a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to DANCE!
Why Would You Want a Fiscal Sponsor?
Although some foundations and other funding agencies give money to individuals, many funders state in their guidelines that they will only fund projects which are administered by non-profit corporations which are exempt from federal taxes under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). The reason for this requirement is that the Internal Revenue Service determines which charitable contributions are tax-deductible. Most donors prefer to give to corporations that have been granted tax-exempt status under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3), because then the donors can be certain that they will be able to take a charitable deduction for their gifts on their federal income taxes.
If you have a project that fits a foundation's guidelines, but you do not have your own non-profit corporation, do not give up hope. You may still be able to apply for these restricted grants if you can find a non-profit organization that is willing to serve as a "fiscal sponsor" for your project.
What Is A Fiscal Sponsor?
A "fiscal sponsor" is a tax-exempt corporation that agrees to receive and disburse the funds for your project. There are many organizations that offer this service, including For Dance Inc. You can download a list of organizations all over the country providing fiscal sponsorship to artists and emerging organizations at the website of the New York Foundation for the Arts at: http://www.nyfa.org/level3.asp?id=159&fid=1&sid=44
How Do Fiscal Sponsorships Work?
You and the sponsor sign a letter of agreement about the terms of the sponsorship. Since the donors will be making their checks out to the fiscal sponsor, you need to be certain that you have a written promise from the sponsor that they will give you the funds that are donated for your project. You also need to fully understand any fees or commissions that the sponsor plans to charge.
The sponsor will want a promise from you that you will not do anything that will jeopardize their 501(c)(3) status. This means that your project must be "organized and operated for charitable purposes" (i.e. not a for-profit venture). You are allowed to earn a fair salary for your work on the project, but investors are not allowed to make a profit from the project. Also, there are limitations on lobbying activities, and non-profit corporations are not allowed to participate in political campaigns for individuals.
Once the sponsorship agreement is in place, the donors can make their checks out to the fiscal sponsor. The sponsor deposits the checks and issues thank-you letters to the donors for their tax records. As the project moves forward, the sponsor reimburses the artists for expenses, maintains the books, and prepares any needed tax forms. Usually the sponsor deducts a small percentage of the total donations as a service charge for handling the sponsorship. Sometimes there are additional fees to set up the sponsorship.
The important thing to remember is that the sponsoring organization becomes legally and financially responsible for your project when they agree to sponsor you. Although it does not have to be difficult or complicated, a sponsorship is a legal relationship that needs to be taken seriously by everyone involved. Most sponsors will ask you to file periodic progress reports, and it is extremely important to have clear and open communication.
Fiscal Sponsorships and Individual Donors
Many people think that fundraising is about writing grant proposals, and they forget that individuals can be major donors. You can solicit individuals if your fiscal sponsor will agree. People who already know your work are the people who are most likely to give money to you, especially when you are just starting out. Since people are more likely to donate if they can get a tax deduction, a fiscal sponsorship can be a powerful fundraising tool. Several artists have raised funds for their projects simply by writing letters asking their friends and acquaintances for support.
Best of luck with your project!