FAQ

What is fiscal sponsorship?

A fiscal sponsor is a nonprofit organization that extends its tax-exempt status to unincorporated groups or projects engaged in activities related to that organization's mission. Typically, in exchange for a fee, the established nonprofit provides such groups or projects with the benefits of a tax-exempt status, and a range of other financial and administrative services. Projects become part of the larger legal entity, but continue to fund raise and carry out their program strategies while the fiscal sponsor takes care of the administrative aspects of running the organization.

Why choose fiscal sponsorship?

Starting a nonprofit and gaining 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status on your own is expensive and time-consuming, as is developing the administrative, legal, and financial resources necessary to manage your organization. Fiscal sponsorship saves projects time and money by providing tax-exempt status and a shared administrative platform which may include payroll, employee benefits, office space, publicity, insurance, and training services. You can become a project as an interim step before creating your own 501(c)(3) organization, or like some of our projects, you can benefit from the efficiencies and cost savings of our shared platform for an extended period of time. Working under the umbrella of a fiscal sponsor makes sense for projects that are just starting out, choosing to stay small and lean, or working on increasing credibility and visibility to funders.

What is the relationship between T4CI and its projects?

From a legal and financial perspective, a fiscal sponsor's projects become part of the fiscal sponsor, and the fiscal sponsor is legally and financially responsible for their projects' activities. Trust for Conservation Innovation (T4CI) projects benefit from T4CI's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, but they retain full responsibility for their vision, strategy, identity, program oversight, and fundraising, often through their own advisory boards. Because they are part of T4CI, and not separate legal entities, they are able to receive charitable donations and grants available only to tax-exempt organizations.

How do I become a T4CI project?

Once you've reviewed our eligibility checklist, e-mail us at info@t4ci.org to set up an appointment to talk about your idea. If your project sounds like it's right for T4CI, we'll ask you to fill out an application, which will immediately trigger our review process (no waiting until the next board meeting — we know your time is precious).

Is my project right for T4CI?

Trust for Conservation Innovation projects have a firm commitment to the environment and an innovative, detailed plan to create real, sustainable change on a large scale. If you are ready to move forward and carry out your vision, but are getting bogged down in the day-to-day administrative and financial aspects of managing your organization, T4CI can help.

Why should I choose T4CI as my fiscal sponsor?

Because T4CI has been focused solely on environmental projects for the past decade, we are just as passionate about saving the environment as the visionary leaders we support. Our projects all benefit from being part of a family of organizations working towards similar goals. We are also small enough to offer customized, individual attention and get things started quickly, but large enough to offer a full range of fiscal sponsorship services at a competitive rate.

How long does the process take?

From the time you submit your application to T4CI, it usually takes about a month for us to review it, meet with you, and submit it for a board review. Applications are considered on a rolling basis, not just when the board meets. We're flexible. Be sure to let us know if you need us to expedite your request to meet a funding-critical deadline.

How much does it cost?

There is no fee for applying to become a T4CI project. If your project is accepted, in exchange for tax-exempt nonprofit status and all of T4CI's financial, administrative, grant management, and HR services, projects pay T4CI 9% of the revenue they generate (14% of revenue from government sources). This fee structure is competitive, and compares favorably with our competition.

How do you decide which projects to accept?

First and foremost, projects must be working to further our mission to protect and conserve the natural environment. If your project is in line with our mission statement, then we look for preparedness and how much thought has gone into your plan to fund and meet your organization's objectives. Lastly, T4CI is interested in projects that are committed to long-term, sustainable change on a large scale.

What do I get if my project is accepted?

T4CI will not only provide nonprofit status for your project so that you can get the funding you need, we'll provide financial and administrative support, and help you navigate the tricky waters of legal and financial regulations. Our experts take care of the financial, administrative, and legal aspects of running a nonprofit for you so that you can focus on carrying out your mission. Read more about our services.

What if I still have questions?

Our Resources page includes links to outside resources that provide information about fiscal sponsorship, getting funding for your organization, and more. If you have specific questions for T4CI, please contact Laura Deaton at 415.421.3774 Ext. 10 or laura@trustforconservationinnovation.org.