How to Start a
Nonprofit in Illinois

An Illinois nonprofit corporation is a business formed for a purpose other than profit, typically for a public good rather than a corporate interest. Illinois nonprofit corporations are formed by filing Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the Illinois Secretary of State. Many nonprofit organizations qualify for tax-exempt status, which requires a separate application with the IRS.

The easiest way to form your Illinois nonprofit is to hire us do it for you. But, if you choose to register your business yourself, follow these 6 steps:

1. Get an Illinois Registered Agent
2. Choose a Name for Your Illinois Nonprofit
3. File Illinois Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation
4. Adopt Corporate Bylaws
5. Obtain an EIN
6. Apply for Nonprofit Status with the IRS
7. File a BOI Report


1. Get an Illinois Registered Agent

You’re required to have an Illinois Registered Agent when you form a nonprofit corporation in Illinois. This person or entity must be available during normal business hours, and be physically located in Illinois. You can ask a friend or family member who lives in Illinois to be your registered agent. But unless this person is home eight hours a day / five days a week, it’s not a great idea.

Many people choose to go with a registered agent service, like us, because being here for you is our job.

Get Registered Agent Service

2. Choose A Name for Your Illinois Nonprofit

Choosing a name can be simple, but there are important restrictions to be aware of before you file your paperwork with the state.

  • Your name must contain: “Corporation,” “Company,” “Incorporated,” “Limited,” “Corp.,” “Co.,” “Inc.,” or “Ltd.”
  • Your name cannot contain words that might associate it with any political party, like “Republican,” “Democrat,” or “Democratic.”
  • If your name implies that your corporation has been organized for a purpose other than what’s acceptable by the state, it must end with the letters “NFP.”
  • Your name cannot be too similar to the name of any existing corporation or LLC (foreign or domestic).

It’s a good idea to type your name into the Illinois business database to make sure it’s not already taken, or too similar to an existing entity.

3. File Illinois Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation

Filing Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation will officially register your nonprofit with the state. You’ll have to complete 6 sections:

  • Corporate Name

Here you’ll simply put the name of your corporation.

  • Registered Agent and Office

You’ll need to include the name of your registered agent, as well as your registered agent’s address in Illinois. (Note that this must be a physical address, not a P.O. Box.)

  • Directors

Illinois requires all nonprofits to include the names and addresses of at least three directors, and no more than seven. Your directors do not have to be members of your corporation, or even residents of Illinois. But they will comprise your board of directors, which oversees your organization.

  • Purpose

Nonprofits must exist to serve a community good, rather than the organization itself. This typically refers to charities, or educational or religious institutions. Ultimately, the purpose of an Illinois nonprofit must be covered by 805 ILCS 105/103.05.

  • Other Provisions

If you intend to apply for tax-exempt status through the IRS, you should include a statement to that effect here. In some cases, you’ll need to specify your company’s financial plans and distributions (in case of dissolution, for example). What you include should coincide with the specifications of the IRS Code.

Note that if you include additional provisions, you’ll have to do so in a separate document and must file your articles via mail (not online).

  • Incorporator(s)

This is simply the person who signs and files these articles on behalf of your nonprofit. Your incorporator does not need to be someone within your company, or someone who sits on your board of directors.

How do I submit my nonprofit articles of incorporation?

If you don’t intend to apply for federal nonprofit status with the IRS, you may register your Illinois nonprofit online. Otherwise, you’ll have to submit your paperwork via mail.

Secretary of State
Department of Business Services
501 S. Second St., Rm. 350
Springfield, IL 62756

How much does it cost to file nonprofit articles of incorporation?

The state charges a $50 fee for filing nonprofit articles. For 24-hour expedited service, you’ll have to pay an additional $25 fee.

Note: expedited filings must be made in person.

4. Adopt Corporate Bylaws

All nonprofit corporations formed in Illinois are required to adopt corporate bylaws during their first organizational meeting after incorporation (805 ILCS 105/102.25). Bylaws are like rules for your company. They govern everything from your company’s organizational structure to the way it handles financial allocations.

When you form your company with Illinois Registered Office, we’ll give you a free template you can use to draft your bylaws.

5. Obtain an EIN

Getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS is required for most businesses that register with the state. This is because you won’t be able to open a bank account for your business without one.

You can apply for an EIN through the IRS directly, or we can do it for you when we form your business (just click the box for “Tax ID” at checkout).

6. Apply for Nonprofit Status with the IRS

Tax-exempt status doesn’t happen automatically—it’s something you have to apply for through the IRS after forming your nonprofit. Most nonprofit corporations in the U.S. qualify for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, but you’ll need to make sure your company fits the specific qualifications for this status before you apply. (Read more about the different tax-exempt statuses below.)

