Washington State Nonprofit Corporation

5 Steps to start a Washington Non-profit Corporation

If you’re starting a nonprofit in the great state of Washington, you have a mission you’re passionate about. Which means you’ve got bigger fish to fry than filing your Washington nonprofit paperwork. Let us do the paperwork, so you can stay focused on making your vision a reality. Get our local, expert, fast and affordable nonprofit incorporation service for a mere $215.

If you’d prefer a more hands-on approach, follow these steps to form your WA nonprofit.

5 steps to forming a nonprofit in WA

  1. File Articles of Incorporation 

    You form a Washington nonprofit corporation by filing Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State. You have two options for submitting this paperwork: by mail, or online at the Secretary of State website. The base filing fee is $30, and it’s $50 if you file online or $80 if you expedite a paper form. We recommend using the online wizard—it walks you through the process, and you’ll get an email confirmation usually within a couple days.

  2. Choose a registered agent 

    One of the sections to fill out in your WA nonprofit Articles of Incorporation is the name and addresses of your Washington State registered agent. And you’ll need to get your registered agent’s signed consent. Every corporation in Washington, whether non-profit or for-profit, must have a registered agent. While acceptable for you or another individual involved in your nonprofit to act as a registered agent, this means being available during business hours and receiving service of process at your business address.Hiring a WA registered agent takes this responsibility off your plate by providing you an office devoted to receiving legal notices and documents and forwarding them to you. A reliable registered agent service will provide this service in real time and keep track of your compliance requirements, freeing you up to focus on your Washington nonprofit’s mission. And you’ll immediately find the form you need with our name and address already filled out in your online account.

  3. Input additional information 

    The initial Washington Non-profit corporation filing must consist of the following:

    • Name of the non-profit corporation (see below).
    • Effective date. If you want your incorporation to go into effect immediately, leave this blank. Otherwise, you can choose a day 90 days in the future.
    • Length of Existence.
    • Purpose (see below).
    • What the corporation will do with the assets it acquires upon dissolution (see below).
    • Name and address of each director.
    • The address and name of the Washington registered agent.
    • Signature, name, and address of the incorporator. The incorporator is basically whoever is forming the company and signing the document.
  4. Wait for processing and UBI number 

    If you file by mail and choose not to expedite your filing, it may be 1-2 months before you receive confirmation from the state that your nonprofit is formed. If you expedite, you’ll have a UBI number and confirmation in your inbox in 3 days or less. If your organization will be registering as a charity, we recommend filing the Washington charitable solicitations registration form after you get a UBI number and your articles have been accepted. Your UBI number is your master id number for your company and is used across agencies, including the WA Department of Revenue.

  5. Register as a Charity (if needed) 

    If you’re going to raise funds in Washington State, you’ll need to register with the Washington Charities program of the Washington Secretary of State. This registration costs $20 and can also be expedited with the state for another $20. If fundraising will not be part of your Washington nonprofit’s activities, you can skip this step. You might also want to look into Washington’s social purpose LLC or corporation, as an alternate entity type for your business.

Notes for Forming Your Washington Nonprofit

Several sections of the Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation may present a challenge or need additional information. You’ll find that below:

Nonprofit Name. Chapter 24.03 RCW has specific requirements for the name of your nonprofit. The name you choose must be distinguishable from:

  • Any other WA state company registered with the state. You can do a business name search on the SOS site, or to be more certain, call 360-725-0377.
  • Other Washington entity types. A nonprofit corporation in Washington cannot contain an incorporated ending such as Corporation, Company, Incorporated, and especially not an ending like LLC, or Limited Company. The common legal identifier endings used for Washington nonprofit corporations are endings like: a nonprofit corporation, foundation, fund, committee, society, services, association, league, or club.

Nonprofit Purpose and Asset Distribution. You will have to list a specific charitable purpose to get tax exempt status with the IRS. There is also specific language to use to provide for the distribution of your assets if/when your corporation dissolves.

Washington Nonprofit Requirements

Nonprofit corporations in Washington State are governed by Chapter 24.03 RCW of the Washington Nonprofit Corporation Act.

  • Annual reports
    Nonprofits in Washington don’t have to file initial reports. You are required to file an annual report, however, due on the last day of the anniversary month your nonprofit was formed. If you initially formed your company online, you can use the email you submitted in the filing wizard to begin your annual report. Otherwise, you can download and mail the PDF form, called a Nonprofit Corporation Annual Report. The fee is $10, or with expediting, $60.
  • Taxes
    From a tax standpoint, Washington State doesn’t see a nonprofit much differently than a for-profit corporation. If you will do any taxable activities in Washington, you must register with the Department of Revenue. There are limited tax exemptions for activities and donations related to fundraising, including B & O and retail sales tax, but only for certain organizations. See our guide to Washington business taxes to learn more.
  • Master Business License Application
    If your nonprofit organization has a gross income of more than $12,000 annually or conducts activities beyond fundraising alone, you must complete a Master Business License Application. If you hire us to incorporate your organization, you can also add our master business license service, and we’ll file it for you.

If filling paperwork with government agencies isn’t high on your list of favorite things, Washington Registered Agent can incorporate your nonprofit for you. In addition to forming your nonprofit with the state, our incorporation service also includes reliable, local registered agent service. If you’d rather do the filing yourself, hire  Washington Registered Agent LLC to act as the registered agent for your nonprofit corporation, and you will find both the Articles of Incorporation and the charity registration forms within your online account immediately. We’ll also keep track of, and even file, your annual reports for you.