This includes the company’s owner and employees of the company as well. 

Business entities operating in North Dakota can also be nominated as your company’s registered agent, and working with a registered agent service is one convenient option to consider. 

If you still need help figuring out which of these options is the right choice for your North Dakota nonprofit, be sure to check out our complete How to Choose a Registered Agent for Your North Dakota Nonprofit guide.

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 North Dakota 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.

North Dakota also requires that the nonprofit’s officers include:

  • A president
  • A secretary

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

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

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

In order to apply for 501c3 status with the IRS, your North Dakota nonprofit will first be required to adopt bylaws as well as a conflict of interest policy. 

What are bylaws? Bylaws are rules that will establish your nonprofit company’s operating procedures, including things such as the frequency and format of board meetings and the process for electing board members. 

What is a conflict of interest policy? A conflict of interest policy is intended to prevent board members and officers from making decisions that benefit themselves or other individual members of the organization rather than decisions that are in the organization’s best interests.  

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

Step 5: File the North Dakota Articles of Incorporation

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

To ensure that your nonprofit is eligible to apply for 501c3 status, 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

File online with the state of North Dakota

File Online

*You can no longer file Articles of Incorporation in-person or via mail.

State Filing Cost: $40

To learn more, read our North Dakota Articles of Incorporation guide.

Step 6: Get an EIN

The final step when forming a North Dakota nonprofit is to acquire an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also called a Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN), for your company. 

What is an EIN? An EIN is a nine-digit number assigned to your company by the IRS for identification purposes. An EIN serves a purpose similar to that of a Social Security number, except that it is used to identify business entities rather than individuals. 

Why do I need an EIN? Having an EIN is a vital requirement for every organization in North Dakota. Without an EIN, your nonprofit won’t be able to:

  • Hire employees 
  • File federal or state taxes
  • Open a bank account for the business 

Thankfully, getting an EIN is a simple process that won’t cost your company a dime. 

How do I get an EIN? You can request an EIN free of charge by completing a form and sending it to the IRS either by mail or online. To learn more about this process, read our EIN Lookup guide. 

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 North Dakota. Use our North Dakota 501c3 lookup table to find all North Dakota 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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