About Fiscal Sponsorship

Photo of a colorful mural depicting a large tree and large leaves. Each leaf is painted differently.

Fiscal sponsorship is a tool that empowers you to create on your own terms.

Through fiscal sponsorship, you can leverage IAM's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status to access charitable donations and grants to support your art and media projects.

On this page, learn more about IAM’s fiscal sponsorship program, eligibility, and application process. We also invite you to review our IAM Affiliate Policy Manuals (for Model A and Model C affiliate projects) for more detailed information.

“Fiscal sponsorship” is an alternative to starting your own nonprofit and seeking federal tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.

Instead of becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, fiscal sponsorship creates a contractual partnership between the “fiscal sponsor,” a tax-exempt nonprofit, and the sponsored project that (usually) does not have its own tax-exempt status.

Through financial and programmatic oversight by the “fiscal sponsor”, the sponsored project may receive grants and charitable donations from governments, foundations, and individuals.

The "fiscal sponsor" does not award funding to projects. While IAM provides a range of support services, Affiliates are responsible for their own fundraising activities.

IAM offers fiscal sponsorship to projects and producers that advance IAM’s charitable purpose as approved by the IRS: to raise and support the educational, cultural, and social levels of the residents of the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding regional and national communities, through the development of non-commercial projects for the benefit of the general public, including educational, cultural, community, media, news, and art-related projects.

All of IAM's fiscally sponsored Affiliates must also advance IAM’s mission to steward and empower independent art and media projects that foster community and civic participation, and facilitate cultural engagement and free expression.

IAM currently supports over 100 Affiliates dedicated to non-commercial work in media and the arts, including publishing, theater, dance, music, visual art, film and video, radio, mixed media and transmedia, journalism, history, and public-events production and convening.

While most of our Affiliates are in the San Francisco Bay Area, IAM has supported projects located throughout the United States, including Los Angeles, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and Florida.

Model A Applicants: Please note that IAM will only consider Model A applications from projects located in California, with preference given to Bay Area applicants.

IAM only supports art and media projects that are “non-commercial” in nature – which means that the project cannot have the intent of financially benefiting the project leaders or participants.

All funds raised for your project through your fiscal sponsor must be spent to further the project. If there is income left over, it must be put back into the project for operations and future programming. It cannot be kept by the project leaders as extra income.

However, this does NOT mean that you cannot pay yourselves or your team for their time and labor. IAM encourages our fiscally sponsored projects to budget funds to pay yourself and other personnel for the value of your services.

All IAM Affiliates:

  • use the arts, media, journalism and/or culture to build community and civic participation;
  • facilitate cultural engagement and free expression;
  • empower and sustain independent production;
  • serve in some manner low-income, neglected, overlooked or otherwise underserved communities and populations;
  • or otherwise pursue activities that advance IAM’s mission and charitable purpose.

All IAM Affiliates are either based in the United States or have a U.S.-based manager of national, regional, or local programming.

Affiliates must not engage in activities that constitute (1) lobbying for or against legislation, or (2) direct or indirect participation in a campaign for or against a candidate for public office.

IAM offers two types of fiscal sponsorship – Model A and Model C:

Model A is a comprehensive and “Direct Project” relationship where IAM adopts your project into our own organization and, as a result, IAM and the Model A Affiliate are legally considered one and the same. IAM provides its Model A Affiliates with a wide range of administrative back-end services, including donor management, employee payroll and vendor management, comprehensive accounting and bill pay services, tax reporting, and insurance. (Please note that IAM will only consider Model A applications from projects located in California, with preference given to Bay Area applicants.)

Model C sponsorship is for independent entities that have a legal, tax, and accounting identity separate from IAM. The Model C Affiliate is a “Pre-Approved Grantee” of charitable funds received by IAM for your project. Sponsorship services focus on fundraising support and donor management.

** IAM also offers Model C+ sponsorship, which is for Model C projects that wish to utilize IAM's accounting and bill pay services without the full scope of Model A sponsorship.

For more detailed information, download the Model A Policy ManualModel C Policy Manual, and samples of our Model A and Model C fiscal sponsorship contracts.

IAM deducts the following administrative fee for all funds received on behalf of our Affiliates:

  • 10% for Model C Affiliates
  • 11% for Model C+ Affiliates
  • 12% for Model A Affiliates

Affiliates are also responsible for all other applicable fees, such as credit card transaction fees, crowdfunding, and bank service fees.

These sponsorship fees help IAM cover the costs of providing Affiliate services, such as bookkeeping, donation management and donor confirmation letters, and programming workshops, as well as general expenses related to financial accounting, auditing, insurance, and IRS compliance.

IAM does not charge any type of application, onboarding, or annual membership fee. 

Learn more about IAM's services and the benefits of fiscal sponsorship!

All applicants are required to submit a completed application form and project budget. IAM accepts applications on a rolling basis throughout the year. There is no fee for applying to IAM's fiscal sponsorship program.

Apply Today!

You will receive a confirmation email from IAM within 2-3 business days of receipt of your application. You will also be invited to discuss your project with IAM's Executive Director.

We also welcome you to contact IAM before submitting your application to discuss any questions you may have in advance.

Model C and C+ Fiscal Sponsorship:

IAM accepts applications for Model C and C+ sponsorship on a rolling basis. These applications are reviewed by IAM's Executive Director. IAM can typically provide a response within 3-5 business days once a complete application is received.

Model A Fiscal Sponsorship:

Applications for Model A sponsorship must be approved by the Affiliate Advisory Committee of the IAM Board of Directors. 

The Affiliate Advisory Committee meets to consider applications on the 3rd Thursday of each month. Complete applications must be received no later than three weeks prior to the meeting. The Advisory Committee may also consider applications at other times upon special request and subject to the Committee’s availability, in its sole discretion.

IAM evaluates applications on the following criteria:

  1. How well the project fits into IAM’s charitable purpose, mission, and values.
  2. Commitment and relevant experience of project leaders.
  3. How well articulated are the project's goals and plans to achieve them.
  4. Compliance with IRS guidelines for activities of 501(c)(3) organizations.
  5. The specific needs of the project and its organizational framework.

In addition, for Model A Affiliates, IAM evaluates the project's strategies for funding and programming growth, potential scope of liabilities and personnel needs, and project leadership's understanding of the Model A relationship.

Still have questions?

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Photo courtesy of Art Forces and the Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural Project