Start a Nonprofit Project

Realize Your Vision of Social Change with Tides

Tides partners with individuals and institutions to turn their vision of a new program into an effective organization. By starting a Tides fiscally sponsored project, you receive the benefits and structure of a well-run nonprofit organization and you can focus on your vision of social change. Tides partners with you to handle the operational details providing comprehensive back-office management including human resources, financial administration, and risk management.

Step-by-Step Guide to Become a Project

Thank you for your interest in joining Tides. This step-by-step guide gives you the information you need to become a project of Tides. Please review the tabbed steps in order. CLICK on each numbered, grey TAB below for more information.

1 - FitFit

If you understand Tides Center’s fiscal sponsorship model and believe it is appropriate for your organization, the first step in the process to become a project of Tides Center is to determine if your project is a good fit for our mission and legal framework.

Tides Center’s Mission

Tides Center partners with individuals, groups, and funders to implement programs that accelerate positive social change. We define positive social change in terms of programs and activities that create and promote a healthy society, one which is founded on principles of social justice, broadly shared economic opportunity, a robust democratic process, and sustainable environmental practices. Tides Center believes healthy societies rely fundamentally on respect for individual rights, the vitality of communities, and a celebration of diversity.

Issue Areas
While there are many avenues to affect positive social change, our projects work mainly in the following issue areas:

  • Civic engagement
  • Community development
  • Economic opportunity
  • Education/training
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Health services/healthcare reform
  • Housing/homelessness
  • Human rights
  • Human services/social services
  • International development
  • Social justice
  • Sustainable food and agriculture
  • Violence prevention
  • Youth development and organizing

The Legal Framework

Tides Center provides the legal 501(c)(3) status for all projects. Tides Center is legally and financially responsible for all Tides Center projects and activities. Projects are not separate entities or affiliated organizations—projects are Tides Center. Because they are an integral part of Tides Center and not separate legal entities, projects are able to receive charitable donations and grants available only to tax-exempt organizations. However, projects may not receive funds or operate programs through any other entity while operating as a project of Tides Center.

Additionally, Tides Center’s Board of Directors has full governing authority, and full legal and fiduciary responsibility, for all projects, employees, and activities of Tides Center. To uphold Tides Center’s legal nonprofit status, to ensure all projects follow the IRS regulations, and to maintain compliance with the law, Tides Center’s staff monitors and maintains project finances, human resources, payroll, leases, contracts, and insurance.

If your project does not fit both Tides Center’s mission and legal framework, we are unable to invite you to become a project. Please see our list of Additional Resources for other options that may be available to you.

2 - EligibilityEligibility

At this point, you understand Tides Center’s model of fiscal sponsorship and believe your project to be a good fit. Now we ask that you please review the criteria below to verify that your project meets Tides Center’s minimum eligibility requirements.

  • Project activities must contribute to the mission of Tides Center.
  • Activities must be charitable in purpose.
  • At present time, to be eligible to become a project of Tides Center your project must have at least $100,000 in confirmed funding* and a minimum first year operating budget of $250,000. Confirmed funding can come from one or more donors or foundations that have committed in writing to the funding amount and time period should you become a project of Tides Center.
  • If your project is funded exclusively by one or more government grants, in addition to the $100,000 minimum your grant(s) must provide an advance to cover two months of project operations.
  • Your project should plan to stay with Tides Center for at least one year.
  • Your project director or other designated project staff member must have regular access to the internet and email to maintain communication with Tides Center staff.

*While Tides Center is committed to partnering with projects of all sizes and has a history of supporting small organizations in the start-up phase, to balance capacity and opportunity Tides Center annually revises a target mix of potential projects based on annual budget. The minimum confirmed funding requirement for new projects may change in the future.

Currently, Tides Center does not provide fiscal sponsorship to:

  • Projects with less than $100,000 in confirmed funding.
  • Projects that are funded exclusively by government grants without advances.
  • Projects that will continue to operate under their own or another fiscal sponsor’s 501(c)(3). If your project already has a 501(c)(3) determination, it must be made dormant while a project of Tides Center.
  • Projects with international activities but no U.S. base of operations.
  • Individuals or for-profit entities.

If your project falls into any of the five categories listed above, it is ineligible to become a project of Tides Center. Please see our list of Additional Resources for other options that may be available to you.

3 - Letter of InquiryLetter of Inquiry

The letter of inquiry (LOI) is designed to provide Tides Center with basic information about your mission, issue area, planned project activity or delivery of services, your project's current stage of development, and your proposed funding.

Please click here to be taken to Tides Center’s online letter of inquiry form. We accept LOIs via the online form only. Unfortunately, we cannot accept LOIs by any other method.

We will contact you with next steps within two to three weeks of receipt of your LOI.

4 - ApplicationApplication

This section is for projects that have been invited by Tides Center to submit an application.

If you have not yet been invited to submit an application, please first review Step 1: Fit and Step 2: Eligibility; then submit a Letter of Inquiry.

If you have submitted a Letter of Inquiry, we will review it and respond to you within two to three weeks.

If you have questions about our application process, please review our FAQ page.