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Fiscal Sponsorship

AIR is a 501(c)(3) multimedia member organization committed to expanding the ecosystem where producers can do their best work. Our mission is to identify, cultivate, and connect mission-driven storymakers across the U.S. and worldwide. 

AIR’s Fiscal Sponsorship program leans into our mission and values, making it possible for independent podcasters, projects, and audio producers to advance their work and become eligible for a range of fiduciary and administrative support services. Through Fiscal Sponsorship, independent podcasters, projects, and audio producers can recognize contributions as tax-deductible, access relevant grant opportunities, and develop fundraising opportunities designed to sustain and expand their mission-driven work. 

NOTE: An AIR membership is required to apply for fiscal sponsorship.

Project Eligibility, Guidelines + Criteria

AIR is committed to supporting charitable projects that move the needle of the industry by focusing on underrepresented voices, faces, communities, opportunities, and perspectives. 

We've identified a need within our membership and the larger freelance audio community that focuses on the limited accessibility to non-profit status and adequate funding. This program aims to provide projects with an interconnected system that supports first-time and ongoing projects, facilitates entry into the field for new projects, makes it easier for small projects to fundraise and establish themselves, and furthers equitable practice for underfunded and underrepresented efforts.

Projects can be at any stage with supporting documentation including but not limited to a comprehensive budget (we typically require projects to have a budget of at least $10,000), if applicable, a comprehensive production and distribution plan, and a mission that aligns with AIR's. As a fiscal sponsor, AIR wants to be assured that the public interest purposes of all projects we support align with our mission and charitable purpose. The project cannot fall in opposition to our values.

  1. At AIR, we aspire to cultivate a community of learning, mutual support, and accountability. We are more powerful as creators when we connect with, learn from, and collaborate with our peers. 
  2. We know diversity, equity, and inclusion must be actively practiced, consistently guiding our work. When we aren't hearing from the whole community, we aren't hearing the full story. We believe that newsrooms and media organizations must reflect their communities; we support and hold them accountable to create conditions that allow diverse voices and nuanced storytelling to thrive.
  3. We value creativity, innovation, and experimentation that move the craft forward. We resource and make space for inventive approaches to multimedia storytelling. We collaborate on technologies, tools, and infrastructures to support and increase the sustainability of our growing audio community.
  4. We invest resources in untold stories and underrepresented storytellers and believe that high-quality reporting and storytelling are essential tools to sustain a civically engaged, democratic society. 
  5. We believe in fostering a professional community rooted in shared standards of fair practice, designed to establish a level playing field, fairly value the work of independent media makers, and enable equitable negotiations and meaningful collaborations throughout one's career.        

Note: AIR is not a pass-through organization. We are dedicated to supporting meaningful, mission-driven work that aligns with AIR's mission and values.
 

Project Sponsorship Models

AIR offers two types of fiscal sponsorship: [Direct Project] fiscal sponsorship (sometimes referred to as Model A fiscal sponsorship) and [External Project] A grantor-grantee relationship fiscal sponsorship (sometimes referred to as Model C fiscal sponsorship). AIR generally uses the terms "Model C" and "Model A" to refer to the types of fiscal sponsorship that it provides.

Model A  [Direct Project]
The entire project is conducted by an independent contractor with whom the sponsor engages. The sponsor retains and pays the independent contractor with donated funds. The contractor accounts for its income and pays for the expenses.

Model C [External Project]
A grantor-grantee relationship between the sponsor and the project: the project remains a separate legal entity from AIR. This includes both one-time arrangements enabling a project to obtain the proceeds of a particular grant from a private foundation or donor via a sponsor, as well as ongoing arrangements where a sponsor receives funds raised over time from individual donors and grants funds from time to time to a project. 

Project Benefits + Services

AIR's program is structured with a tone of support and collaboration. This is exemplified in the variety of program benefits and services. AIR could serve as a home base for any administrative and fiduciary support the project may need, including, but not limited to, managing the project's back-office administration financial management and ensuring IRS compliance.

AIR overwhelmingly practices Model C of fiscal sponsorship but can offer more administrative services under Model A if the project scope calls for it and meets the sponsees' needs.

What are the benefits of Fiscal Sponsorship? (For the Sponsee) 

  • Fiscal sponsorship allows a charitable project to use the sponsor's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status to receive tax-deductible donations
  • Better fundraising opportunities using the fiscal sponsor's network and expertise. Often, a fiscal sponsor is a well-established 501(c)(3) organization with an extensive network of donors and experience raising funds for charitable purposes. The project benefits from the expertise and reputation of the sponsor, enabling the project to raise funds more effectively.
  • Fewer up-front costs. A project seeking fiscal sponsorship is not required to incorporate or acquire its own 501(c)(3) status, saving the project these essential start-up fees.
  • Use of various services provided by the fiscal sponsor. Fiscal sponsors offer numerous services to a project, including administrative, webpage, support, accounting, office space, grant writing, and technical support. These services can be invaluable to a new project.
  • Lower insurance costs. In the Direct Model (Model A), the sponsor can purchase a blanket liability covering all projects, often at a much lower cost than the projects could buy separately.

AIR’s Program Services: 

Accountability: As a fiscal sponsor, AIR will act as the legal and ethical anchor of the project and be accountable for ensuring that restricted funds are spent appropriately.

Communication: AIR will maintain close communication with funders, donors, and the project leader(s) associated with the project. More importantly, AIR commits to developing an open line of communication with the project leader/sponsee to establish a strong partnership. This allows AIR to provide maximum support.

