A nonprofit corporation's name is part of its identity. A descriptive and easily-recognized name can be crucial to a nonprofit's ability to raise funds, attract volunteers, and secure other resources to support its mission. Indiana law requires a nonprofit corporation's name to be stated in its Articles of Incorporation, which must be filed with the Indiana Secretary of State to incorporate the nonprofit. Given the importance of a name, one of the first steps when incorporating should be to reserve the name under which the nonprofit corporation will operate. Reserving the name will ensure it is available to be used once other initial steps to form the nonprofit corporation are completed. Although the chance another organization will incorporate using the name chosen for the nonprofit corporation being formed may seem low, the importance of the name and the ease and low cost of reserving it make it a good idea to check its availability and reserve it for future use.
Checking a Name's Availability and Reserving it for use When Incorporating
To help determine whether a name is "available" - that is, whether it is free to use for incorporation or whether it is already in use and so cannot be used, The Indiana Secretary of State maintains a searchable database. Click here to visit. If the name is available, it can be reserved for use for a period of 120 days by applying with the Secretary of State either online or by completing the Secretary of State's Application for Reservation of Exclusive Use of Corporate Name located here. The fee for reserving a corporate name is $20.
Once the name is reserved, the party reserving it has the exclusive right to incorporate the nonprofit using that name during the 120 day reservation period. A name reservation can be extended beyond the initial 120 day period by completing the Secretary of State's Application for Renewal of Reservation of Exclusive Use of a Corporate Name. The fee for extending the reservation is $20.
The owner of a reserved name may transfer the reservation to another person by delivering to the Secretary of State a signed notice of the transfer that states the name and address of the transferee. For example, the person reserving a name for a nonprofit that will soon register with the Secretary of State can transfer that name to the nonprofit corporation's incorporator when the incorporator files the Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State.
General Requirements for Corporate Names
Indiana law requires each nonprofit corporation to have a name that is distinguishable from the names of other corporations operating in Indiana. See Indiana Code section 23-17-5-1(b). Indiana Code section 23-17-5-1(a) specifies the other requirements for a nonprofit corporation's name. Also, see the Indiana Secretary of State's Name Availability Guidelines for further guidance on how the Secretary of State determines a distinguishable name.
For further information on the topics discussed on this page, see:
Indiana Code chapter 23-17-5
(describing the requirements for nonprofit corporate names)