How to Name a Nonprofit in Ohio

Choosing a name for your 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is the first step in our complete guide, How to Start a Nonprofit in Ohio. One of the most important decisions any founder will make is selecting the right name. We’re here to help with our full guide to choosing, validating, and registering an Ohio nonprofit name in four easy steps.

Check out our other guides for a look at How to Start a Nonprofit Organization or How to Name a Nonprofit in other states.

Recommended: Use our Business Name Generator to brainstorm hundreds of catchy names (with available URLs) for your nonprofit. 

Name Your Nonprofit in 4 Easy Steps

Naming your Ohio nonprofit is easy. Just follow these four simple steps to secure the best name for your 501(c)(3).

Step 1: Choose the Right Name for Your Nonprofit
Step 2: Follow the Nonprofit Naming Rules in Ohio
Step 3: Check if Your Business Name is Available
Step 4: Register Your Nonprofit Name

Use our 501(c)(3) Lookup Table to see if your nonprofit’s name is already in use.

Step 1: Choose the Right Name for Your Nonprofit

Selecting the right name for your organization is an important task. In order to choose the name that best represents your nonprofit’s mission and purpose, we recommend following these guidelines:

  • Be specific. A nonprofit’s name should be direct and specific enough to convey its mission. Avoid using vague words or terms that could confuse donors and prospective clients about your organization’s purpose.
  • Make it memorable. Memorability is essential when selecting a name for any business. For nonprofits, selecting a name that will stick in the minds of those who come across it will not only improve your organization’s exposure among donors and volunteers but also make it easier for potential clients to find your services.
  • Keep it professional. Nonprofits rely heavily on their public image in order to attract donors or clients who may use their services — and their first impression will stem from your organization’s name. For this reason, your nonprofit needs a professional name that communicates a serious dedication to its mission and purpose.
  • Make it emotional. Whether your organization provides services for animals, displaced persons, or any other community, emotion and charity have a strong bond. Selecting a name that appeals to the emotions of both donors and clients will help build trust as well as your organization’s credibility.

We recommend selecting at least four to five names that fit your criteria before you start researching their availability. This approach will increase your chances of securing a unique and available name.

Recommended: Use our Business Name Generator to help you find an available and unique name in your state.

Step 2: Follow the Nonprofit Naming Rules in Ohio

Corporation Name Requirements

Your Ohio nonprofit name must adhere to the guidelines laid out in Section 1702.05 of the Nonprofit Corporation Law:

(A) Except as provided in this section and in sections 1702.41 and 1702.411 of the Revised Code, the secretary of state shall not accept for filing in the secretary of state’s office any articles if the corporate name set forth in the articles is not distinguishable upon the secretary of state’s records from any of the following:

(1) The name of any other corporation, whether a nonprofit corporation or a business corporation and whether that of a domestic or of a foreign corporation authorized to do business in this state;

(2) The name of any limited liability company registered in the office of the secretary of state pursuant to Chapter 1705. or 1706. of the Revised Code, whether domestic or foreign;

(3) The name of any limited liability partnership registered in the office of the secretary of state pursuant to Chapter 1775. or 1776. of the Revised Code, whether domestic or foreign;

(4) The name of any limited partnership registered in the office of the secretary of state pursuant to Chapter 1782. of the Revised Code, whether domestic or foreign;

(5) Any trade name, the exclusive right to which is at the time in question registered in the office of the secretary of state pursuant to Chapter 1329. of the Revised Code.

(B) The secretary of state shall determine for purposes of this section whether a name is “distinguishable” from another name upon the secretary of state’s records. Without excluding other names that may not constitute distinguishable names in this state, a name is not considered distinguishable from another name for purposes of this section solely because it differs from the other name in only one or more of the following manners:

(1) The use of the word “corporation,” “company,” “incorporated,” “limited,” or any abbreviation of any of those words;

(2) The use of any article, conjunction, contraction, abbreviation, or punctuation;

(3) The use of a different tense or number of the same word.

Putting It Into Practice

Most nonprofits in Ohio are organized as corporations, but you can choose to organize a nonprofit in four other ways: an unincorporated association, a trust, an association, or a limited liability company (LLC). Each option has specific naming requirements you must follow.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the requirements for naming a nonprofit corporation.

