The Basics of Fiscal Sponsorship (Part 2): Finding a Fiscal Sponsor

by Maritza Guzmán, Director of Fiscal Sponsorship and Project Management

Yesterday we talked about the basic building blocks to have in place before you begin your search for a fiscal sponsor. – your project summary, budget, fundraising plan, and prospects. Once you have these basics in place, you are ready for your initial conversations with a potential fiscal sponsor. As you look for the right organization to house your project, keep these guidelines in mind:

1.      Mission fit. Finding the right fiscal sponsor is a little like finding the right partner in life. You want to find someone with whom you are philosophically compatible. The process can take some time and several conversations to find a good fit. Look for a connection between your mission and that of your potential “nonprofit home.” Find out if they sponsor other projects that are similar to yours.

2.      Track record. What is your potential fiscal sponsor’s track record? How long have they been in business? Can you talk to any projects that have been sponsored by them?  Is fiscal sponsorship a core service they provide?  These questions can help you determine how much infrastructure the organization has in place to address the needs of your project.

3.      Financial health. Sadly, there have been recent high profile cases of fiscal sponsors closing their doors. The projects are left wondering what happened to their money. The good news is that you can take some precautions up front as part of the selection process. Do they carefully track and report on restricted funds? Do they strive for transparency in their interactions with projects? How often does each project receive their financial reports? Do financial reports detail all transactions, both revenue and expense? Does the Board of Directors receive and review quarterly financial statements to ensure the overall financial health of the organization? What do they do if projects are running low on money? A responsible fiscal sponsor will not advance money to any project, and rigorously reviews, tracks and complies with all contractual obligations, including grant agreements.

Public Interest Projects offers fiscal sponsorship services to affinity groups and projects that do not have 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. For more information read  Public Interest Projects Fiscal Sponsorship Application and Guidelines or contact Maritza Guzman, Director, Fiscal Sponsorship and Project Management, at (212) 378-4092 or at mguzman@publicinterestprojects.org.

The Basics of Fiscal Sponsorship (Part 1): Before You Search for a Fiscal Sponsor

by Maritza Guzmán, Director of Fiscal Sponsorship and Project Management 

In just the past few days I’ve had conversations with several social entrepreneurs starting new ventures. The rise of social entrepreneurship is the closest thing to a  silver lining in these difficult economic times. When smart, passionate, creative people are un- or underemployed, they put their energy into their ideas. In the end, society as a whole benefits.

Often these social entrepreneurs are literally building the tracks as the train has left the station. A fiscal sponsor can be an important partner, especially as the entrepreneur develops their idea and approaches potential funders. Fiscal sponsors are 501(c)(3) organizations that provide a home for unincorporated groups or projects that do not have tax-exempt status but have a cause or program they want to begin. You’ll need a fiscal sponsor to receive funding from foundations, corporations or government agencies. While a fiscal sponsor generally will not do fundraising for you, you can draw on their knowledge of the funding world as you navigate your fundraising.

The following steps will pay off in the long run, not just in your interactions with potential fiscal sponsors, but also in your fundraising.

  • Project summary. Develop a short description of your project. Include the problem you seek to solve, why your proposed solution is needed, and why you are positioned to successfully complete the project. You might include bios for key players and the experience they bring to the project that increases your likelihood of success. As you talk with prospective fiscal sponsors you’ll have something that summarizes the project. This can also be used in your proposals to potential funders.
  • Budget. This is a crucial step. How much funding will you need? Over what period of time? This also gives the prospective fiscal sponsor a sense of the scope and size of the project. I suggest developing a one year budget just as a start. There will be so many unknowns that a longer time horizon may not make sense.
  • Fundraising Plan and Prospects. Take the time to think through how you’ll raise the money you need. Include the sources of funding, the anticipated amounts (e.g. foundations, individual donors, board contributions). You’re in a stronger position if you can say you already have at least one commitment of seed money to get you started.
Tomorrow, Maritza Guzman will discuss how to find a fiscal sponsor for your project. 

Public Interest Projects offers fiscal sponsorship services to affinity groups and projects that do not have 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. For more information read  Public Interest Projects’ Fiscal Sponsorship Application and Guidelines or contact Maritza Guzman, Director, Fiscal Sponsorship and Project Management, at (212) 378-4092 or at mguzman@publicinterestprojects.org.

Padres y Jóvenes Unidos Help Win the Smart School Discipline Law, Overturning Extreme Post-Columbine Approach

 

Colorado’s Padres y Jóvenes Unidos celebrated the passage of the Smart School Discipline Law, which encourages safe, smart and cost-effective school discipline approaches statewide, and overturns counterproductive approaches rushed into place following the Columbine High School tragedy. By giving schools discretion over suspensions, promoting effective responses to misbehavior, enhancing teacher training and streamlining data collection, the Law is already becoming model legislation for other states around the country.

The Smart School Discipline Law is a victory for Colorado students and families, carrying statewide the reforms that community-based organization Padres y Jóvenes Unidos won in Denver.  Padres y Jóvenes Unidos’ fight for common sense and cost-effective school discipline led to a revised policy for Denver Public Schools, which resulted in a 44% drop in out-of-school suspensions between the 2003/04 and 2009/10 school years.  Since 2008, youth leaders of Padres y Jóvenes Unidos have been championing a statewide campaign to end the school-to-prison pipeline, educating peers and testifying before lawmakers to keep 10,000 Colorado students per year out of the juvenile justice system for minor infractions.

Passage of the Smart School Discipline Law demonstrates how community-based leadership can win better schools for children, and save tens of thousands of children from being funneled into the criminal justice system.  Public Interest Projects salutes this monumental achievement of the youth and parent leaders of Padres y Jóvenes Unidos, which Public Interest Projects’ Just and Fair Schools Fund and Communities for Public Education Reform have been proud to support for years.

Read more about this and other school discipline wins around the country in the latest Just and Fair Schools Fund newsletter.