The first step in forming a 501(c)(3) charity in California is to file your Articles of Incorporation. This tutorial will help you through the seven procedures necessary to submit the Articles of Incorporation in California and formally create a charity.

Starting Over

You must submit the state’s Articles of Incorporation of a Nonprofit Public Benefit Company to form a domestic nonprofit corporation in California. This tutorial covers every step you need to take to properly complete this paperwork and get started on the path to founding a California charity.

Optional: Include the following information if you wish to include the state’s Mail Submission Cover Sheet with your Articles of Incorporation:

Name and email address of a contact person
Your company’s name, phone number (if relevant), and any remarks
Your mailing address
Step 1: Provide the name of your nonprofit. Step 2: Provide the address of your nonprofit (es)
Step 3: Select an Agent for Process Service
Step 4: Describe the Purpose of Your Nonprofit Step 5: Include Any Additional Statements
Step 6: List Your Incorporator Details
Step 7: Documents for Formation

Step 1: List the Name of Your Nonprofit

The first step in completing the California Articles of Incorporation is to provide the name of your organisation in article one of the document. If you haven’t yet decided on a name for your charity, these are the prerequisites for naming a nonprofit in California:

The name of your charity must be distinct from any other name on record in the state of California, including any reserved names.
The words “corporation,” “business,” “incorporated,” “limited,” or an abbreviation of any of these phrases must appear in the name of your nonprofit.
Any terms associated to the United States Olympic Committee, such as “Olympic,” “Olympiad,” or “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” cannot be used in the name of your organisation.
Your nonprofit’s name cannot contain the terms “university,” “bank,” “credit union,” or “trust” as a distinct word to indicate that the organisation is involved in banking or trust.
Your nonprofit’s name must not include any phrases that might be deemed objectionable.

Look for the Availability of Your Name
Following the selection of prospective names β€” preferably, at least four or five β€” it’s essential to check their availability in your state. You may do this by completing the four suggested searches listed below.

California Business Lookup
A nonprofit company must have a distinct name in order to function in California. You may quickly verify whether your desired name is available by utilising the California Business Search tool.

Domain Name Lookup
We highly advise you to additionally check to see whether your company name is accessible as a web domain (URL). Even if you don’t intend to construct a company website right away, you should purchase the domain name to prevent others from gaining it. It’s a completely free search.

Federal Trademark Lookup
Using the federal Trademark Electronic Search System, you may quickly see whether your preferred charity name has already been trademarked. Even if you do not intend to create your charity right immediately, this is essential.

You may register for a trademark for your organisation after you have confirmed that no one else has previously trademarked your selected name.

Search the Web and Social Media
A good social media presence can help you reach out to prospective funders as well as customers who will employ your services. As a result, before registering your preferred name, check the web and prominent social media platforms for it to confirm it is accessible on all platforms where you want to advertise your group.

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Step 2: Provide the Address of Your Nonprofit (es)

When providing your organization’s street address in article 2a, please adhere to the following requirements:

Enter a street name and number, as well as your city, state, and ZIP code.
The address must be tangible in nature.
A P.O. Box address, a “in care of” address, or a shortened city name are not permitted.
If necessary, you may subsequently enter a postal address in item 2b. This is necessary if you are unable to receive mail at the street address stated in article 2a or if the postal address of your organisation changes from its street address.

Step 3: Select an Agent for Process Service

In California, the Articles of Incorporation must be filed with an Agent for Service of Process. This position may be filled by either an individual agent or a registered corporate agent. An agent for service of process’s duties include receiving and transmitting service of process paperwork for the company as well as acting as the organization’s point of contact.

Individual Agent β€” This is a California citizen having a physical street address in the state. You may choose an officer or director as your agent for process service. The following are the filing requirements for this sort of agent:

A full street address, including street name and number, city, and ZIP code.
A P.O. Box address, a “in care of” address, or an abbreviated city name are not permitted in this address.
Registered Corporate Agent – A registered corporate agent is one who has been approved by the California Secretary of State. The following are the filing requirements for this sort of agent:

The California Secretary of State must have a valid agent registration certificate on file for your registered corporate agent.
Before you designate someone as your agent for service of process, you must get prior permission from your registered corporate agent.
Your registered corporate agent must be permitted to do business in California and be in good standing on the California Secretary of State’s records.
The name you enter for the registered corporate agent must be registered with the California Secretary of State.
A nonprofit company cannot act as its own agent.
Please keep in mind that you may provide information for either an individual agent or a registered corporate agent, but not both.

Step 4: Describe the Purpose of Your Nonprofit

In article 4a, check the relevant box to indicate whether you want to create your nonprofit company for “public” or “charitable” reasons. If you choose “public” or plan to seek for 501(c)(3) status, you must specify a purpose in article 4b.

If you tick the “charitable” purposes box, it is optional to provide a particular purpose in article 4b.

To be qualified for 501(c)(3) status, your organization’s mission must incorporate one or more of the following characteristics:

Charitable\sReligious\sEducational\sScientific\sLiterary
Public safety testing
promoting amateur sports competition on a national and worldwide scale
Preventing animal/child cruelty

Step 5: Include Any Other Statements

You must incorporate certain extra declarations in your Articles of Incorporation to qualify for 501(c)(3) status. These pertain to the board of directors of your organisation and the allocation of assets following dissolution.

Here is what you need to know in order to properly share this information:

Establish Your Board of Directors
California law does not require you to designate your board of directors. To qualify for 501(c)(3) status, however, you must have a minimum of three board directors. If you want to list more than three, you must include that information on a separate page. Follow these guidelines while creating your nonprofit’s inaugural board of directors:

Prefixes such as “Mr.” or “Ms.” should be avoided.
Use lineage titles if relevant.
If appropriate, use titles such as “M.D.” or “Ph.D.”

Outline the Asset Distribution Upon Dissolution
Describe how the assets of the nonprofit company will be allocated if it is dissolved. Use an attachment if more space is required.

To qualify for 501(c)(3) status, your organisation must only disperse its assets to recognised, tax-exempt causes upon dissolution. Refer to the sixth section of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS’) proposed wording for corporations and organisations for further information on the requirements of dissolution and 501(c)(3) status.

Step 6: List Your Incorporator Details

Each incorporator must sign the Articles of Incorporation and indicate their postal address. The following are the requirements for these signatures:

If you need extra room for incorporator signatures, use just one side of a regular, letter-sized sheet of paper and clearly indicate it as an attachment to the formation paperwork. Attach this document to your Articles of Incorporation.
Because California will not process several forms with separate incorporator signatures, utilise just one form for your Articles of Incorporation.
Include no information about the person(s) signing.

Step 7: Documents for Formation

In California, you may submit your nonprofit Articles of Incorporation online, via mail, or in person.

Please keep in mind that California has eliminated nonprofit formation costs from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023.

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