Incorporating is the most common way to organize a nonprofit. While naming rules for corporations vary by state, some requirements apply nationwide. State requirements in Ohio include:

  • Your corporation’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of Ohio, including any reserved names.
  • Your corporation’s name can’t improperly imply affiliation with a government agency.
  • Your corporation’s name can’t include words or phrases considered grossly offensive.
  • Your corporation’s name can’t include words or phrases that imply they are apart of a financial institution such as ‘bank’, ‘bank and trust’, ‘trust’ or ‘trust company’

Unlike many other states, Ohio doesn’t require a nonprofit corporation’s name to include an identifier such as “company,” “incorporated,” “corporation,” “limited partnership,” “partnership,” or any equivalent abbreviation.

Tax Exemption Requirements

If you plan to file for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), pay close attention to the wording you use in your nonprofit’s name. Any words that imply a political or lobbying affiliation may hinder your ability to file for 501(c)(3) status.

Step 3: Check If Your Business Name Is Available

After you chose one or several name options for your nonprofit, you’ll need to make sure it’s available. Every nonprofit must have a distinguishable name so it’s helpful to confirm the availability of your desired name prior to incorporation.

The top four searches you should perform include: 

Ohio Business Name Search

To operate a nonprofit corporation in Ohio, its name must be unique. You can easily check if your chosen name is available by performing a search using the Ohio Business Search tool.

Domain Name Search

We strongly recommend that you also check to see if your business name is available as a web domain (URL). Even if you don’t plan to create a business website today, you may want to buy the web address to prevent others from acquiring that domain name. It’s a free search.

Federal Trademark Search

You can easily check if someone already trademarked your chosen nonprofit name by using the federal Trademark Electronic Search System. This is important even if you don’t plan to incorporate your nonprofit right away.

Once you confirm that no one else already trademarked your chosen name, you can apply for a trademark for your nonprofit.

If you need help with getting a logo for your nonprofit, try branding your business with our Free Logo Generator! Get a unique logo in minutes and start building your nonprofit’s brand immediately.

Web and Social Media Search

A strong social media presence will play a key role in expanding your reach to potential donors or clients that will use your services. That makes it important to search the web and popular social media platforms for your desired name before registering it to ensure it’s available on all the platforms where you plan to promote your organization.

Step 4: Register Your Nonprofit Name

After you choose your nonprofit’s name and confirm its availability, the next step involves registering the organization’s name. You have a few options to achieve a name registration:

Recommended: Read our full, step-by-step guide on How to Register a Business Name in Ohio.

File for a Name Reservation

In Ohio, domestic nonprofit corporations are not required to file for a name reservation before incorporation. However, reserving a name can prove beneficial — especially if you aren’t ready to incorporate, but want to ensure the availability of your chosen name.

To file a corporate name reservation in the state of Ohio:

Name reservations for nonprofit corporations in Ohio last 180 days and can be renewed once it expires.

Form a Corporation

Incorporating is the most common way to organize a nonprofit and, once you select a name, it’s the next step in making your nonprofit official. Forming a corporation in Ohio involves a few easy steps:

  1. Name Your Corporation
  2. Choose a Registered Agent
  3. Choose Your Corporation’s Initial Directors and Share Structure
  4. File the Formation Documents
  5. Get an EIN

File for a DBA Name

Filing a trade name, also called a doing business as (DBA) name, in Ohio allows your nonprofit to operate using a different name than its legal, registered business name. This can prove especially helpful if you want to change the name of an existing organization without filing an amendment to your Articles of Incorporation.

To learn how to file a DBA or trade name in Ohio, check out our step-by-step guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I start a nonprofit corporation in Ohio?

To officially incorporate a nonprofit in Ohio, you must file the Articles of Incorporation with the Ohio Secretary of State. You also must complete several other essential steps before you file that formation document, which you can find in our step-by-step guide to starting a nonprofit in Ohio.

How do I find nonprofits in Ohio?

Use our handy Ohio 501(c)(3) Lookup Table to find nonprofits in Ohio. You can use this tool to see if your preferred nonprofit name is in use or not.

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