How to Find a Fiscal Sponsor for Your Nonprofit - dummies

How to Find a Fiscal Sponsor for Your Nonprofit

By Stan Hutton, Frances Phillips

You may be able to find a fiscal sponsor for your nonprofit near you by using the Fiscal Sponsor Directory. Some nonprofit organizations are formed with the sole purpose of providing fiscal sponsorship services. Another place to search is at your local community foundation. Community foundations have wide connections in the areas they serve and likely are aware of qualified fiscal sponsors.

If your area doesn’t have a community foundation nearby, contact the nearest United Way office or another nonprofit that provides referrals and ask for help in finding the right agency to sponsor your project.

You don’t want to go with just any fiscal sponsor. You have to do your homework to find one that fits your needs. First determine whether the sponsor’s mission covers the type of program you’ll be offering. Then do a little research to find out whether the sponsor is trustworthy.

For example, you can perform an Internet search for the fiscal sponsor’s name. Does its name appear in news stories detailing nonprofit misconduct or other skullduggery? Ask others in your community, including individuals who are knowledgeable about nonprofit activities in your town. While you’re at it, read its 990 tax form posted on GuideStar to see if it’s financially sound.

When you’re vetting a fiscal sponsor, ask the sponsor these questions to determine whether it’s a good fit for your project:

  • Have your board of directors and accounting and legal advisors approved the fiscal sponsorship?

  • Do you charge for specific services, such as access to insurance programs, over and above your basic sponsorship fees? What additional services do you offer?

  • Do you allow sponsored projects to hire salaried employees, and do you provide payroll services and access to health insurance?

  • Do you provide coaching and mentoring in nonprofit management and fundraising?

  • How frequently do you write checks to pay bills? What’s the frequency and format of financial reporting for the sponsored program?

  • Do you require projects to maintain a minimum annual income?

  • Do you formally acknowledge gifts and donations?

  • Do your potential foundation funders make grants to fiscally sponsored programs? Will your donors be comfortable donating to a fiscal sponsor?

The National Network of Fiscal Sponsors has developed guidelines for best practices in fiscal sponsorship. If you’re considering using a fiscal sponsor, review these guidelines to help you make a choice about which fiscal sponsor is best for your project.