In my last two posts I wrote about writing your documentary film proposal and registering your film as an LLC. If you aren’t familiar with those topics, I recommend giving them a read before jumping into this post. Here, I’m going to talk about what comes next.
What is a Fiscal Sponsor?
If you’ve written your proposal and registered as an LLC, you’re probably champing at the bit to start pursuing grants, donations, investments, all of the things that will help turn your idea into a film.
But, there’s one last piece of business to get out of the way, especially if you want to take grants and donations: finding a fiscal sponsor.
What is a fiscal sponsor? A fiscal sponsor is not a grantor, donor, or investor. A fiscal sponsor will not fund your film. Rather, a fiscal sponsor is a 501(c)(3) organization that agrees to take tax-deductible donations on behalf of your project.
Why is a fiscal sponsor beneficial? Most grants require 501(c)(3) status for the projects they give money to, and most individuals will be more likely to donate money to your project if they know that their donation is tax-deductible.
Some filmmakers register their production companies or films as 501(c)(3) organizations, and it’s a valid approach so long as they don’t intend to profit off of their work. There are strict rules for 501(c)(3) organizations, especially when it comes to how funds are used and distributed among officers. That’s why most filmmakers take the LLC approach and secure a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor if they intend to take grant or donation money.
How to Get a Fiscal Sponsor for Your Documentary Film
Now, before I list the fiscal sponsors available for your documentary film, there are two things you must understand.
First, organizations that provide fiscal sponsorship to films almost always require a detailed proposal (including a budget) to be included with your application.
Second, they almost always require that your film be registered as an LLC or other corporate entity before they agree to sponsor it.
So, get all of that business out of the way and then check out some of the fiscal sponsors available for your film:
- International Documentary Association
- Independent Filmmaker Project
- Docs in Progress
- Media Alliance
- The Film Collaborative
- Filmmakers Collaborative
- Film Forum
- Documentary Educational Resources
- Independent Arts & Media
- Living Archives
- Fractured Atlas
- Hartley Film Foundation
- Kartemquin Films
NOTE: Most of these fiscal sponsors charge a fee between 5-12% for all money they accept on behalf of your project for administrative work. There may be organizations that do not charge a fee for fiscal sponsorship, but there is likely to be a trade-off when it comes to mentoring, marketing, or other benefits that come with some of the fiscal sponsors on this list.
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