What is a fiscal sponsorship?
A fiscal sponsor is an organization that administers a grant on behalf of a grantee. Individuals, groups, or organizations that wish to apply for funding through the Wikimedia Community Fund, Wikimedia Alliances Fund, the Wikimedia Research & Technology Fund, or the Conference & Event Grants Program but cannot or prefer not to administer the grant funds themselves, may request to receive their grant through a fiscal sponsor organization. The fiscal sponsor receives the funds from WMF on behalf of the grantee, holds the funds, and dispenses them as agreed or instructed by the grantee. The grantee is responsible for managing and implementing the funded project.
Fiscal sponsorships may be helpful for:
- (a) new organizations or groups that have not yet incorporated or established a bank account where they can receive grant funds;
- (b) groups or initiatives that are formed temporarily for a specific purpose; or
- (c) groups whose circumstances make it hard for a grantee to receive funds directly.
How do fiscal sponsorships work?
Fiscal sponsorships require two written agreements:
- An agreement between WMF and the fiscal sponsor.
- An agreement between the fiscal sponsor and the grantee, using a template agreed upon with WMF. The grantee agrees to provide the fiscal sponsor and WMF with information about the project and may communicate directly with WMF alongside the fiscal sponsor.
In most cases, the fiscal sponsor is responsible for working with the grantee to ensure that reporting requirements are met, but the grantee and the fiscal sponsor do not usually need to submit separate grant requests or grant reports to WMF.
Here are examples of fiscal sponsorship grant agreements for:
- Rapid Fund program - Grants:Project/Rapid/Example agreements/Fiscal sponsorship
- Conference grants program - Grants:Conference/Example agreements/Fiscal sponsorship
- Project-specific grants program - Grants:Project/Example agreements/Fiscal sponsorship
When do you request a fiscal sponsorship?
Grantees do not need to have a fiscal sponsor identified before they submit their request, but should identify one before the grant is approved. Annual Plan Grants are generally not eligible to award grants as fiscal sponsorships.
Who can act as a fiscal sponsor?
Fiscal sponsors must be incorporated organizations registered as a charity/nonprofit in their local contexts, and need to meet some basic eligibility requirements.
- A fiscal sponsor must be in compliance with any agreement it has with WMF in order to receive funds from WMF.
- Fiscal sponsors may have received grants from WMF in the past and be familiar with the WMF grants programs, but that is not a requirement.
- Non-profit organizations and Wikimedia affiliates receiving WMF grants may also act as fiscal sponsors for other grantees.
- The fiscal sponsor and the grantee must have a good working relationship, since they will need to work together with WMF on the grant.
- Here is a list of funded WMF grants involving fiscal sponsors
What information is needed from a fiscal sponsor?
Before a fiscal sponsorship agreement can be issued and grant funds disbursed, the fiscal sponsor must provide this documentation to the Wikimedia Foundation.
During the grant request review period, documents requested include but not limited to:
- proof organization has nonprofit and/or charity status equivalent to the US 501(c)(3) status in its local context (English translation may be requested)
- a contact name, job title/role within the organization, and email address are needed so that WMF can work with the fiscal sponsor directly
- for some countries, NGOSource would work directly with the contact at the fiscal sponsor organization to conduct a 501(c)(3) Equivalency Determination (ED) process
- 2-3 years of annual financial statements (audited financials preferred, if available) and translated in English
If the grant request is being considered for funding, information/documents required before a final decision is made: (this also information needed to draft grant agreements)
- unexpired government issued identification document for all agreement signatories
- date of birth (if not already listed in the ID provided)
Before grant payment, required documents include:
- a completed bank information form where the grant funds will be wired to
- a document or letter from their bank identifying the persons with access to the bank account where the grant funds will be sent and stored
- additional information and valid identification documents for all persons with signing authority to the bank account where the grant funds will be received and stored
- Basic eligibility requirements include but are not limited to being an organization:
- with an IRS registration with a 501(c)(3) status and in good standing; a current listing at Guidestar (for U.S. organizations).
- registered as an organization within their country (not a program or project with no formal organizational structure).
- that engages primarily in charitable purposes. Documentation for its overall activities, mission and purpose must reflect this.
- that does not engage in any amount of activity involving the election of public officials in any amount.
- that has a plan and documentation to the organization’s assets upon its dissolution.
- For charitable/nonprofit organizations based outside the United States that are interested in serving as a fiscal sponsor, please include proof/acknowledgement of local requirements around receiving foreign funding or receiving funds from a US nonprofit. (e.g. India - proof of nonprofit status and proof of current FCRA registration; Bangladesh - compliance to NGOAB requirements; Belarus, Turkey - acknowledgement of the pre-approval and reporting requirements when receiving foreign funds, etc.)
- NGOSource 501(c)(3) Equivalency Determination process takes an average of 4-6 weeks, and there are no costs to the fiscal sponsor organization.
- We take your privacy seriously, and only request information/documents as they are needed to process a grant and comply with US regulations around grant making. If you prefer to send us your personal information and documents through another secure method that you are comfortable with, just let us know at grantsadminwikimedia.org. Some options grantees have preferred include:
- sharing a temporary zipped file or folder in Google Drive/Dropbox/similar services for our us to download and for grantees to remove once we confirm receipt
- emailing a password protected file and providing the password via a different mode of communication (e.g. text, if in the U.S.; apps like Signal or Telegram; Skype)
- There are a number of ways to satisfy this request, but the most common documents we receive are a scanned bank letter signed by a bank representative, an email from your bank representative directly to <firstname.lastname@example.org>, or the signed bank account contract (for a new bank account).
The document from your bank should include the account number (last few digits are okay), names of all account signatories (people with authorization to withdraw funds from the account), and something that verifies the document is from your banking institution.