5 Best Online Nonprofit Formation Services: Head to Head Comparison (2021)

    by Benjamin Aronson
Updated June 21, 2021

If you want to help society and allow others to contribute to your cause, then a nonprofit is what you’re looking for. But how do you choose from the many nonprofit formation services out there?

That’s where we come in; we’ve found the 5 best nonprofit formation services just for you:

  1. Incfile
  2. Northwest Registered Agent
  3. Swyft Filings
  4. Harbor Compliance
  5. LegalZoom

Once you’re done reading, you will know:

– Why each formation service made the list

– Formation packages provided by these services

– Head to head comparison on nonprofit formation services

– Important nonprofit information to get you ready for your journey

When it comes to formation services, we have hands-on experience with many. On top of that, we have done the necessary research and displayed the information so that you can choose the best formation service for your nonprofit.

Now, let’s dive in!

Best nonprofit formation services

Top Online Nonprofit Formations Services

Legalzoom icon

LegalZoom

• File Nonprofit for $99 + State Fees
• Highly Experienced Formation Company
• Competitive NonProfit Pricing
• 100% Satisfaction

Incfile logo

Incfile

• File Nonprofit for $0 + State Fees
• FREE Registered Agent Service for a Year
• Trusted by over 500,000+ Businesses
• 100% Transparency

Northwest logo

Northwest

• Form an LLC for $225 + state fees
• Registered Agent Service included ($125)
• Forming Businesses Since 1998
• 100% Error-Free Guarantee

For over two decades, LegalZoom has helped file more than 100,000 nonprofits.

On top of that, they can offer a vast variety of legal services, making them one of the few one-stop-shops for your legal needs.

LegalZoom Nonprofit Costs By Packages

Economy:

The Economy package costs $99 + state fees and includes:

  • A name availability check for your nonprofit
  • Preparation/filing of your articles of organization
  • Lifetime customer support
  • Banking resolution

Standard:

The Standard package costs $239 + state fees and offers everything in the Economy package, plus:

  • Deluxe organizer
  • Membership certificates and seal
  • VIP processing

Express Gold:

The Express Gold package costs $359 + state fees and offers everything that the Standard does, along with:

  • Federal tax ID (EIN)
  • Expedited processing with the secretary of state
  • Express shipping

Best LegalZoom Package Based on Value for Money for Your Nonprofit

The Economy package is simply great for your nonprofit.

Most of the added services of the other packages arent don’t worth the added expense. Again, make sure you really look over what LegalZoom offers to ensure you choose the best filing package for your nonprofit.

LegalZoom can also file a 501c3 for tax-exempt status for your nonprofit and it costs $595. As you can see, this is a bit pricey, so the Economy package looks even more attractive here…

Why we like LegalZoom

File your nonprofit for $99 +state fees
One of the most experienced formation services
100% satisfaction guarantee

Why we dislike LegalZoom

Can be expensive for nonprofits
Value to cost

Average

Ease of Use

Easy

Speed

Average

Customer Care

High

Reputation
Trusted
More Services
Many

Incfile deserves the number 1 spot here. They have helped over 500,000 businesses throughout the formation process and they’ve been doing filing for more than 15 years.

And listen to this, Incfile is the cheapest legal service provider out there, providing online formation services to your nonprofit for $0 + state fees.

Incfile also provides great customer services, online we found great feedback backed by countless Incfile reviews. How awesome is that?

Now, let’s take a look at what they offer…

Pricing of Incfile

Silver:

The Silver package costs $0 + state fees. This nonprofit formation package offers:

  • Unlimited name searches
  • Preparation and filing of your articles of organization
  • 1-year free registered agent service
  • Setup of a business bank account
  • Online order status tracking
  • Online access to incorporation documents
  • Lifetime company Alerts
  • Electronic delivery of documents
  • Statement and resignation of the organizer
  • A certified copy of the articles of organization

Gold:

The Gold package costs $149 + state fees and comes with everything in the Silver package, plus:

Platinum:

The Platinum package costs $299 + state fees offering the ultimate deal. This nonprofit filing package includes everything the Gold package does, plus:

  • Business contract templates
  • Expedited filing
  • Domain name and business email

Best Incfile Package Based on Value for Money for Your Nonprofit

In our opinion, the ideal package when it comes to nonprofit formation is the Silver.