Guidance and training: AIR is committed to establishing courses and curated content to guide fiscal sponsorship and non-profit resources. As part of our in-take process, project leaders are encouraged to let us know if there are any areas they would like more information on. This way, our course, and curated content offerings will be relevant and on-brand with the community's needs. 

Assessment: AIR is committed to assessing the quality of its service and continuing to make it better over time. We welcome candid feedback from funders, project leaders/sponsees, donors, and key stakeholders. 

Promotion and Advertising: AIR features fiscally sponsored projects in our newsletter and will work with you to ensure you have the reach and visibility your project needs.

Donation Page: AIR can develop a custom donation page that allows your project to solicit donations directly from your community.  

Donor Management: In addition to a custom donation page, AIR can work with you to accept and acknowledge individual and institutional donations. 

Grant Management: AIR can accept foundation funds for selected projects and will collaborate with you to ensure appropriate reporting.

Physical address to receive mail (if necessary): As an accepted part of the program, projects can use AIR's address to receive important documentation. 

IRS Compliance: AIR is responsible for ensuring we uphold our end of the IRS compliance standards so that our tax-exempt status stays intact and projects are assured that the work is consistent with 501(c)(3) designation.

Reasonable fiscal sponsorship fees: Fees for our services are measured against the scope of the work and the level of support a project needs.
 

Who can we work with

Existing Organizations: Looking to accept new grants for specific projects or programs: If you are a production company with established financial controls, bookkeeping, and a clear sense of your goals as an organization but not a 501(c)(3), and you want to accept a grant for specific targeted work, AIR can work with you. Our administrative fee is 10% (depending on the project scope) to cover our costs.

New Organizations or New Work: If you are a wholly new project or an independent professional without an established accounting process and wish to solicit charitable donations and grant funding for new or upcoming projects, the fee is 10-15% (depending on the project scope).
 

AIR’s service offerings under Model C : 

Managing Project Funder Needs: AIR, in collaboration with the project leader, is responsible for making sure the grant guidelines and or reporting requirements are accurate, comprehensive, and timely.

Fiscal and Accounting Support: AIR will oversee projects' financials by providing comprehensive and timely documents in accordance with project and funder needs, managing and distributing charitable funds in accordance with the agreement, donor/funder compliance, quarterly financial reports, and tax-deductible acknowledgments. Under this model, the main objective is to oversee grants.

Program Direction: Under this model, program direction, such as mission, program development, and employee choices, remain under the control of the project/ project leader. AIR would step in to help with Board oversight.

HR/Insurance: Under this model, the project/project leader is responsible for General Liability Insurance, Worker's Compensation Insurance, Employer/Contractor Status, and HR Legal Management
 

AIR’s service offerings under Model A 

Managing Project Funder Needs: AIR, in collaboration with the project leader, is responsible for making sure the grant guidelines and or reporting requirements are accurate, comprehensive, and timely. 

Fiscal and Accounting Support: AIR will help the project establish accounting processes and manage all bookkeeping directly. Per the project leader's instruction, AIR will pay your bills and receive and track earned revenue. 

Program Direction: Under this model, program direction, such as mission, program development, and employee choices, remain under the control of the project/ project leader. AIR would step in to help with Board oversight.

HR/Insurance: Under this model, AIR is responsible for general liability insurance, worker's comp insurance, employer/contractor status, and HR Legal Management.

Application Process

To apply to AIR's fiscal sponsorship program, please complete the following steps:

Submissions will be reviewed on a rolling basis. A decision will be communicated within two to four weeks of receiving a completed application.

Reviewed the FAQ? Have additional questions? Please email your name, organization, project title, and questions to [email protected].

Logistical Requirements

AIR will set up a basic fundraising page. The things we need from sponsored programs should be collected in a straightforward onboarding process (after we accept your application). These include: 

  • A copy of your organization or project logo
  • Primary email contact who deals with funds and donations + who to send notice of new contributions to
  • Best email address for us to use to share Google Drive documents with

Payment options 

  • Quickbooks Online (email invoices to [email protected])
  • ACH Payment (preferred method)
  • Paper Check by USPS

Please allow at least 24 hours for a response.
 

Expectations of the Project Leader/Applicant

Mission Fit: Be prepared to detail, in written and or verbal form, the charitable purpose of the project and how it relates to AIR's mission and values. 

Proposals: When approaching your prospects, be ready to give a verbal or written proposal that explains Your project: Why it's needed and its goals, objectives, method, evaluation, staffing, and budget. This is similar to a grant proposal. To learn more about writing one, please see our proposal writing resources, how it advances the nonprofit's mission and other ways it can benefit from being associated with your project.

Avoiding conflicts of interest: The fiscal sponsor is responsible for ensuring the project leaders understand and abide by their conflict of interest policy.

Active Fundraising: The fiscal sponsor requires accepted projects to actively fundraise for the project. 

Note: Projects that are fiscally inactive for a period of six months may be removed from the program. 

Project reporting: The project leader is responsible for submitting comprehensive and timely project reports in accordance with the fiscal sponsors' guidelines and due dates. Reports are due quarterly. 

Project Updates: The project leader must give consistent and comprehensive project updates per the fiscal sponsor's guidelines and due dates. It's also a reminder for the project leader to disclose their affiliation with the fiscal sponsor in all communications, including grant proposals and published content.