Starting a Nonprofit

3. Incorporate

Nonprofit corporations are formed in Pennsylvania by filing Articles of Incorporation with the Pennsylvania Department of State. An organization’s Articles of Incorporation is its birth certificate, with the organization’s date of incorporation – or “birth date” – stamped in the upper righthand corner.

Filing the Articles of Incorporation with the Pennsylvania Department of State can be done entirely online or in person in Harrisburg. If you choose to file in person, you must complete and submit DSCB Form 15-5306 along with a docketing statement. If you file online, there’s an online process that generally tracks the form and docketing statement and you can upload an attachment. To file online, visit, create an account, and follow the steps to complete the Articles of Incorporation for a nonprofit organization. The filing fee for both in person and online filings is $125. Once filed, it can take over a month to get the official filed date-stamped copy of the filing back from the Department of State, but same-day filing is available for an additional $100 fee. If you are submitting the filing in person, and want the filing expedited, include a completed copy of DSCB Form 15-153(a)(15). If you are submitting the filing online, simply select the expedited service at the end of the online form. Expedited filings have to be made before 10:00 a.m. for same-day service. If you need faster turnaround times, 1-hour and 3-hour delivery times are also available, but the Department of State charges even more for these services.

Your organization will be officially incorporated when it receives the official filed date-stamped copy back from the Pennsylvania Department of State.

If you just complete and file the Department of State forms, without including any additional language, you would be missing out on some important details and could make some costly mistakes. If you plan on applying for 501(c)(3) status for your organization, you’ll want to include an Attachment to the Articles of Incorporation with the incorporation filing to make sure you have all of the right IRS language in your organization’s Articles of Incorporation. You may also want to take steps to protect the stability of the organization and your role as a founder (see note about preventing takeovers under Step #2 above), and you should always, always, always talk through and review your plans and draft documents with legal counsel before filing.

Once your organization is incorporated, you will need to check to make sure that the Pennsylvania Department of State correctly entered your organization’s information on its website database. Search here for your organization to make sure that your organization is listed correctly: