How do I choose the best fiscal sponsor for my project? Part I

By M. Melanie Beene

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about the process of choosing a fiscal sponsor. Once you have done the research, it’s time to determine which sponsor will be the best fit for your project or idea. Here are some factors to consider while making your decision:

  • Type of fiscal sponsorship relationship

There are six types of fiscal sponsorship, all of which are outlined in Greg Colvin’s Fiscal Sponsorship, Six Ways to Do it Right. The vast majority of fiscal sponsor relationships are either comprehensive fiscal sponsorship (Model A) or re-granting relationships (Model C). Some sponsors, like Community Initiatives, practice all models of fiscal sponsorship. Some sponsors focus on just one model. Each model comes with a variety of regulations, as well as tax and regulatory requirements. Make sure you understand both the types of sponsorship your potential sponsor practices, and the best type of sponsorship for your needs.

  • Fit

No doubt the most important factor will be the concept of fit. Does the potential sponsor feel like a good fit? Some of the factors that go into fit are:

  • Is the sponsor’s mission in alignment with your project? Are its values in alignment? Are those values publicly articulated (on a website, in printed materials, etc.)?
  • Do you like the culture of the organization you will be joining? Was the sponsor responsive to your inquiry? Do you want to do business with these people?  Do you feel comfortable entering into a partnership with this organization?

Sometimes it is hard to get a good read on an organization’s culture from the outside, but some of this information might help you get an idea:

  • Was the website easy to read and did it provide the information you needed?
  • Were you able to speak with someone on the phone?
  • Would the potential sponsor meet with you in person?
  • Could you review a copy of the sponsorship agreement? Is it a clearly-written document that lays out a project’s rights and responsibilities? Does it clearly state the sponsor’s responsibilities and expectations? Does it clarify the process for ending the sponsor relationship?

If you are a large project or are leaving a fiscal sponsor relationship that wasn’t a good fit, you might ask to speak to some of the sponsor’s current projects. You may also want to ask the sponsor and the projects questions that pertain to the issues you felt were unresolved by your previous fiscal sponsor.

There are several other factors to consider, but these two are enough for now. Check back next week as we dive into costs, services, and questions about location.

Posted May 9, 2014 in Fiscal sponsorship

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