How to Start a Nonprofit in Oregon

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

Step 1: Name Your Oregon 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 Oregon Is Easy

Today, there are 25,846 nonprofit companies located in Oregon. These organizations combine to generate an average of $33 billion in revenue each year, employ 225,821 people, and own assets totaling $80 billion in value. 

A few of the more well-known nonprofits that call Oregon home are the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the Oregon Humane Society, and the Portland Art Museum.

Religious organizations make up the largest number of nonprofits in the state at 3,744 organizations. Educational institutions are the second-largest, with 3,260 Oregon nonprofits falling under this category, and recreation, sport, and social clubs are the third-largest category at 2,415 organizations. 

Despite only accounting for 731 organizations, it is health organizations that generate by far the most revenue of any Oregon nonprofits. Each year, nonprofit health organizations bring in a combined average of $15 billion. Educational institutions are a distant second with over $3.4 billion in combined annual revenue, and foundations come in third with more than $2.5 billion in combined annual revenue. 

Portland is the most popular Oregon city for nonprofit companies, with 11,731 organizations. However, there are successful nonprofit companies spanning the state, including 2,347 organizations in Salem, 2,202 organizations in Eugene, and 1,346 organizations in Medford. 

So what do these statistics mean? For one, they demonstrate that there are plenty of thriving nonprofit companies located in the Beaver State — and one reason for this is the fact that forming a nonprofit in Oregon is a relatively easy and straightforward process. 

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

One of the first (and biggest) decisions that you will need to make when creating your Oregon nonprofit is choosing a name. Your first consideration should be choosing a name that will benefit your company’s branding and help it attract new members and donors. 

For more info on how to name a nonprofit company, be sure to check out our guide on How to Name a Nonprofit in Oregon

Along with choosing a name that is unique and appealing, you must also make sure your name adheres to Oregon’s business name requirements. In Oregon, nonprofit names must: 

  • Not imply that the company was created for any purpose other than the purpose outlined in its articles of incorporation 
  • Not include the words “cooperative” or “limited partnership”

You can read through the Oregon Statutes for a complete list of rules on naming a nonprofit in Oregon. 

Is the name available in the state? Another of Oregon’s rules for naming a business is that the name must be unique from the name of any other company located in the state. To check and see if a business name is available or if it is already in use, you can conduct a name search on the State of Oregon’s website. 

Is the name available as a web domain? If you plan to create a website for your nonprofit now or in the future, you will want to make sure that the name you choose is also available as a web domain.

After choosing a name and web domain for your nonprofit company, you can file with the state by working with a business formation service. There are a lot of great service providers for Oregon business owners to choose from, but our top recommendation is Northwest for its pricing, customer service, and experience. 

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Oregon

The next step when forming a nonprofit in Oregon is to choose a registered agent for your company. Your registered agent will act as your company’s point of contact with the state, and all organizations in Oregon are required to nominate a registered agent. 

Your company’s registered agent can be anyone who resides in Oregon, including employees within your company and yourself. Business entities that are authorized to do business in Oregon can act as registered agents as well. Many Oregon nonprofit owners choose to work with registered agent services due to the convenience and peace of mind that they provide. 

Do you still need help choosing the right registered agent for your company? Check out our helpful guide on choosing a registered agent for your Oregon 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 Oregon 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.

Oregon also requires that the nonprofit’s officers include:

  • A president
  • A secretary
  • A treasurer

These roles can go by different titles. Officers can hold multiple titles, though an officer cannot serve simultaneously as president, secretary, and/or treasurer.

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

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

Oregon nonprofits are required to have the following documents before they are able to apply for 501c3 status: 

  • Bylaws: Bylaws are a list of rules that establish a company’s operating procedures, including details such as board composition and administrative functions 
  • Conflict of Interest Policy: A conflict of interest policy is intended to prevent officers and board members from making decisions that benefit themselves rather than the company

Keep in mind that both of these documents should be adopted during your nonprofit company’s first organizational meeting (the meeting where directors and officers are officially appointed).

Step 5: File the Oregon Articles of Incorporation

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

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

Option 1: File online with the state of Oregon.

File Online

– OR –

Option 2: File by mail.

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $50

Mail to:
Secretary of State
Corporation Division
255 Capitol St. NE, Suite 151
Salem, OR 97310-1327

To learn more, read our How to File Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation in Oregon guide.

Step 6: Get an EIN

What is an EIN? An Employer Identification Number (EIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number, is a unique number that is used to identify your company for legal and tax purposes. An EIN is a lot like a Social Security number except that it is used to identify business entities instead of individuals. 

Why do you need an EIN? Without an EIN, Oregon nonprofits are unable to: 

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

Acquiring an EIN is therefore an essential last step when forming a nonprofit company in Oregon. 

How to get an EIN for your Oregon nonprofit  — You can request a free EIN from the IRS either online or by mail. To learn more about this process, check out 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 Oregon. Use our Oregon 501c3 lookup table to find all Oregon 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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