How to Start a Nonprofit in South Dakota

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

Step 1: Name Your South 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 South Dakota Is Easy

South Dakota boasts a total of 7,016 different nonprofit organizations. These organizations range from educational institutions to foundations to religious organizations, and there is no shortage of nonprofit success stories to be found in the Mount Rushmore State. 

The University of South Dakota Foundation, the Marshall County Healthcare Center Avera, and St. Francis Indian School are just a few of the more well-known nonprofits that call South Dakota home. Combined, South Dakota nonprofits generate an average of $9 billion in revenue each year, employ 124,451 people, and own assets totaling $20 billion in value. 

Religious organizations make up the largest category of South Dakota nonprofits, accounting for 1,152 of the state’s 7,016 nonprofit organizations. Educational institutions are the second-largest with 697 organizations, and business and community development organizations are a close third with 643 organizations. 

In terms of revenue, health organizations are the largest nonprofit category in South Dakota, bringing in a combined annual average of over $2.5 billion. Religious organizations generate the second-most revenue with more than $1.9 billion, and human service organizations generate the third-most with over $1.4 billion. 

Sioux Falls is the most popular South Dakota city for nonprofit organizations, and there are 1,802 organizations located in the city. However, you can find successful nonprofits spread all across the state of South Dakota. 

These statistics show that it is certainly possible to build a thriving nonprofit company in South Dakota — and forming a nonprofit company in South Dakota is a lot easier than you might think. 

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

One of the first (and most important) steps when starting a nonprofit in South Dakota is choosing a unique and appealing name for your company. The name that you choose will be a key part of the company’s branding and should give potential members/donors an idea of your company’s purpose. 

For an in-depth guide to naming your non-profit company, be sure to check out our How to Name a Nonprofit in South Dakota guide. 

South Dakota Business Name Requirements 

South Dakota requires that new companies must choose a business name that is unique and distinguishable from the name of any other company located in the state. Nonprofit companies in South Dakota are also required to avoid choosing a name that implies a purpose for the organization that is different from the purpose stated in its articles of incorporation. 

Along with choosing an appealing and marketable name, it’s also essential to choose a name that complies with all South Dakota business name requirements. For a complete list of rules on naming a South Dakota-based organization, check out the South Dakota Legislature’s official guidelines

Business Name Searches 

To make sure there isn’t already another company in South Dakota using the business name you are considering, you can conduct a Business Information Search on the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website.

URL Availability

Along with ensuring that the name itself is available, we also recommend doing a domain search to confirm that the name is available as a web domain. Purchasing your web domain ahead of time will be important if you plan to create a website for your nonprofit company.

After choosing a name and web domain for your company, you will need to file your new company with the state of South Dakota. The easiest and most reliable way to do this is to work with an experienced business formation service such as Northwest: 

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in South Dakota

Nonprofit organizations in South Dakota must nominate a registered agent.

registered agent is an individual or business entity that serves as your company’s point of contact with the state of South Dakota. They will be responsible for receiving and forwarding important legal documents from the state on behalf of your company.  

You are free to choose anyone who is a resident of South Dakota to act as your company’s registered agent, including an employee of your company or even yourself. Business entities that are authorized to operate in South Dakota can act as registered agents as well. This makes it possible to hire a registered agent service as registered agent for your nonprofit, which is a convenient option for many business owners.

If you would like to learn more about what registered agents do and how to select the right one for your nonprofit company, feel free to check out our complete guide on how to choose a registered agent for your South Dakota 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 South 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.

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

Step 4: Adopt Bylaws & Conflict of Interest Policy

Before your South Dakota nonprofit is eligible to apply for 501c3 status with the IRS, you will first be required to adopt the following two documents: 

Bylaws: Bylaws are the rules that outline your nonprofit company’s operating procedures, including things such as the roles and terms of officers and board members, meeting guidelines, and board structure. 

