Fiscal Sponsorship Program

Fiscal sponsorship is a formal arrangement in which a 501(c)(3) public charity, such as the IDA, agrees to sponsor a project that furthers our mission, for the purpose of fundraising through grants and donations. This alternative to starting your own nonprofit allows you to seek grants and solicit tax-deductible donations for your documentary, with the oversight, support and endorsement of IDA.

Apply for Sponsorship     FSP FAQ    Sponsorship Blog

IDA knows documentary. Our mission is simple; to support documentary filmmakers and to further the art of the documentary. Since 1998, our fiscal sponsorship program has been directly accomplishing this mission, by helping hundreds of independent documentaries, which may otherwise have been unable to secure funding, get funded and finished! Read more...

Last year, our filmmakers raised over 3 million dollars to get their documentaries made and seen. We work with films in all stages of production, including supporting filmmakers through the crucial phases of distribution and outreach.

As Fiscal Sponsors on your project, IDA will not take any ownership of your project, nor will we infringe on your creative control, copyright, or prevent you from future sales or profit from your project. IDA seeks to be as non-intrusive as possible in monitoring projects. The main thing we do is to assure that the money you raise is being properly dispersed and used for the project as intended.

If you have questions about fiscal sponsorship, which are not answered here, don't hesitate to contact us at

Donate to more Sponsored Documentaries

Manage Your Sponsored Project
In order to manage your sponsored project online, you must be signed in to and have an up to date membership with IDA. You can renew your membership online here. If you are signed in and still having trouble accessing the documents below, please email us at

Download PDF Fiscal Sponsorship Handbook (last updated 07/10/2012) (Sign-in required.)
Online Form File a Project Report – Due Dates February 28, 2014 and February 28, 2015!
Spreadsheet Sample Cost Report
Online Form Submit or Edit Online Donations Information (Sign-in required.)
Online Form Request a Balance Update (Sign-in required.)
Online Form Request a Disbursement of Funds (Sign-in required.)
Online Form Request a Letter of Support (Sign-in required.)
Online Form Notify us of a Non-cash Donation (Sign-in required.)
Online Form Notify us of a Grant Application and/or Letter of Inquiry (Sign-in required.)
Online Form Crowd Funding Form (Sign-in required.)
Online Form Request a Donation Receipt
Spreadsheet Notify us of a partially deductible donation (Sign-in required.)
Download PDF Credit Card Donation Form

Download Frequently Requested Documents for Grant Applications

Download PDF IRS Determination Letter
Download PDF Most Recent Audited Financial Statement
Download PDF Most Recent IRS 990
Download PDF List of IDA Board of Directors
Download PDF IDA Organizational Profile
Download PDF 2012 IDA Annual Report
Download PDF IDA W-9 Form

IDA Sponsored Films Cloud

Fiscal Sponsorship Program FAQ




What is Fiscal Sponsorship?
Fiscal sponsorship is a legal and financial arrangement which allows a 501(c )(3) tax-exempt nonprofit corporation, such as the International Documentary Association (IDA) to provide it's nonprofit status along with financial oversight to a project by an individual or organization that does not have nonprofit status. IDA can provide this service to a variety of projects if they meet the fiscal sponsorship admissions criteria and their project is in line with our mission. This arrangement is a well-accepted model of nonprofit arts funding. Once accepted into our Fiscal Sponsorship Program, we establish a "re-granting" relationship with the project director, giving you the opportunity to apply for and accept grants that require 501(c)(3) status through IDA. Donors, foundations, and corporations are able to donate funds to IDA specifically for the purpose of supporting a sponsored project. IDA then administers those funds to the project and exercises financial control and oversight to assure that funds are spent for their designated purpose.
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How can my project benefit from Fiscal Sponsorship with IDA?
Fiscal Sponsorship is a valuable fundraising tool that can expand your fundraising options. Many individual donors, foundations, and corporate funders will only donate to an established 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Fiscal sponsorship will allow you to apply for and accept such funding. Fiscal sponsorship is also an excellent alternative to investing your time and money into establishing your own 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. As Fiscal Sponsors on your project, IDA will not infringe on your creative control, copyright, or prevent you from future sales or profiting from your project. IDA seeks to be as non-intrusive as possible in monitoring the project. The main thing we monitor is to make sure the money is being properly dispersed and used for the project as approved.
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What types of projects do you sponsor?
We sponsor documentary film or video projects in all stages of production. If you have a project that is related to the documentary genre and to IDA's mission (i.e. a documentary film festival, a hybrid documentary project, a documentary related website, etc.) we may be able to work with you. Please contact the Fiscal Sponsorship department to discuss the specifics of your project before proceeding with the application process. We do not sponsor fiction films, docudramas or any project not directly related to the documentary genre or to IDA's mission. 

