How to Start a Nonprofit in Colorado


Congratulations! You’ve decided to start a nonprofit and now it’s time to jump in. Just follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to making the world a better place:

1. Name your Nonprofit

  • Name your nonprofit
  • Your nonprofit’s name must be unique and not be the same as other nonprofits. You cannot use a name that is also used by a for-profit business or corporation, a government entity, or an individual person.
  • Your nonprofit’s name cannot: be offensive, misleading, or deceptive; include words such as “protection association” or “insurance company” in its title; or be an abbreviation of any word unless that abbreviation represents the full name of your organization (e.g., “American Red Cross”).

2. File a Proposed Name Availability Form

Once you’ve settled on a name, it’s time to file a proposed name availability form with the secretary of state. You must do this before you can use the name for your nonprofit organization, so don’t wait until after you’ve filed your articles of incorporation or accepted donations from people who want to give their money to something called “Super Friends.”

The form requires providing information about yourself and whether or not anyone else has registered a similar-sounding name with the state. It also asks whether or not there are any trade names that could cause confusion between your organization and another business entity in Colorado. You’ll have to pay a fee for filing this form ($50), but that’s just one more step toward starting up!

3. Appoint a Registered Agent

It’s important to have a registered agent in Colorado. A registered agent is an individual or company authorized to accept the service of process for the corporation. The person who serves as your registered agent must be available during business hours for this purpose and must either be at least 18 years old or have been appointed by another adult who meets these requirements.

The main reason you need a registered agent is so you can receive legal notices from the state of Colorado, including any lawsuits filed against your nonprofit corporation. Having a valid address where all this information can be sent is crucial in keeping tabs on what’s going on with your organization. It also ensures that if someone files suit against your non-profit, they’ll know exactly where to find it!

When choosing a registered agent firm, look for one that offers 24/7 access and will accept mail for free (or at least very low cost). Most companies charge between $50-$100 per year for their services; however, some may charge more depending on their location.

4. Create the Articles of Incorporation

Now that you have a name and a mission, it is time to file the first form of your nonprofit organization: the articles of incorporation. Articles of incorporation are used by many nonprofits when they first form and have not yet received their federal tax-exempt status. They are also used by for-profit companies as well as incorporated nonprofits, although no other type of organization can file an article of incorporation.

Each state has different requirements for filing articles, which means that there are slight differences between Colorado’s requirements and those in other states. In general, though, articles must include certain pieces of information:

  • The name of your organization
  • Your purpose (does not need to be detailed)
  • Your address (it’s okay if this changes over time)

5. Draft your Bylaws, Resolutions, and Policies

Bylaws, resolutions, and policies are the foundation of your nonprofit organization. These documents help you define who’s in charge of what, how conflicts will be resolved, and what the organization’s mission is.

We recommend that you consult professionals when drafting these documents to ensure that they’re properly implemented. If you don’t have access, look for examples online or borrow from other organizations. Trademark Avenue also provides a free consultation with regard to these matters.

6. Hold the First Board Meeting

The first board meeting is where you’ll set the direction and focus of your nonprofit. You’ll elect officers (the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer), establish committees to take on specific tasks such as fundraising and events, develop a mission statement that defines what your organization will do in order to achieve its goals, and create bylaws. You’ll also define roles and responsibilities for board members at this meeting. Finally, you’ll decide on an annual budget based on projected income sources and expenses so that there are no surprises later on down the road when it comes time to pay bills or make payroll decisions.

7. Obtain EIN Number

An EIN is a tax identification number. You will need an EIN to open a bank account and pay your employees—even if you use volunteers.

8. Apply for Tax-exempt Status

If you haven’t already, it’s time to apply for tax-exempt status. There is tons of information available online, but if you have any questions about this process or anything else related to starting a nonprofit in Colorado, we’re happy to help.

When you’re ready to file your Form 1023, make sure you have a copy of your articles of incorporation and bylaws (the governing documents for your organization), as well as at least one copy of each of your policies and resolutions (such as those concerning fundraising). You’ll also need copies of all board meeting minutes from the past three years that show how decisions were made regarding these issues.


Congratulations! You are now ready to create your nonprofit. If you have any questions, Trademark Avenue is available for help around the clock.

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