How do we incorporate?

This page explains the steps you must take to incorporate a nonprofit under Ontario’s Corporations Act (OCA).

What are the steps to incorporate?
Ontario’s Incorporator’s Handbook (Section 1.5) explains the steps you must take to incorporate your nonprofit, including:

  • checking NUANS (Newly Upgraded Name Search), to make sure your nonprofit’s name isn’t already taken
  • gathering supporting documents that go with your application form

What does it cost to incorporate?
To get corporate status:

  • A NUANS name search costs between $22-$40.
  • Registering your nonprofit with the Ontario government costs $155. For expedited service, it is $255.

Check out Ontario’s Incorporator’s Handbook (Appendix F) for more information about fees.

Is there any help for nonprofits trying to incorporate?
Pro Bono Ontario has an online service called The Charity Start-up Toolbox that takes you through the steps needed to incorporate your nonprofit provincially, become a registered charity, or both. It includes this tool that can help you draft a complete package of forms, and bylaws, that you need for your application to incorporate.

The Law Society of Ontario has a guide for lawyers who may be helping you with the process.

Registered charities Applying to become a registered charity is a different process. These organizations have information and resources on the process:

Who is responsible for the contracts I signed for my nonprofit before it incorporated?

Unless the contract says differently, if you sign a contract for your nonprofit before it incorporates:

  • You are personally responsible for whatever you promised to do on behalf of your nonprofit in the contract.
  • You are entitled to any benefits in the contract.

Within a reasonable amount of time after your nonprofit incorporates, the nonprofit may adopt the contract. The nonprofit can adopt the contract by any action or conduct showing that it intends to be bound. Once the nonprofit adopts the contract, it becomes responsible for whatever you promised to do in the contract. It also becomes entitled to the benefits in the contract.

If your nonprofit adopts the contract, you are no longer responsible for it and you stop being entitled to the benefits.

To make sure that your nonprofit can adopt the contract you signed before it incorporated, it might help to include a line in the contract that says, “The contract can be assigned to a corporation yet to be incorporated.”

If you and your nonprofit disagree about who is responsible for the contract, you may need to speak to a lawyer.

Until your nonprofit takes over the contract, you can change or cancel it, as long as the contract allows you to do this.

Reviewed: August 2017