To take advantage of the benefits of fiscal sponsorship your project must be artistic, educational, or charitable in nature. That does not mean your project can not be profitable.  Projects we sponsor are mainly funded by donations, grants and the filmmakers themselves. If you have any further questions about whether your project qualifies for fiscal sponsorship, contact the Fiscal Sponsorship Manager before beginning your application.
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What type of fundraising help and grant writing services do you offer?
You are responsible for raising all the funds for your own project. We do not fundraise for your project, nor do we provide any formal research or grant proposal-writing services. However, we will do our best to answer questions, collaborate on grant proposals when necessary, point you towards helpful resources, and offer fundraising and grant-seeking advice whenever we can. And when you hit that wall fundraising for your film, we've been told we give a heck of a pep talk. We are here to help so don't hesitate to give us a call with any fundraising or grant related questions.
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Why do you take a percentage of the money we raise if we do all the fundraising?
A program like this has significant overhead and administrative, legal and accounting costs. The fiscal sponsorship fee covers the cost of running the program and is what allows us to offer this valuable service to our members. Application fees alone wouldn't even begin to cover our program related expenses.
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Can my project have more than one fiscal sponsor?
Maybe. If you already have a primary fiscal sponsor and are applying to IDA for additional sponsorship please contact the Fiscal Sponsorship department to discuss your specific situation before beginning our application process. Unfortunately, we cannot sponsor projects solely to administer a single, one time only pass through grant. You must complete the entire application process and be actively fundraising from multiple sources to participate in our program. There may be situations where a specific grant requires an in-state fiscal sponsor in a state where we are not registered. Since we are registered as a public charity in California, if we are unable to sponsor you for a specific grant you are free to pursue secondary fiscal sponsorship with a local organization in the state where you will be applying for the grant. Whenever possible we will do our best to point you in the right direction by recommending organizations we trust. We do not approve secondary sponsorship in all cases however. Please contact us with questions.
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There is a grant application that is due in two weeks/two days/two hours and they require a fiscal sponsor. If I submit my application, can you expedite it ASAP to meet the grant deadline?
Unfortunately we are unable to guarantee any specific turn around time for application review. Our review process typically takes about a month, but again, that is not guaranteed.  Please budget our review  process into the time-line when you are considering grant deadlines. If you have a specific deadline contact our office and we'll let you know if it's likely that we will be able to meet it. Back to Top

How do I apply?
An application and detailed instructions on how to apply are available here: Fiscal Sponsorship Application
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Can I apply for fiscal sponsorship for my company if we are producing multiple projects?
We only sponsor specific projects, not individuals or companies. You must apply separately for each project you are working on. If you are applying for sponsorship of more than one project you must be able to show in your application that you have the resources to work on more than one project at a time and explain how those resources will be divided between active projects.
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If I am a member of IDA is my project automatically sponsored?
No. While you must be a member of IDA to take advantage of our fiscal sponsorship program, sponsorship is not automatic. You must apply to the program. Unless you have officially been accepted into the program and have signed an official fiscal sponsorship agreement you may not solicit funds through IDA's fiscal sponsorship program.
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I'm not a U.S. citizen. Can I still apply for fiscal sponsorship with IDA?
Yes. You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to apply for fiscal sponsorship with IDA. However, at least one of your project's named project directors will need to have a SSN (social security number), ITIN (independent Taxpayer Identification Number), or other type of IRS registration. You should also note that there may be mandatory IRS withholding requirements of as much as 30% depending on the country you live in and where funds are to be spent. Please contact our office before proceeding with an application if you reside outside the US. Back to Top

