How to Choose a Fiscal Sponsor

Once you've decided to explore the possibility of fiscal sponsorship, how do you get information about fiscal sponsors who might be right for you? And when you've found some choices for fiscal sponsorship, how do you decide which one is the best choice for your project?

Fiscal sponsorship is still a relatively new idea. Though some groups like the San Francisco Study Center and the Tides Center have been advocating for fiscal sponsorship as an important new model for social change for decades, the truth is most current organizations fully dedicated to fiscal sponsorship have developed recently.

That means it can be difficult to get up to date information on various fiscal sponsors around the U.S.

At this point the best way to find fiscal sponsors in the U.S. is to go online and check out the Fiscal Sponsor Directories of the San Francisco Study Center and the Tides Center. You'll find a variety of fiscal sponsors, a brief description of each, and basic contact information.

You can also just do a key word search on fiscal sponsors and then start sifting through the scores of links that come up. Search terms like 'fiscal sponsors,'  'fiscal sponsorship,' non profit fiscal sponsors', 'non profit incubator,' and 'comprehensive fiscal sponsorship' should get you some useful results. We'd suggest you start with the formal lists of fiscal sponsors at SFSC and Tides and then supplement that with a more general search.

OK, now that you've found some fiscal sponsors that might be right, how do you narrow the list?

First, make sure the fiscal sponsor is fully dedicated to fiscal sponsorship. Some groups include fiscal sponsorship as a 'side activity' along with their primary non profit mission, but in most instances those groups won't be able to serve your project as effectively as an organization that specializes in fiscal sponsorship. Fully dedicated fiscal sponsors will focus their energies and attention on your project. Groups that do fiscal sponsorship on the side will often--and naturally--tend to focus their efforts on their main mission. With fully dedicated fiscal sponsors, the success of your project is their main mission.

Second, make sure the fiscal sponsor offers the services you need. Look for fiscal sponsors who offer comprehensive fiscal sponsorship. A comprehensive fiscal sponsor can take on full legal and fiscal responsibility for your project.

All comprehensive fiscal sponsors can handle your monies and allow you to receive tax deductible donations. That's all some projects need.

But if you want administrative help, or you want help developing your project through consultation, or you want help becoming an independent non profit, make sure the fiscal sponsor offers those services. Fiscal sponsors vary widely in their services, so read their descriptions carefully and ask hard questions.

Finally, make sure the fiscal sponsor is open to your particular project.

Most fiscal sponsors specialize in serving particular kinds of projects. For example, some fiscal sponsors serve only the arts community. Others focus on supporting projects in low income neighborhoods. Some only work in a specific city or state or region. Right now few U.S. fiscal sponsors work with explicitly religious projects.

On the other hand, some fiscal sponsors--like Visions Made Viable--are open to a wide variety of projects both here and around the world.

We're dedicated to the success of people with good ideas for social change. And we think fiscal sponsorship is a wonderful new model to help bring about that needed change. We encourage you to check out fiscal sponsors and find one that's right for you.