How to Form a Non Profit Corporation in Ontario

by Elizabeth Rayne
Toronto's CN tower is the focal point for Ontario's largest city. There are a number of steps to take to organize a not-for-profit in Ontario.

Toronto's CN tower is the focal point for Ontario's largest city. There are a number of steps to take to organize a not-for-profit in Ontario.

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By taking the time to effectively form your not-for-profit corporation, you will ensure a solid foundation to carry out your mission. An Ontario not-for-profit corporation is an organization that does not distribute profits to its owners. You must determine the objects of the corporation, select a proper name and file an application for incorporation. All not-for-profit corporations must have a board of directors, appointed officers and bylaws to successfully operate.

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Objects and Types of Not-For-Profits

In forming your not-for-profit corporation, you must determine the "objects" of the organization. Objects are a concise statement reflecting the ultimate purpose of the corporation. Once you have determined the purpose of the organization, you can select which type of not-for-profit you would like to pursue. Charities are a specific type. To be considered a charity, your activities must be related to the relief of poverty, advancement of education or religion, or other purposes that are beneficial to the community. Other common types of not-for-profits are athletic organizations, service clubs and professional associations.

Corporate Name

There are a number of regulations that you must consider when naming your organization. Ontario law provides that all corporate names must be distinctive, descriptive, and they cannot be confusingly or deceptively similar to an existing name. To create a distinctive name, you should avoid overusing geographic or generic terms. For example, calling naming your organization "Ontario athletic association," may be deemed insufficiently distinctive. Further, corporate names may, but are not required to, include a word or abbreviation that shows that the organization is incorporated. This includes “Corporation," “Incorporated," “Incorporée,” or any abbreviation of those words. Once you have selected an appropriate name and have completed a cursory search for similar business names, you must contact a Search House to obtain a name search report. There is a fee for every search.


In order to incorporate the organization with Ontario, you must already have a head office in Ontario, and at least three directors. Once this is in place, and you have your name search report in hand, you may fill out and file the Application for Incorporation. You may obtain the form online, but you must mail the form to the Central Production and Verification Services Branch. You must include a name search report, applicable fee, appropriate supporting documents and a cover letter, with the name and contact information for the person you want the branch to contact with questions. It will take six to eight weeks to process the application.

Letters Patent and Organization

Once your application for incorporation is approved by the Branch, you will receive a Letters Patent confirming your status as a not-for-profit. Now it is time to organize the not-for-profit so the directors can effectively manage the corporation. The directors should establish a quorum, or the minimum number of directors needed to run a board meeting. You must also establish bylaws to determine how the corporation will be managed, and make banking arrangements. The not-for-profit must also appoint officers and auditors. Officers should include a president, secretary and treasurer.