Aren’t money and resources the biggest roadblocks when it comes to making your indie film? Undoubtedly. That’s what makes the following statement so mind boggling to me. I’m not sure why, but the words “Fiscal Sponsor” are often a mystery to many indie filmmakers.
And that is really, well, unfortunate. Fiscal sponsorship is a great way to tap into new pockets of money and resources. Almost all of my feature films have involved a fiscal sponsor, and today, I’ll give you all the deets on why.
What is a fiscal sponsorship anyways?
Fiscal sponsorship is essentially a partnership between you (or your company) and a non-profit that offers you (or your company) the main benefit of being a 501c3 in the eyes of the government, or in other words, the ability to accept charitable donations.
It also usually comes with other perks. Have you hooked? Keep reading.
Top 5 Reasons to Find a Fiscal Sponsor for Your Film
- Dough (AKA: Monetary Donations): When you are fiscally sponsored, you are sorta under the umbrella of the non-profit you’ve signed with. They’ll supply you with their Tax ID number and a letter confirming their commitment to you. Now, you can go out and tell the world that if they donate money to your production, in any amount, they can receive a tax donation receipt for use deducting their donation on their own taxes. So what’s the difference to just doing your own Kickstarter campaign? If you do a Kickstarter, any money donated is just that and has no tax benefit to the donor. That is what the 501c3 status of the non-profit is for. In fact, many fiscal sponsors also have ways to help you gather monetary donations. They offer smaller credit card fees, and, if they dig your project may even toss it out there on their social media or email newsletters. Win/win in my opinion.
- Stuff (AKA: In-kind donations): This is where you can put your craftiness to the test. Any goods (not services) you can get an individual or company to donate to you are also tax deductible. How do you think I supplied an entire crew with endless beer on almost all of my projects? Think about the things you need to make the production happen and ask for a donation first. On Seaside, we tripled our budget by not shying away from asking for donations. Some places to start? Food. Costumes. Furniture. Office Supplies. Finish the list with what your project specifically needs. Write up a donation request and then get to asking!
- FREE $$$ (AKA: Grants): Some fiscal sponsors also award grant money or may help you find it. One, I have worked with several times, From The Heart Productions, awards grants each season. While the money is the obvious advantage, their grants in particular also come with major discounts on needed services like post sound, etc. The worst thing that can happen is not getting free money, so why not submit!?
- Peeps (AKA: Consultants): Many fiscal sponsors also offer resources in the way of expert advice. For Seaside, we partnered with The Film Collaborative and throughout the process we had several calls. Often, when we were at a crossroads, even with distribution, they did their best to help us navigate the best path for our individual project. This is invaluable and cannot be overstated.
- Clicks (AKA: Visibility and exposure): No matter what, a fiscal sponsor can help you spread the word about your project, no matter how tiny. I see too many films live in their own little bubble until the edit is complete and then start trying to tell the world about it. Building an audience is important and should be happening from day one. The more people that know and value your project, the more successful it is likely to be. Why not partner with an organization to share in the excitement of your project?
A Wise Word: All Fiscal Sponsors Are Not Created Equally
While all fiscal sponsors have the same basic functions, there are definitely some out there with more capabilities, resources, and prestige. It is important to do your research and find the right fit for your project before committing. While some may offer a very low credit card rate for donations, others may offer stellar advice on distribution or festivals. Being able to acknowledge the weaknesses in your project may help you fill in the gaps with the best fiscal sponsor.
Ready to find a fiscal sponsor now? You should be. There are so many great ones out there. Or, am I preaching to the choir – have you already discovered the fiscal sponsor magic? If so, give a shout out on social media to your project and who’ve you’ve partnered with!