FAQ of the week: What’s the deal with fiscal sponsorship? And is ioby the right fiscal sponsor for you?

This week, we’re popping the hood and doing a little digging into our own track record with fiscal sponsorship, which is one of the important services we offer to the grassroots groups we support. We wanted to get at the story here: what brings neighbors to us with the funds for their neighborhood-improvement projects? When the leaders of a grassroots project start to look around at the potential fiscal sponsors available to them, how do they know   ioby the best fit?

We’re also ramping up our work with fabulous partner organizations like Citizens Committee for New York City, which sent about 10 of their 315 projects to us for fiscal sponsorship in 2014. Citizens works with self-help and civic-action-oriented projects, granting support to promising initiatives in NYC. They require that their grantees, if they don’t have 501(c)3 status, either open a bank account in the group’s name or work with a fiscal sponsor. Sometimes, Citizens works with a non-501(c)3 group that actually has the means to open a new bank account in the project’s name, but opts for fiscal sponsorship instead, simply because that relationship will allow them to focus more of their time and energy on the project itself – the new community garden, the composting initiative, or whatever it may be. We’re looking forward to teaming up with other like-minded partner organizations in the coming months, and thinking actively about where we might be a good fit.

small projects

So. Our main takeaway? The resounding message we heard is that what ioby does well is SMALL. There is no neighborhood improvement project too small-scale, no organization or group of neighbors too “unofficial” (read: no office and no staff), no initiative too grassroots for us to take on. A single mural to be painted by local artists onto a rundown underpass in Memphis? Bring it ON. Four retired neighbors dreaming up a community garden in Brooklyn? YES PLEASE. A church raising money to rescue and relocate some honeybees that got stuck in their bell tower? DO YOU EVEN HAVE TO ASK? We love working with these tiniest of tiny initiatives. We believe in them completely, and we maintain that their positive impact in a neighborhood is often disproportionately large.

In fact, we’ve even coined a term for these sorts of tiny, hyper-local projects, which we are quickly becoming our specialty. “DEEP-ROOTS projects,” we’ve taken to calling them. We’re hoping it’ll catch on. And it’s somewhat unusual these days to find a fiscal sponsor who not only welcomes but also actively seeks out deep-roots projects. So if you specialize in the hyper-local, the tiniest of the tiny, the block-by-block, we’d love to hear from you.  Email us at action@ioby.org, or read more about our fiscal sponsorship services here.