FISCAL SPONSORSHIP GUIDELINES
Docs In Progress, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, administers a Fiscal Sponsorship Program to allow eligible documentary projects to be able to apply for funding to foundations and other grant-making institutions and to accept tax-deductible donations from individual donors. Docs In Progress offers financial oversight by monitoring reports and managing funds to ensure that funder requirements are adhered to by filmmakers. While Docs In Progress is not involved in the editorial content, production, or fundraising for fiscally sponsored projects, the Fiscal Sponsorship is considered an extension of our other professional development programs for documentary filmmakers.
Docs In Progress accepts applications on a rolling basis. A non-refundable $50 fee is required upon application. Please read the guidelines below before applying.
WHY DO I NEED FISCAL SPONSORSHIP?
If you plan to raise funds for the film from private, family, or corporate foundations, there are very few that provide funding to individual artists. Most require that funds be given to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Additionally individual donors in the U.S. who give to a film project through a fiscal sponsor may count that donation as a charitable contribution which is tax-deductible up to the full extent of the law. As a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster a supportive community for documentary filmmakers, Docs In Progress has extended its nonprofit status for eligible projects to seek funding.
CAN I APPLY IF MY FILM IS NOT YET BEGUN? OR IF IT’S ALREADY BEEN COMPLETED?
You can apply at any stage of production. Some filmmakers apply while they are still in pre-production so they can start the fundraising process. Others apply at later stages of the filmmaking process. Regardless of the stage, what we require is that your film must have a proposal, budget, and fundraising strategy.
CAN I APPLY WITH A NARRATIVE FICTION PROJECT?
We only accept applications for documentary film or video projects.
WHAT ABOUT SERIES? A SHORT? A PODCAST?
As long as it is a documentary project, the length or format does not matter.
DO I HAVE TO BE BASED IN THE U.S. OR BE A CITIZEN?
Fiscal sponsorship for individuals to apply for funding from U.S.-based foundations and individuals who want a charitable tax deduction from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). However, international projects based on the following scenarios may be eligible for fiscal sponsorship with Docs In Progress.
- Projects from U.S. expatriates working in another country as long as you have a permanent address, US bank account, and a US tax ID.
- We can consider projects from foreign nationals working in the U.S. as long as you have a tax identification number from the IRS, a bank account in the U.S., and your visa status allows you to earn income legally in the U.S. (please note though that some funders will only support projects made by U.S. citizens so you may still want to have a U.S. co-producer).
- We can consider projects originating from other countries only if there is a U.S.-based project director (i.e., a co-production) who will be the primary point of contact. There will also need to be a U.S. bank account.
SOMEONE READY TO GIVE ME MONEY RIGHT NOW. I HAVE TO MAKE A GRANT DEADLINE THIS WEEK. CAN YOU SPEED-TRACK ME?
Docs In Progress approaches Fiscal Sponsorship very seriously. The quickest turnaround is generally within 6 weeks upon submission. Extending our nonprofit status to a film project is not something we can take lightly since we are ultimately accountable to the IRS for any funds which are raised under our name. That is why have a thorough application and review process before we can accept a project into our Fiscal Sponsorship Program.
MAY I POST ONLINE OR IN GRANT APPLICATIONS THAT I HAVE APPLIED FOR FISCAL SPONSORSHIP FROM DOCS IN PROGRESS?
You cannot announce you are fiscally sponsored by Docs in Progress until acceptance. If you are applying to a funder who requires fiscal sponsorship and their deadline is prior to notification of acceptance into our program, please contact us to discuss.
WHAT FEES ARE INVOLVED?
Once a project is accepted into the Docs In Progress Fiscal Sponsorship Program, Docs In Progress assigns a 7% administrative fee for most funds raised [plus any merchant account fees. We charge 10% for government grants which require a higher degree of paperwork and reporting.
WHY DO YOU ASK ME FOR A PROPOSAL AND BUDGET?
We need to ensure that the filmmaker has developed a solid project proposal with a realistic budget.
WHAT SHOULD THE PROPOSAL INCLUDE?
As of 2017, Docs In Progress is following the Documentary Core Application. The questions asked on our application are similar to those asked by major film funders. The proposal should be well thought-out, informative yet concise. More is not necessarily better!
WHAT SHOULD THE BUDGET INCLUDE?
The key is that the budget SHOULD include realistic numbers that address all phases of your project. You should place a value on your own time. We recommend you use our budgeting format.
WHAT IF MY PROJECT OR BUDGET CHANGES AFTER ACCEPTANCE?
It is expected that a film project will evolve. This is one of the reasons that we ask Fiscal Sponsorees to submit regular reports which not only update us on their fundraising efforts, but also on any significant changes to the film or the budget. As long as the basic concept of the film remains unchanged and Docs In Progress is kept informed of other changes, this is not a major issue.
CAN I RAISE FUNDS ONLINE THROUGH DOCS IN PROGRESS?
Docs In Progress will include your project on our website with an option for donors to give online. Each project has its own page with its own donation button, which you can link to on your own website and outreach.
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN I RECEIVE AN INDIVIDUAL DONATION?
We generally forward email notifications of donations to the fiscal sponsorees within a few days of the donation being received. This is primarily so you know who has donated to you and can thank them. A final report of all donations received in a given year will be sent in late January.
IF I BECOME A FISCAL SPONSOREE, HOW SOON AFTER FUNDS ARE RECEIVED BY DOCS IN PROGRESS CAN I GET THEM?
Docs In Progress disburses funds to fiscal sponsorees up to once per quarter.
CAN MY LAWYER MAKE CHANGES BEFORE I SIGN THE AGREEMENT?
E-mail us at contactATdocsinprogressDOTorg or call 301-789-2797.
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