How to Find the Right Fiscal Sponsor for Your Project
What should you think about if you're considering a relationship with a fiscal sponsor? Beene says to look for these clues to a good fit:
- Look for a fiscal sponsor that is a good mission fit. Fiscal sponsors typically work within certain parameters. Some like arts groups while others have expertise in human services. Find one that is a good fit to your mission.
- Check out the cost of working with a fiscal sponsor. Beene says that 10% of yearly income is common, but it might be more for government grants that have to be audited, and/or when they are reimbursable grants, meaning the project must spend the money and then get reimbursed by the grantor. Fiscal sponsors may be put in the position of floating the upfront money. Also, many government grants are audited by the grantor agency each year.
- Look for active sponsorship...not just a pass through, which is illegal. An active sponsor should provide financial and programmatic oversight and may even provide educational opportunities and networking events.
- Does the sponsor follow best practices? Does it provide regular financial reports? A written contract? Check out the industry's Comprehensive Guidelines and the Guidelines for Pre-Approved Grant Relationship Fiscal Sponsorship.
- Look at other services provided by the fiscal sponsor. It should do financial management and grant supervision, and provide a way to buy insurance. Some fiscal sponsors offer office space, co-location, and access to bulk purchasing. Most provide a way for you to raise funds online. Does it offer training? Is it conveniently located? How often do they run checks? And what is its personality and reputation? What do its other projects say about them?
What Fiscal Sponsors Want From You
Beene points out that the fiscal sponsor will be looking at you as well. They will look for these signs:
- Does your project have a legitimate nonprofit purpose? Would the IRS think this is a legitimate nonprofit activity if you applied for nonprofit status? Fiscal sponsorship is not a way around nonprofit requirements.
- Does your project have enough traction to get funding for this idea? Have you talked to funders? Do you have a core of dedicated individual donors? Have you identified revenue sources and started exploring those pathways?
Fiscal sponsors do not find money for you and don't accept projects that aren't ready. For instance, Community Initiatives requires projects to have a minimum of $24,000 of income, while the Tides Center has a floor of $100,000. Also, a fiscal sponsor does charge for services. Can you meet the fee requirements?
The point, Beene says, is that fiscal sponsorship is not a way for a weak idea to see the light of day, nor is it a way for a group to find financial support that it hasn't been able to find on its own. Fiscal sponsorship can lend credibility to your project, but only if you have a good idea and the ability to persuade a funder to invest in your idea.
Where Do You Find Fiscal Sponsors?
There is a fiscal sponsor directory that lists 176 fiscal sponsors in 32 states, Washington D.C., and Ontario, Canada. The fiscal sponsors in the directory are home to nearly 10,000 projects, and manage charitable funding of up to $1 billion. You can also look around your community and ask other nonprofit projects about their fiscal sponsors.
Resources about Fiscal Sponsorship: