Fiscal sponsorship is when a nonprofit organization accepts tax-deductible donations on behalf of another organization that does not have 501(c)(3) status. Solicitations are made in the name of the fiscal sponsor and therefore permit the sponsored project to rely on the sponsor’s IRS determination letter, solicitation registrations, etc.
A fiscal sponsorship is often a great idea for small charities that do not have the resources to apply for their own tax-exempt status. It allows them to receive tax deductible donations from donors to accomplish their mission without having to expend their resources on administrative duties. However, as the recent International Humanities Center scandal has shown, it can be dangerous to get into bed with a fiscal sponsor without first performing some basic due diligence.
Finding support and funding in the nonprofit world is often more challenging than finding funding for a for-profit venture. In addition, contrary to the belief of many nonprofit founders, foundation grant dollars do not grow on trees and are, in fact, the most competitive and scarce source of funding available.
The term “Fiscal Sponsorship” describes an arrangement between a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status and a project, often a new charitable effort, conducted by an organization, group, or an individual that does not have 501(c)(3) status. Fiscal sponsorship permits the exempt sponsor to accept funds restricted for the sponsored project on the project’s behalf. The sponsor, in turn, accepts the responsibility to ensure the funds are properly spent to achieve the project’s goals. This arrangement is useful for new charitable endeavors that want to “test the waters” before deciding whether to form an independent entity as well as temporary projects or coalitions that are looking for a neutral party to administer their funds.