Starting a Nonprofit Organization in Wisconsin

Start nonprofit organization in Wisconsin

Information to Start a Incorporated Nonprofit Organization in Wisconsin. To start Unincorporated Nonprofit Organization read: Start an Unincorporated Nonprofit Organization

You can also consider downloadingNonprofits for Dummies which explains how to start and run a nonprofit organization in Wisconsin.

Starting a nonprofit organization in Wisconsin is governed by chapter 181 of Wisconsin Laws titled “non-stock corporation act” or “Wisconsin Nonprofit corporation act”.

Purpose for which the nonprofit organization may be started
– A nonprofit organization may be started under the provisions of this act, as long as it is consistent with the laws.


Eligibility for starting a nonprofit organization in Wisconsin

1) Incorporator – one or more person can act as the incorporator of the nonprofit organization for delivering the articles of incorporation with the secretary of state. Organizations cannot be incorporators in Wisconsin.

2) Registered agent – A resident of Wisconsin (with street address of state) can act as the registered agent of the nonprofit organization. The registered agent duty is to receive all notices and demands on behalf of the organization. This address is also constitutes the ‘registered office’ address of the organization. The organization can alternatively employ the services of a ‘commercial registered agent’ if it does not have a valid street address of Wisconsin.

3) Registered office address - The registered office address need not be the same as the address of the principal place of business for the organization.The principal place of business may be situated outside Wisconsin.

4) Minimum number of directors – The minimum number of directors for a Wisconsin NPO is three (3). Directors may not be residents of Wisconsin.

Steps Involved in starting a nonprofit organization in Wisconsin

Step1) Choosing a name for the nonprofit organization

Section 401, article 4 of this chapter prescribes the following guidelines for naming a Wisconsin nonprofit organization –

(1) The name MUST contain the suffix “corporation”, “incorporated”, “company” or “limited” or the abbreviation “corp.”, “inc.”, “co.” or “ltd.” or words or abbreviations of like import in another language.

(2) The name should not indicate a purpose different from the purpose for which the nonprofit organization is being setup.

(3) The name of the organization should be distinguishable from any other organization on records of the secretary of state.

Additional recommended read: Naming a nonprofit – tips and rules. (opens in a new window)

Step 2) Drafting the Articles of incorporation

An article of incorporation is the primary organizing document for setting up a nonprofit organizations. The article provides information about the constitution and other facts about the existence of the organization.

Chapter 181.0202 of the code of Wisconsin prescribes that, the article of Incorporation of a nonprofit organization MUST include :

(a) A statement that the organization is incorporated under chapter 181 of Wisconsin code titled “non-stock organization act”.

(b) A corporate name for the organization that meets the requirements specified above.

(c) The ‘principal office’ mailing address of the organization.

(d) The ‘registered office’ street address.

(e) The name of the registered agent who would be available at the registered office.

(f) Names and addresses of all incorporators.

(g) Whether or not the organization will have members.

(h) A statement that any distribution would comply to s. 181.1302 (4) of the chapter.

Permissible content in the Articles

Additionally the Articles of Incorporation may include:

1. The names and addresses of the initial directors.

2. The purpose(s) for which the organization is being setup.

3. Process for distributing assets on dissolution.

4. Any other provision desired for managing and regulating the affairs.

Download sample article of incorporation for Wisconsin nonprofit

The office of secretary of states, Wisconsin has prescribed a sample article of incorporation format for Wisconsin nonprofit organization . (Click to download).

Step 3) Executing & submitting the article of Incorporation

Duly filled in Article of Incorporation should be printed on blank white sheet of paper and signed by all the incorporators of the organization and mailed at:

Mailing Address:
Department of Financial Institutions
Division of Corporate & Consumer Services
P O Box 7846
Madison WI 53707-7846

b) Filing fee: $35.00

Time required – Incorporating a Non profit organization in Wisconsin takes 3-7 days time from the date the article is received at the Wisconsin secretary of state office.

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About the Author:


Adrian B. Bennett is an attorney and nonprofit consultant by profession. He provides development sector legal services in areas of formation of nonprofit organizations, choice of entity, tax exemption, private foundation tax law, corporate governance and advocacy. He serves as a legal adviser to several non profit organizations in and around Florida.

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3 Responses to “Starting a Nonprofit Organization in Wisconsin”

  1. Jonathan says:

    National Registered Agents, Inc has a good price for providing a professional registered agent for the state of Wisconsin. I really like their customer service as well.

  2. Randy DeLopst says:

    Your Eligibility Section above states “4) Minimum number of directors – The minimum number of directors for a Wisconsin NPO is three (3). Directors may not be residents of Wisconsin.” Really? The Directors can’t be residents of WI? You may want to check your facts on this point.

  3. Frank says:

    The directors need not be residents of Wisconsin – as long as you have a registered agent address of Wisconsin to represent your organization and to receive letters and correspondences on the organization behalf.

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