Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you for your interest in becoming a project of Tides. The following FAQ will answer the majority of applicants' questions. Please review them before beginning the application process.

For Frequently Asked Questions about fiscal sponsorship, click here.

Becoming a Project - FAQ

  1. What is the application process to become a project of Tides Center?
  2. What is Tides Center looking for in an application?
  3. What comes first—fiscal sponsorship or finding funding?
  4. Does Tides Center provide funding or assist with fundraising?
  5. What if I need a fiscal sponsor immediately, or sooner than the stated application processing period?
  6. What if I need some, but not all, of the services provided by Tides Center?
  7. How does Tides Center handle my organization's funds?
  8. What is the relationship between project employees and Tides Center?
  9. Does Tides Center provide health and dental benefits?
  10. Are Tides Center projects permitted to lobby?
  11. Who serves as the board of directors for a Tides Center project?
  12. Who owns copyrights, trademarks, and intellectual property?
  13. Does Tides Center provide insurance to projects?
  14. What is the relationship between Tides Center and Tides Foundation?
  15. Does Tides Center sponsor groups doing work overseas?
  16. What are the project director's responsibilities?


1. What is the application process to become a project of Tides Center?

Tides Center receives over 500 inquiries each year from potential projects. To help us respond to these inquiries we have created a step-by-step online process to apply. Here's an overview.

STEP 1: Determine if project fits within Tides Center’s mission and legal framework.

STEP 2: Verify that your project meets Tides Center’s minimum eligibility requirements.

STEP 3: Make your initial approach to Tides Center via the online Letter of Inquiry (LOI). The LOI is reviewed internally by Tides Center staff within 2 to 3 weeks.

STEP 4: Tides Center staff invite those eligible candidates who fit our current criteria to submit an application. Application is by invitation only.

> Back to top


2. What is Tides Center looking for in the Letter of Inquiry?

While many people are in the beginning stages of developing their organization, the Letter of Inquiry should paint as complete a picture as possible. Even if you have not figured out all the answers, we are interested in knowing your best thinking to date. Some of the things we are interested in seeing in the Letter of Inquiry should include how the proposed activity connects to the Tides Center mission, a clear fundraising strategy, what funds have been confirmed, how far along your project is and who is behind the effort.

> Back to top

 


3. What comes first—fiscal sponsorship or finding funding?

While these activities can be done simultaneously, before submitting the Letter of Inquiry to Tides Center you must have funding confirmed as well as a clear fundraising plan to sustain your charitable efforts. If you are invited to submit a full application, Tides Center can work with you to communicate to donors that you are in the process of obtaining fiscal sponsorship. In most cases, this is sufficient for you to continue raising funds.

> Back to top

 


4. Does Tides Center provide funding or assist with fundraising?

Tides Center does not provide funding to projects. Organizations accepted as Tides Center projects are responsible for developing and executing their own fundraising plans. Tides Center manages confirmed grants and grant reporting. In addition, as part of Tides Center’s capacity-building program, projects can attend workshops and online trainings on fundraising topics; and, through Tides Center’s partnership with the Foundation Center, all project staff have access to and training on the Foundation Center’s Online Directory to research grantmakers and their grants.

> Back to top


5. What if I need a fiscal sponsor immediately, or sooner than the stated application processing period?

Because there are numerous steps prior to accepting a new project, an expedited process cannot always be guaranteed. Indicate your timeline in your LOI.

> Back to top

 


6. What if I need some, but not all, of the services provided by Tides Center?

Tides Center provides a comprehensive suite of back-office services to all projects and at this time we are not able to allow groups to choose from among our offerings. If you need specific, rather than comprehensive, services check our list of Additional Resources. While our list is not exhaustive, you may find other organizations that can provide just the services you require.

> Back to top


7. How does Tides Center handle my project's funds?

Tides Center manages all incoming and outgoing funds for each project and processes all financial transactions on behalf of our projects. Tides Center provides a financial orientation that covers budgeting, coding expenses, monitoring expenses, the Tides Center chart of accounts, and reading and utilizing the monthly financial statements prepared by Tides Center. Invoices are paid via check on a weekly basis and expedited payments are available for an extra charge. Projects are able to access their funds via purchase cards, direct invoicing, and petty cash accounts. Projects are responsible for coding transactions, submitting original receipts, honoring our timelines, and monitoring their own cash flow.

> Back to top


8. What is the relationship between project employees and Tides Center?

All paid project staff are legally employed by Tides Center. As such, they will receive their paychecks from Tides Center and may be eligible for Tides Center's benefits.

> Back to top


9. Does Tides Center provide health and dental benefits?

Projects are required to offer all full-time staff Tides Center's comprehensive health and dental benefits package; part-time staff may also be eligible. There is a selection of HMO and individual provider plans to choose from. Coverage for spouses, children, and domestic partners is also available at the discretion of each individual project.