In most cases, you’ll need to submit an Application for Recognition of Exemption to the IRS, along with any required supporting materials. (This includes any “other provisions” you may have submitted with your Articles of Incorporation.)

7. File a BOI Report

As of January 1, 2024, a Beneficial Ownership Information report (BOI) is a requirement mandated by the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA). During the 2024 calendar year, the majority of corporations registered in the U.S., including many nonprofits, must file a BOI report within 90 days of formation, and from January 1, 2025 on they’ll have 30 days. (Corporations formed before 2024 have until January 1, 2025 to file.) This report is free and must be completed online through the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Any updates to your BOI must also be made within 30 days of the relevant changes. Your BOI report will NOT be made public.

When completing your report, you must provide basic information about your nonprofit, like its legal name (along with any DBA names), jurisdiction of formation, and tax ID. You must also provide the following information for your beneficial owner and company applicant:

  • Full legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Residential address
  • Valid photo ID

A “beneficial owner” is anyone who has a substantial amount of control over your nonprofit. This could include your CEO or board members. A “company applicant” is the person who formed your company or directed it to be formed (if different). Note that any company formed before 2024 does NOT need to list a company applicant.

It’s a lot, right? The good news is we can file your BOI report for you for only $9.

Illinois Nonprofit Package: $203

365 Days of Illinois Registered Agent Service

Free Bylaws, Shareholder Certificates, Initial Resolutions & More

Option to Add Tax-Exempt Language to Your Articles of Incorporation

Free Use of Our Address on Formation Documents

Online Account to Monitor, Track, and Receive Important Business Documents

Real-Time Corporation Annual Report Reminders

Instant Document Delivery System

Lifetime Client Support

PLUS: If you want to expedite your filing, you can only do so in person. That’s not a problem if you form your business with us. Our building is right down the street from the Secretary of State office in Springfield, and we offer free courier service.

FAQ: Illinois Nonprofit

What is a 501(c)(3)?

Generally, the term 501(c)(3) is used to refer to a nonprofit organization. But technically 501(c)(3) is a section of the Internal Revenue Code that refers to just one type of tax-exempt status. It happens to be the most popular, but not all tax-exempt entities in the U.S. are 501(c)(3)s. Here’s a brief overview of common tax-exempt statuses:

  • 501(c)(3)

This category is generally referred to as Charitable Organizations. This refers to entities whose purpose is to serve a public good, which can be: educational, literary, religious, scientific, focused on public safety, or aimed at cruelty prevention.

  • 501(c)(4)

Known as Social Welfare Organizations, these entities exist to benefit a group of people, such as a homeowners’ association or a volunteer fire department.

  • 501(c)(5)

These Labor and Agricultural Organizations include labor and agricultural groups, like labor unions.

  • 501(c)(6)

This status is used for Business Leagues, like chambers of commerce and real estate boards—even “professional football leagues,” including the NFL. (Go Bears.)

  • 501(c)(7)

These entities are categorized as Social Clubs. They include organizations like fraternities, sororities and country clubs.

This is not an exhaustive list of federal tax-exempt statuses. If you still have questions about your organization and what it might qualify for, it might be a good idea to consult an accountant or a tax attorney.

How do I get tax-exempt status in Illinois?

If your organization qualifies for federal tax-exempt status, you’ll be exempt from paying Illinois state income tax. Your organization might also qualify as exempt from paying state sales tax, in which case you would need to submit an Application for Sales Tax Exemption to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

In general, qualifying organizations must have been formed for a charitable, religious, or educational purpose, or to assist senior citizens. To see if your organization qualifies for a sales tax exemption in Illinois, you can contact the Illinois Department of Revenue:

By Telephone:

(217) 782-8881

By Email:

By Mail:

Exemption Section MC 3-520
Illinois Department of Revenue
101 West Jefferson St.
Springfield, IL 62702

What types of companies can register as nonprofits in Illinois?

Illinois’s state statutes list 35 categories that could qualify an entity for nonprofit status (see: 805 ILCS 105/103.05). They range from the very broad (“charitable”) to the very specific (“ownership and operation of a hemophilia program”).

You might want to check the statute yourself to make sure your organization qualifies, or contact the state directly. Otherwise, here are some of the broader categories:

  • Charitable
  • Educational
  • Patriotic
  • Political
  • Religious
  • Social
  • Literary
  • Athletic
  • Scientific
  • Agricultural