Filing for tax-exempt status can be pretty expensive depending on the state you want to form your nonprofit. And you may want to save some money on services that aren’t necessarily ideal for your nonprofit (See Gold + Platinum).

If you go with the Silver package ($0 + state fees), you will eventually have to pay an additional $70 (with Incfile) for your EIN which is required by the IRS.

Plus, you will need to pay at least $30 for the corporate forms that you need to keep up with compliance guidelines.

All in all, that’s an added expense of $100 on top of state fees. But it’s worth it because you don’t need to file for special tax treatment (IRS form 2553); you will file a 501c3 for tax-exemption.

Why we like Incfile

File nonprofit for $0 + state fees
Year of FREE registered agent services
Lifetime access to alerts regarding compliance deadlines

Why we dislike Incfile

Supreme packages are expensive
Value to cost

High

Ease of Use

Easy

Speed

Fast

Customer Care

High

Reputation
Trusted
More services
Many

Northwest Registered Agent is easily one of the best nonprofit formation services out there.

They may not be the cheapest, but their transparency and down-to-earth approach is very attractive.

Let’s see what they offer…

Pricing of Northwest Registered Agent

Unlike other online formation providers, Northwest Registered Agent doesn’t have multiple packages. They instead let you customize you’re the services you purchase for your entity.

If you only want them to form your nonprofit, it will cost you $100 (+ state fees) and it will include:

  • A database search to make sure your nonprofit’s name is available
  • The preparation and filing of your articles of organization

But if you decide to hire a registered agent and get your EIN through them, the cost is an additional $175 ($125 and $50, respectively).

With that being said, their expertise and trustworthiness is worth the extra buck, but make sure you purchase the right filing service for your nonprofit.

We also need to note that Northwest Is mostly famous for its vast range of legal services.

Meaning, once you form your nonprofit with Northwest, you can cover almost any legal need with the Northwest professionals who are already familiar with your nonprofit.

Also, their fully customizable package makes them an ideal option for anyone, regardless of their needs.

Why we like Northwest Registered Agents

File your nonprofit for $100 + state fees
Registered agent services for $125 / year
Incredible in-house customer support

Why we dislike Northwest Registered Agents

No packages to choose from
Value to cost

High

Ease of Use

Easy

Speed

Fast

Customer Care

High

Reputation
Trusted
More services
Many

Swyft Filings is a relatively young formation service company. Having said that, they have many positive reviews, and their prices are very attractive.

Let’s take a look at the 3 packages that they offer and see which you should choose.

Pricing of Swyft Filings

Basic:

The Basic package to form a nonprofit costs $49 + state fee. This package includes:

  • Database search for name availability
  • Preparation/filing of articles of organization
  • State document filing
  • Statement organizer
  • Lifetime customer support
  • Online access to incorporation documents
  • 30-Minute Business Tax Consultation
  • Free Domain Name
  • ComplianceGuard Company Alerts

Standard:

The Standard package costs $149 + state fees and offers everything in the Basic package, plus:

  • A Federal Tax ID (EIN)
  • Custom corporation Bylaws
  • Custom corporate banking resolution
  • Custom corporation meeting minutes

Premium:

The Premium package costs $299 + state fees to file a nonprofit. The Premium package  includes everything the Standard package has to offer plus:

  • Digital corporate kit
  • Electronic delivery of state documents
  • Business website and 3 months of web hosting
  • Express filing time

Best Swyft Package Based on Value for Money for Your Nonprofit

As noted above, the two most important services after formation are included in the Standard package.

Filing for an EIN and custom corporation bylaws are mandatory and by purchasing that package, you’ll be pretty much set.

Along with the EIN and nonprofit bylaws, a banking resolution ($30) and meeting minutes ($25) would cost $104 + state fees with the Basic package.

Assuming you only need the EIN and the bylaws, it would cost an extra $5. It might not be a huge difference, but it definitely makes more sense to choose the Standard package here.

Finally, it’s evident that the extras in the Premium are completely up to you if they’re worth the extra cost.

They’re definitely not mandatory, so the Standard package is generally the go-to deal for nonprofit formation.

Why we like Swyft Filings

File your nonprofit for $49 + state fees
Great value for money packages
Compliance alerts

Why we dislike Swyft Filings

No free registered agent service (most legal services companies offer it)
Value to cost

High

Ease of Use

Easy

Speed

Fast

Customer Care

High

Reputation
Trusted
More services
Many

Harbor Compliance is a great option for those who want the best of the best when it comes to customer support. No matter how experienced you are in the legal/formation world, their team is going to support you every step of the way

But we also need to note that it’s only for those who really value a top-notch experience and can afford it; Harbor Compliance is the most expensive on this list so you better have the budget to hire them.