How much does Fiscal Sponsorship cost?
There is a $75 nonrefundable application processing fee when you apply. You will be required to maintain an active paid membership with IDA throughout the life of your project. Membership with IDA starts at $55 a year. We charge a 7% administrative fee for most grants and donations received on behalf of a sponsored project (this fee will be higher for some government grants). Our fees very competitive with other fiscal sponsorship programs that offer similar services and resources.
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What percentages of applications are approved for fiscal sponsorship?
Approximately 90% of proposals submitted are ultimately accepted into our program. Our goal is to help documentary projects get made and funded. We will work with you whenever possible to address problems in your application and help your project get accepted.
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My film is mostly completed and I just need fiscal sponsorship for postproduction and distribution. Can I still apply?
Yes! We can work with projects in all phases of development, production, post production, distribution and outreach.
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Can I start accepting donations and applying for grants through IDA while I am waiting for my fiscal sponsorship application to be approved?
No. Until we have a signed contract, your project is not sponsored by IDA and may not solicit tax-deductible donations or apply for foundation grants on IDA's behalf.
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I'm putting together my application and I've never written adocumentary budget before. Can you help?
This article by Robert Bahar is a great place to start when trying to put together a budget for your project. The article, originally published in our magazine, Documentary, includes a detailed sample budget to help you get started.

There is also a template you can use to create an excel budget available via, here: Documentary Budget Template
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How detailed and complete does my budget need to be?
You should submit a complete budget that is as detailed as possible. Do your best to get well researched estimates for all project related costs that you anticipate. Your budget should not include things like "To be Determined." We need an actual dollar amount for all projected expenses. We understand that production related costs and services can change. You can submit reasonable changes and amendments to your budget as your project progresses, but you should be as thorough as possible with your initial budget. Back to Top

Can I include a salary for myself in my fiscal sponsorship budget?
Yes! We strongly encourage you to include a salary for yourself in your project budget. Actually, several of the funders we work with insist upon it. You deserve to be paid a fair price for your hard work. It is important however that any salaries specified in your budget be proportional to your overall budget and fall well within the accepted industry norms for non-commercial documentary projects. Budgets with salaries or other expenses that are deemed excessive will be rejected.
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If I have a project in fiscal sponsorship are my future projects automatically sponsored too?
No. You must apply separately for each project you work on. Even if you have worked with us before, sponsorship is never automatic.
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If I find a grant that does not require a fiscal sponsor can I apply on my own?
Yes. You are free to pursue multiple sources of revenue to fund your project. If you find a grant that you qualify for as an individual filmmaker, you can apply and accept those funds outside of your fiscal sponsorship arrangement with IDA.
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I have someone who would like to make an in-kind donation to my project. How can I get them a tax receipt for their donation?
If someone would like to donate a non-cash tangible good to your project, we can issue you a receipt under most circumstances. Some examples of this type of donation include things like equipment or office supplies to be used directly for the production of your documentary. The receipt we issue, in accordance with IRS regulations, will not specify a dollar amount for the deduction. We will simply describe the goods donated in detail, and the donor will have the responsibility of quantifying the donation and confirming it's deductibility. You will then be responsible for accounting for how donated goods are used for your project when you file your reports. If a donor has questions about the deductibility of a non-cash contribution they should contact their tax professional. We are not qualified to answer tax related questions.

We are unable to issue receipts for donation of time or professional services, as these are considered volunteer work and are non-deductible by law. We also cannot issue receipts for donated space, rent or large ticket items like cars or boats.
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Someone would like to make a credit card donation to my project. Is that possible?
Yes. We currently accept credit cards, checks, wire transfers, stock transfers, and paypal donations. Refer to the Fiscal Sponsorship Handbook for detailed instructions. 
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I have a project in fiscal sponsorship, how can I get it up on the website to accept donations?
View instructions
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Can you accept a stock donation to my project?
Yes. It may take longer to process a stock donation than a standard check or credit card donation but we can arrange it. Please contact our office for information on accepting stock donations.
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Is my project eligible for matching gifts?
Yes. We can process and accept matching gifts from businesses when an employee has made an eligible donation. Each company has their own rules and procedures for processing these donations. Employees or businesses who would like to make eligible gifts should contact the appropriate person at their place of employment for details on how to proceed. After a matching gift has been initiated, please let us know that a matching donation will be arriving and ask your company to reference the project you are donating to somewhere on the check or accompanying letter.
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I'm selling DVDs on my website, how can people who purchase them receive a tax deduction?
No. A donation is a gift made for charitable purposes. That gift must be given without return consideration. If any goods or services are received it is considered a purchase or a sales transaction, not a donation. Payment for DVDs, ticket sales, promotional merchandise, and etc. should be made directly to you or your company, not to IDA. Back to Top

I want to have a raffle or auction at my next fundraising party. How do I handle those donations?
We unfortunately cannot accept any money generated by raffles. As long as you comply with the laws in your state, you may still be able to hold a raffle to benefit your project but funds would no be considered a charitable donation and are not tax-deductible. 