Conflict of Interest Policy: A conflict of interest policy is a set of rules that are designed to ensure that any action taken by the company’s board of directors/officers is intended to benefit the nonprofit rather than individual members.  

TIP: Your nonprofit’s bylaws, as well as its conflict of interest policy, should be adopted during the company’s first organizational meeting — the same meeting where you will officially appoint officers and directors.

Step 5: File the South Dakota Articles of Incorporation

To register your nonprofit, you will need to file Articles of Incorporation – Domestic Nonprofit Corporation with the State of South Dakota. 

You must submit your Articles of Incorporation via mail as there is currently no option to file online. 

Article I: Entity Name

Enter the Name you selected in Step 1.

Article IA: Purpose

Describe your nonprofit organization’s purpose.

In order to be eligible for 501c3 status, your organization’s purpose must be limited to one or more of the following:

  • Charitable
  • Religious
  • Educational
  • Scientific
  • Literary
  • Testing for public safety
  • Fostering national/international amateur sports competition
  • Preventing cruelty to animals/children

Article II: Period of Existence

The majority of organizations have no end date in mind and will therefore be considered perpetual. Only check the second box and provide a date if your nonprofit should cease to exist on a specific date.

Article III: Membership

Mark the appropriate box to indicate on whether or not your nonprofit corporation will have members.

Article IV: Principal Office

List the complete address for your nonprofit’s principal office.

Article V: Registered Agent and Registered Office

Your nonprofit’s registered agent can be any entity that is registered to do business in South Dakota or any person who is a resident of the state. Your organization cannot act as its own registered agent.

Any person you designate as the registered agent must have already consented to act as the registered agent for your organization. You don’t have to include proof of this consent with your articles of incorporation.

Provide details regarding the registered agent you selected in Step 2.

Article VI: Incorporator(s)

An incorporator is a person who completes, signs, and submits the articles of incorporation. This person does not need to be a part of your organization. This can be you or a lawyer helping you with the process of formation. Provide the name and street address of each incorporator.

Article VII: Directors

You will need to name at least 3 directors and you must provide a street address for each director.

Enter the information of the directors selected in Step 3.

Article VIII: Classification of Members

If your nonprofit will have different classifications of members, include that information here.

Article IX: Election of Directors

If your nonprofit’s directors will not be elected or appointed by its members, provide more information about how they will be elected or appointed.

Article X: Supplemental Provisions/ Information

Use this section of the articles of incorporation to formally state what the assets of your nonprofit will be used for, and what will happen to the assets if your nonprofit is dissolved.

To be eligible for 501c3 status, you must convince the IRS that the organization’s assets will always only be used for the purposes approved under 501c3 rules. To this end you must include provisions ensuring that in the event your organization is dissolved, the assets of the organization will be used towards tax exempt purposes.

Section 5 of this sample document provides an example of these provisions required for 501c3 eligibility.


When you sign and date the form you are affirming everything written in the form. You are also affirming that the registered agent listed has already consented to be the registered agent for this nonprofit organization.

Submit 2 copies of the Articles of Incorporation (original plus a copy) to:

Secretary of State Office
500 E Capitol Ave
Pierre, SD 57501

Information: (605) 773-4845
Web Site:

The $30 filing fee may be paid by personal checks payable to Secretary of State


Q. How long does it take to process the Articles of Incorporation?

A. It typically takes 3-7 business days to process Articles of Incorporation.

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

Step 6: Get an EIN

The next step to forming your South Dakota nonprofit is acquiring an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, for the company. 

An EIN is a nine-digit number that will be used to identify your company. You can imagine an EIN as a sort of Social Security number that is intended for business entities rather than individual people. 

Organizations without an EIN are unable to file federal and state taxes, unable to open a business bank account, and unable to hire employees. Therefore, getting an EIN is a necessary step for any nonprofit company. 

You can get a free EIN from the IRS after forming your company. This can be online or by mail. To learn more about the process of requesting an EIN for your South Dakota nonprofit, check out our EIN Lookup page. 

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