How do we incorporate?

This page explains the steps you must take to incorporate a nonprofit under Ontario’s Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA). To find a lawyer to help write or review your documents before you submit them, please see our directory of lawyers or call Pro Bono Ontario. CLEO cannot help with the application process.

There are a few steps you must take to incorporate your nonprofit. For example, you must:

  • checking NUANS (Newly Upgraded Name Search), to make sure your nonprofit’s name isn’t already taken
  • gather supporting information, for example, the name and addresses of all incorporators, office address, and debit or credit card information to pay the fee
  • fill out the online application form or paper application form

To get corporate status:

  • A NUANS (Newly Upgraded Name Search) name search costs between $22-$40.
  • Registering your nonprofit with the Ontario government costs $155.


CLEO has an interactive Bylaw Builder to help nonprofits draft bylaws that comply with Ontario’s Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA).

The tool asks you questions, explains what your choices are, and includes information to help you decide. Then, based on your answers, it generates a set of bylaws for your nonprofit. There’s also a guide to go with the tool.

The Bylaw Builder is free to use and all text has been legally reviewed.

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

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.

Once you have completed the incorporation process, go to Run a nonprofit to understand the rules that now apply to your governance.

Reviewed: 2023-01-22