Get out and Learn photo ropes course

Get out and Learn, a project of Tides Center.

As the nation’s largest fiscal sponsor, Tides takes its leadership role seriously.  That’s why we have acted as the host of the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors for the past six years and why we’re proud to promote the newly developed Guidelines for Fiscal Sponsorship. Congratulations to Tides’ Jane Levikow, who serves as the chair of NNFS, and the other members of the NNFS steering committee who have contributed to this important milestone for the field of fiscal sponsorship.

While the Guidelines are an important first step, the field must continue to evolve in its structures, policies, and best practices to keep pace with the evolving nature of the broader nonprofit sector. There is much more to do to ensure that the tool of fiscal sponsorship is deployed and managed effectively and continues to contribute to the vitality and sustainability of the nonprofit sector.

Tides provides comprehensive fiscal sponsorship; that is, our 230-plus projects operate as programs of Tides.  We take full legal and fiduciary responsibility for every aspect of our project’s work. We are committed to addressing the details of compliance and strict financial accountability to ensure that our projects have adequate operational backing to support their work in advancing social justice and equality throughout the world without of fear of violating governance rules and regulations. We have a team of passionate accounting, human resources, risk management, and grants management professionals who dedicate their considerable talents to supporting the work of our projects.

Increasingly, philanthropic institutions are awakening to the value of fiscal sponsorship.  At Tides, for example, we manage several funding collaboratives—comprised of both a fiscally sponsored project and a grantmaking fund—working on issues ranging from global HIV treatment access to community clinics in California.   Such partnerships aren’t necessarily what you would think of as a “typical” fiscal sponsorship arrangement.  Nonetheless, the structures offered by fiscal sponsors enable funders to operate with greater efficiency, collaborate more easily, and develop innovative programs that would not otherwise be possible.

Many may perceive fiscal sponsorship as primarily a tool for “incubation,” but increasingly, Tides projects are finding that the infrastructure we provide enables them to focus on their mission not just at start-up, but over the long haul. They’re also finding that the breadth and depth of services that we offer are a cost-effective alternative to going it alone.

As nonprofit activity evolves, so must fiscal sponsorship. Some key questions demand exploration. Please join the discussion with your comments.

  • What does it mean for the field when “spinning off” to be an independent 501(c)(3) is no longer the assumed path of a sponsored project?   And why is it assumed that an organization must be independent to be effective?
  • How can we apply best practices to work that crosses international borders?  Tides supports several projects that work globally, and we have learned the challenges of applying the same standards of compliance across borders as we do domestically.
  • What does it mean for social entrepreneurs to be operating in a world that is increasingly virtual?  How can fiscal sponsorship help, and not hinder this innovation?
  • And, what about charitable activity does not fit cleanly into current models of fiscal sponsorship?  What are appropriate and effective vehicles to ensure that standards of financial management and charitable compliance are maintained within a framework that demands innovation?

We at Tides look forward to our continued role in leading the way that the field approaches these, and other critical questions.