Pricing of Harbor Compliance

Tax Exemption:

The Tax Exemption package costs $1,699 + state fees and offers the following:

  • Name availability search
  • Preparation/filing of your articles of organization:
  • Bylaws
  • 501(c)(3) approval
  • 1-year of free registered agent service
  • Federal Tax ID Number (EIN)
  • Operating agreement template

Compliance:

The Compliance package costs $2,699 + state fees and includes everything the Formation package offers, plus:

  • Annual report service management
  • Initial report
  • Publishing
  • LLC Kit and Seal
  • S Corp or C Corp Tax Election
  • Ongoing support

Best Harbor Compliance Package Based on Value for Money for Your Nonprofit

Harbor Compliance offers much more “complete” nonprofit formation packages than most competitors in the space (can see that in the price).

The Compliance and Tax Exemption packages are quite impressive. Both formation packages offer a ton of value and really each one would be a smart choice.

If your unsure as to which package will be right for you, contact one of Harbor Client’s specialists at +1(888)-995-5895.

Why we like Harbor Compliance

User-friendly platform
Free software demo
Experienced formation service

Why we dislike Harbor Compliance

Expensive packages
Value to cost

Average

Ease of Use

Easy

Speed

Average

Customer Care

High

Reputation
Trusted
More Services

Many

Top 5 Nonprofit Formation Services: Head to Head

Boxing gloves

Now, all that remains is to compare the best nonprofit formation services head to head.

Most of the top 5 nonprofit formation services follow a 3-series structure. That’s why we chose to arrange them by basic, traditional, and supreme packages for consistency’s sake.

The only exceptions are Northwest Registered Agent and Harbor Compliance.

Northwest’s package is fully customizable so we only compare its most basic offer without the added services.

Harbor Compliance doesn’t have corresponding filing packages, simply formation and compliance packages so organized them accordingly

With that being said, let’s see how these online formation services compare head to head.

Basic Plan Comparison 

Incfile Northwest Swyft Filings Harbor Compliance LegalZoom
Price of Package (without state fee) $0 $100 $49 $1,699 $99
Processing Time 21 business days 10 business days 20 business days Varies by state 35 business days
Registered Agent 1st year free, following year $119 $125 / year $149 / year $299 / year
Corporate Bylaws $30 X $35 $99
EIN Registration $70 $50 $70 $79
Annual Compliance $69
Additional Advisory Services 1 hour of Tax Consultation X 30 minutes of Tax Consultation CPA Consultation X
Web Domain X X X X

Traditional Plan Comparison 

Incfile Northwest Swyft Filings Harbor Compliance LegalZoom
Price of Package (without state fee) $149 $100 $149 $1,699 $239
Processing Time 21 business days 10 business days 20 business days Varies by state 20 business days
Registered Agent 1st year free, following year $119 $125 / year $149 / year $299 / year
Corporate Bylaws X $99
EIN Registration $50 $79
Annual Compliance $69
Additional Advisory Services 1 hour of Tax Consultation X 30 minutes of Tax Consultation CPA Consultation X
Web Domain X X X X

Supreme Plan Comparison 

Incfile Northwest Swyft Filings Harbor LegalZoom
Price of Package (without state fee) $299 $100 $299 $2,699 $359
Processing Time 1 business day 10 business days 7 business days Varies depending on state 15 business days
Registered Agent 1st year free, following year $119 $125 / year $149 / year $299 / year
Corporate Bylaws X $99
EIN Registration $50 $79
Annual Compliance $69
Additional Advisory Services 1 hour of Tax Consultation X 30 minutes of Tax Consultation CPA Consultation X
Web Domain X X X

Frequently Asked Questions

Forming a nonprofit can be a headache, but it doesn’t have to be. With online nonprofit formation services, filing your nonprofit is a breeze.

Whether you choose to form a non-profit with the MyCorporation, Incorporate.com, or other top formation companies, take a quick second to out some frequently asked questions.

We answered a series of questions that we felt needed to be addressed.

What is a Nonprofit?

A nonprofit organization is a legal entity that operates to benefit the community instead of generating income.

If you intend to further a social cause instead of making money, a nonprofit is an ideal vehicle to get you there.

