How to File Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation in South Carolina

Starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in South Carolina is easy — and the first task is filing your Articles of Incorporation. This guide will walk you through the 11 steps required to file the Articles of Incorporation to officially start a nonprofit in South Carolina.

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Getting Started

To start a domestic nonprofit corporation in South Carolina, you must file the Articles of Incorporation (Nonprofit Corporation – Domestic). If you plan to file for 501(c)(3) status, you also must submit a completed 501(c)(3) Attachment. This guide covers each step you must take to fill out these documents successfully and get on the right track to forming a South Carolina nonprofit. 

Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name
Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent
Step 3: Indicate Your Corporation Type
Step 4: Confirm Any Members
Step 5: List Your Nonprofit’s Principal Office Address
Step 6: Outline the Distribution of Assets Upon Dissolution
Step 7: Complete the 501(c)(3) Attachment
Step 8: List Your Incorporator Information
Step 9: Name Your Initial Board of Directors
Step 10: Choose an Effective Date for Your Filing
Step 11: File Formation Documents

(Check out our other guides for a look at how to start a nonprofit organization or how to file articles of incorporation in other states.)

Step 1: List Your Nonprofit’s Name

The first step to filling out your South Carolina Articles of Incorporation is to list your nonprofit corporation’s name. If you haven’t gone through the process of establishing a name for your organization, here are the requirements for naming a nonprofit in South Carolina:

  • Your nonprofit’s name must be distinguishable from any other name on record within the state of South Carolina, including any reserved names.
  • Your nonprofit’s name can’t imply the organization’s intent or purpose is anything other than what’s stated in the Articles of Incorporation or permitted by Section 33-31-301.

Recommended: For a step-by-step guide to naming your nonprofit corporation in South Carolina, read our guide on How to Name a Nonprofit in South Carolina.

Search the Availability of Your Name

After selecting potential names — ideally, at least four or five — it’s important to search for their availability in your state. You can do this by conducting the four recommended searches outlined below, or use our 501(c)(3) Lookup Table.

South Carolina Business Name Search

To operate in South Carolina, a nonprofit corporation must have a unique name. You can easily check if your chosen name is available by performing a search using the South Carolina business name 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. 

Web and Social Media Search

A strong social media presence will play a key role in expanding your reach to potential donors as well as 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 2: Choose a Registered Agent

registered agent is required to file the Articles of Incorporation in South Carolina. Either a resident or a business entity qualified to do business in this state may fill this role. A registered agent’s responsibilities include accepting and forwarding service of process documents for the corporation as well as serving as a point of contact for the entity.

Requirements for this section include:

  • The name of your registered agent
  • Your registered agent’s street address 
  • Your registered agent’s signature to confirm their consent to the appointment

Recommended: Using an affordable registered agent service offers many benefits. For more information on choosing a registered agent service, read our full guide.

Step 3: Indicate Your Corporation Type

In Article Three, indicate your nonprofit’s corporation type by checking the appropriate box from these options:

  • Public benefit corporation
  • Religious corporation
  • Mutual benefit corporation

Step 4: Confirm Any Members

Confirm whether or not your nonprofit corporation will have members by checking the appropriate box in Article Four.

Step 5: List Your Nonprofit’s Principal Office Address

List the street address of your nonprofit’s principal office, including the city, state, and ZIP code.

Step 6: Outline the Distribution of Assets Upon Dissolution

In Article Six or Seven, you must outline a distribution plan for your nonprofit’s assets upon its dissolution. (Complete just the applicable section based on your corporation type.) 

Distribution of assets upon dissolution must be for approved, tax-exempt purposes only. For more information about the requirements of dissolution and 501(c)(3) status, refer to the sixth section of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS’) suggested language for corporations and associations.

Public Benefit and Religious Corporations:

  • If you plan to file for 501(c)(3) status, complete Section A in Article Six by checking the first box. If desired, you may name the specific 501(c)(3) entity that will receive your nonprofit’s distributed assets in the second part of Section A. 
  • If you don’t plan to file for 501(c)(3) status, complete Section B in Article Six by checking the corresponding box. If desired, you may name the specific public benefit corporation, religious corporation, or 501(c)(3) entity that will receive your distributed assets in the second part of Section B. 

Mutual Benefit Corporations:

Complete either Section A or Section B in Article Seven — whichever applies to your organization.

Step 7: Complete the 501(c)(3) Attachment

In order for your nonprofit to qualify for 501(c)(3) status, you must submit a completed 501(c)(3) Attachment with your South Carolina Articles of Incorporation. Make sure to list this attachment in article eight, which covers optional provisions. 

To complete this attachment, you must: 

  • Choose the appropriate 501(c)(3)-qualifying purpose(s) for forming your organization from these options:
    • Charitable
    • Religious
    • Educational
    • Scientific
    • Literary
    • Testing for public safety
    • Fostering national/international amateur sports competition
    • Preventing cruelty to animals/children
  • Read the guidelines within this document to confirm your nonprofit corporation follows the requirements to obtain 501(c)(3) status in reference to prohibited activities and the distribution of assets upon dissolution.

Step 8: List Your Incorporator Information

An incorporator is any person who participates in the completion and submission of the Articles of Incorporation. You must list the name and business address of each incorporator in this section, and all of them must sign your formation document.

Note: Only one incorporator is required, but you may have more than one.

Step 9: Name Your Initial Board of Directors

In order to qualify for 501(c)(3) status and complete this formation document, your nonprofit must have at least three directors. You must include the name and signature of each initial director in this section.

For a complete guide to forming your nonprofit’s board of directors, read our How to Develop a Board of Directors for a Nonprofit in South Carolina article.

Step 10: Choose an Effective Date for Your Filing

The effective date of your Articles of Incorporation will be the date you file them unless you list a different date in this section. Leave this section blank if you want your formation documents to take effect upon filing.

Step 11: File Formation Documents

You can file your South Carolina Articles of Incorporation and optional 501(c)(3) Attachment in two ways: online or by mail.

File the South Carolina Articles of Incorporation

OPTION 1: File Online With the South Carolina Business Entities Online Portal

File Online

– OR –

OPTION 2: File by Mail

Download Form

Fee: $25

Mailing Address:
Secretary of State, ATTN: Corporate Filings 
1205 Pendleton St., Suite 525 
Columbia, SC 29201

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I file the Articles of Incorporation in South Carolina?

You can file the Articles of Incorporation with the South Carolina Secretary of State by mail or online

How much does it cost to start a nonprofit in South Carolina?

Filing the Articles of Incorporation in South Carolina costs $25.

How do I form a 501(c)(3) in South Carolina?

To start a 501(c)(3) organization in South Carolina, you must file the Articles of Incorporation (Nonprofit Corporation – Domestic) with the South Carolina Secretary of State following these IRS guidelines

Once the state of South Carolina processes your formation documents, you may then complete the application process for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

How do I find nonprofits in South Carolina?

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

South Carolina Nonprofit Quick Links

IRS: Information for Charities and Nonprofits
IRS: Charity – Required Provisions for Organizing Documents
IRS: Form 990 Series for Tax-Exempt Organizations
IRS: Applying for Tax-Exempt Status
IRS: 501(c)(3) Compliance Guide
US Small Business Administration: Apply for Licenses and Permits
South Carolina Secretary of State: Business Filings
South Carolina Secretary of State: Guidance for Charities
South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce
South Carolina 501(c)(3) Lookup Table

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