The need for a nonprofit organization to change its name happens quite frequently. The reasons vary: mergers with other organizations, additions of or changes to major programs, to distinguish from prior affiliated organizations or groups, or to improve marketability and fundraising. At times, organizations may delay this decision due to being unfamiliar with the required process. Fortunately for those looking to make the change, the process is simple and usually requires 3 steps:
Step 1 – legally change your organization’s name
This step usually begins with a board resolution to change the name. The organization must then amend its organizational documents (articles of incorporation and bylaws) and file the amended documents with the state of incorporation.
Step 2 – notify the IRS
This is normally as simple as notifying the IRS of the change when filing its next annual return (Form 990 or Form 990-EZ).
However, if an organization does not have an annual return filing requirement, qualifies to file for 990-N (e-Postcard), or is required to e-file its return, the name change should be reported by letter or fax to the IRS’ Customer Account Services. Generally, a copy of the amended articles of incorporation and proof of filing are required. The letter or fax must include:
- Full name (both prior and new)
- Employer Identification Number
- Authorized signature of officer or trustee
Step 3 – notify your vendors, customers and donors
This step is often overlooked as the assumption is it will occur naturally through continued operations. However, as funding contracts or vendor contracts are renewed, the simplest process is often the most successful process. Being proactive to eliminate potential inconsistencies is usually a wise investment of time.
Despite the process being relatively straightforward and simple, I always encourage consulting your CPA when the IRS is involved.