What are the Differences Between a Nonprofit and a For-Profit?

A nonprofit is all about benefiting society. In contrast, a for-profit organization is oriented to generate profit for its shareholders.

There is also a big difference in how nonprofits and for-profit organizations are funded.

Nonprofits tend to rely on donations to raise money and fund operations. For-profits on the other hand, usually rely on stock issuing and bank loans.

In addition, certain restrictions about how much the staff a nonprofit can be paid do not apply to for-profits.

And last, nonprofits are often not taxed at all on income from donations, while for-profits can have tax breaks, but are absolutely taxed on income.

Can a Nonprofit Make a Profit?

A nonprofit organization (contrary to its name) is totally allowed to make a profit.

The only difference here (and what mostly defines a non-profit) is that you cannot distribute the profit to the founders or board of directors.

What are the Steps Involved in Forming a Nonprofit?

Below are the steps that you must follow in order to form your nonprofit and keep it running:

#1 You choose a name and let a formation service company do an availability search

They will search through the state databases to make sure your nonprofit’s name isn’t taken.

#2 Prepare and file the articles of incorporation with the state

The articles of incorporation are documents that establish the existence of your nonprofit. It’s actually the main process that “forms” any organization.

They are usually handled by formation service providers like the 5 companies we mentioned here or lawyers.

#3 You create nonprofit bylaws

Nonprofit Bylaws create a picture of how your nonprofit will be governed. They include details like the way officials are elected and how assets are going to be used in case your nonprofit dissolves.

#4 Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

The formation service that forms your nonprofit can get your EIN for you. For nonprofits, an EIN is mandatory, and it will allow you to open a bank account for your nonprofit, hire people, and apply for licenses.

#5 Hire a registered agent to receive compliance documents

A nonprofit must comply with regulations just like an ordinary business does. You will need to hire a registered agent to receive the related documents in the states you’ll be operating in.

#6 You file a 501c3 form with the IRS to make your nonprofit tax-exempt

Either through a formation service provider or a lawyer, you must first file a 501c3 form with the IRS if you want your nonprofit to be tax-exempt.

#7 Get necessary licenses/permits for operating

Depending on the state you would like your nonprofit to operate in, you will need to get the related licenses. You do this either by applying through a formation service company or a lawyer.

#8 Comply with regulations/guidelines

In order to keep your nonprofit operating, you will need to make sure you comply with the compliance regulations of the state you operate in.

#9 Registration as a charity (if you want)

If you want you can use a lawyer or formation service provider to register your nonprofit as a charity. This is the only way to properly receive donations and you don’t get it by default when you form a nonprofit

What are the Advantages/Disadvantages of a Nonprofit?

Advantages:

Separate legal entity
The organization can enter and exit contracts, sue and be sued, and carry the weight of its liabilities by itself.

What this means is that the founders, the board of directors, and managers are not personally liable for any damages incurred by lawsuits, debt, etc.

Tax-exemption
A nonprofit, unlike a for-profit, can file for tax-exemption. You also get the added benefit of the donations being tax-deductible; donors may be even more incentivized to donate this way.

Access to grants
Unlike for-profits (with exceptions), nonprofits are the only organizations that have access to grants. The sources can range from foundations to even the government.

Increased credibility for donors
Having a nonprofit makes your cause look more official. This way, it can increase your credibility (and therefore the number of donations).

US postal service discounts
In many cases, you can apply for special discounts on bulk mail services.

Disadvantages:

Initial cost
Though, as you can see it’s very cheap to form a nonprofit, making it tax-exempt can be costly. In many instances, the price is above $500 for filing the 503c3 document but it varies with the state.

Compliance obligations
Just like a for-profit organization, a nonprofit must comply with certain guidelines.

More strict regulations regarding the management
When it comes to how the board of directors and management operate, regulations can be stricter for a nonprofit.

Conclusion

Forming a nonprofit can make a dream come true whatever the cause that dream entails. The 5 companies that we outlined here can get you there in no time.

Keep in mind that whichever you choose from the above, you will be in good hands. You really can’t go wrong here.

The point is to keep into account your budget and what extra-legal services you might need while trying to decide.

But take our recommendations for which package you should select seriously, that way you won’t end up paying for something you don’t really need.

Now, we want to thank you for reading this article and ask you to share it if you think it helped you.

Also, please ask us anything you want and we’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible!

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