If you are planning on holding an auction at your fundraising party please contact our office before proceeding with any plans. We require a phone consultation before any event where an auction will be held so we can explain the specific rules and considerations.
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I have an overseas donor who would like to make a contribution in support of my project. Can they receive a tax benefit in their own country?
The tax receipt we provide to donors is only valid in the United States. We can also sometimes facilitate donations from Canada through an intermediary organization such as Tides Canada, however at this time there is a waiting list for this service so please contact our office for details. Potential donors in other countries will need to consult with their own government and/or tax professionals about any potential benefit associated with donating to a US charity or nonprofit organization.
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How often can I request funds from my fiscal sponsorship account?
We write checks approximately once a week. You can request funds when you are ready to spend them by filling out our official check request form (you must be a paid member of IDA and be signed in to to view or complete this form) online. We cannot accept fund requests over the phone or by email. If you have an urgent situation requiring a specific turn time, please contact our office before submitting your request. We will do our best to accommodate you.
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Can I have funds transferred to my bank account instead of waiting for a check?
Wire transfers are possible, but only under emergency circumstances. Wire transfers are not a standard procedure for issuing funds. Back to Top

What can I pay for with money received through fiscal sponsorship?You can pay for any approved project related expense with money from your fiscal sponsorship account. You should refer to the budget that was approved with your application for any questions about what is and is not an approved expense or line item. Using money from fiscal sponsorship for anything that is not directly related to producing your project is against the law and could have very serious consequences for you, your project, IDA, donors, and foundations who have given to your project. You will be required to report back to IDA on how all funds are spent, and may be required to provide receipts, invoices or proof of payment at any time. If you have any concerns about what is or is not a legitimate project related expense please contact us.     
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Can I pay for equipment with money from my fiscal sponsorship account?
Yes. You can pay for equipment that is directly related to your project and purchasing it was accounted for in the budget that was approved with your fiscal sponsorship application. Typically the cost of purchasing equipment will be approved if you can show that it is less expensive than renting the same or similar equipment. If the equipment is necessary for your project but was not accounted for in your budget you can submit a revised budget for approval. The budget that was approved with your application should be your guide for what is and isn't an approved expense.
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Do I need to keep receipts and records of how I spend the money you send me?
YES!!! Proper record keeping is essential and cannot be emphasized enough. IDA is legally responsible for all funds that come through the fiscal sponsorship program. As a project director, you are legally and contractually responsible for reporting back to us on exactly how any funds you receive are spent on your project. Please refer to our project report forms for specific reporting requirements. You will also need access to receipts and records when you file your taxes so when in doubt, don't throw it out!
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Do I need to have a separate bank account to accept fiscal sponsorship funds or can the checks be made directly to me?
You are not required to have a separate bank account for your project, but we strongly recommend it. Keeping track of finances for tax purposes is much easier with a dedicated account. Even if you are managing your project as an individual you can still speak with your bank about getting a separate account just for your project.
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Do I need to report the money I receive through fiscal sponsorship to the IRS?
Yes! We strongly advise everyone to consult a tax professional after your acceptance into the Fiscal Sponsorship program. You are responsible for reporting all income, including money received through fiscal sponsorship, to the IRS. If you are eligible for one you will receive a 1099 from us at the end of each fiscal year that you accept funds through our program. If you have been diligently keeping track of the money received and spent on project related expenses, you ideally shouldn't owe any taxes on the money we send you, except for what you will owe on your project related salary. However, we can not guarantee that you will have no tax liability. You must speak to your own tax advisor to discuss your personal circumstances. Please consult a tax professional for any specific tax questions. We'll do our best to offer general guidance, but our staff is not qualified, nor permitted, to answer any specific tax related questions.
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