> Back to top


10. Are Tides Center projects permitted to lobby?

Tides Center encourages projects to engage in forms of lobbying and political activities permissible under our 501(c)(3) designation. We are obliged to track all such activities, as the IRS places a cap on total lobbying expenditures. Projects may always engage in non-partisan research and get-out-the-vote efforts. IRS regulations for 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations such as Tides Center preclude projects from engaging in direct or implied support or opposition of any candidate or party.

> Back to top


11. Who serves as the board of directors for a Tides Center project?

The Tides Center Board of Directors has the full governing, legal, and fiduciary responsibility for all Tides Center projects and employees. As part of our services as a fiscal sponsor, Tides Center assists each project with the development of an advisory board or other governance structure appropriate to the project’s stage of development, size, and scope. Project advisors and advisory boards typically assist projects in areas such as fundraising, strategic planning, program oversight, and outreach. Tides Center's Board of Directors is responsible for legal, taxation, and regulatory issues, policies and procedures, the audit and audit committee, whistleblower policy, conflict-of-interest disclosure policies, and all other compliance issues.

> Back to top

 


12. Who owns copyrights, trademarks, and intellectual property?

The copyright for any product, such as books, videos, websites, project names, and trademarks, produced by a Tides Center project is owned by Tides Center. Any royalties from such products are revenue to the project that produced them. These products may be transferred, along with other assets, to any independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, including the project itself, should it incorporate as a 501(c)(3).

> Back to top


13. Does Tides Center provide business insurance to projects?

The majority of sponsored project activities are covered by our mandatory insurance package which includes general liability insurance, property coverage, and commercial auto liability. Projects should reserve a minimum of $2,000 of gross annual revenue to cover general liability insurance for the first year of operating as the baseline of insurance cost for running your program. Each project is evaluated annually for increased liability exposure and fees may be adjusted accordingly. Insurance costs not included in the standard 9% to 15% fee charged for Tides' fiscal sponsorship services. Information on the cost of being a project can be found here.

> Back to top


14. What is the relationship between Tides Center and Tides Foundation?

Tides Foundation serves as a grantmaking organization primarily through the management of close to 300 donor advised funds. Unlike other foundations, Tides Foundation does not have an endowment, and all grants are made on the recommendation of donor clients. Tides Center applicants and projects may apply to Tides Foundation, but no preference is given.

> Back to top


15. Can Tides Center serve as fiscal sponsor to organizations doing work overseas?

Tides Center serves as fiscal sponsor to organizations that primarily work in the United States. Groups working internationally are eligible to become projects provided they have operations and a base or branch in the U.S. that can serve as a counterpart to an overseas location.

> Back to top


16. What are the project director’s responsibilities?

The project director is responsible for overall programmatic operations; all fundraising and the financial sustainability of the project; and, the supervision of all project employees and volunteers. The project director of each project must:

  • Maintain an effective working relationship with Tides Center
  • Ensure project staff are trained to follow all Tides Center processes and procedures
  • Manage project finances in accordance with Tides Center cash management policies
  • Authorize all financial transactions in accordance with funding guidelines and Tides Center policies
  • Direct allocations of financial and human resources to successfully carry out the project’s mission and activities within Tides Center and funding guidelines
  • Ensure project compliance with applicable employment laws, rules and regulations
  • Communicate to project staff, volunteers, and participants the goals, policies, and procedures of the project and Tides Center
  • Provide project employees clear direction, set appropriate work standards, and ensure a fair and healthy work environment
  • Follow all Tides Center procedures associated with the obligation and expenditure of funds; develop, submit to Tides Center, and manage the annual budget and regularly review the project’s fiscal status with Tides Center staff
  • Assure timely and accurate delivery of all requisite information for employee benefit elections and Supplemental Personnel Policies, the hiring and terminating of employees, and any other employee status changes
  • Resolve any excess expenditure, unallowable cost, personnel, or other risk management issues of the project in a timely manner
  • Review staff job performance and address any employee performance issues in consultation with Tides Center
  • Prepare grant proposals consistent with Tides Center policies and ensure compliance with all grant agreements
  • Inform Tides Center of any new program activities in order to assure timely budgeting and assessment of potential risks
  • Develop internal systems to effectively collaborate with Tides Center and track activities as required
  • Maintain clear communication with the project’s advisory board, consult with the advisory board when appropriate, and keep Tides Center informed of all current advisory board members’ names, contact information, and term-ending dates
  • Annually complete and sign Tides Center’s Conflict of Interest Disclosure form and arrange for each project advisory board member to sign Conflict of Interest Disclosure forms as well
> Back to top