Reimagining Fiscal Sponsorship in Service of Equity

The twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice continue to plague marginalized communities and inflict immeasurable damage.

The twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice continue to plague marginalized communities and inflict immeasurable damage. These communities depend heavily on the critical services and supports provided by grassroots organizations, movements, coalitions, and groups. Yet, these under-resourced nonprofit groups are struggling to obtain the funding and affordable, culturally-proficient administrative services needed to maximize impact and scale services. Our sector must reimagine fiscal sponsorship as a means to provide the critical foundational financial management, human resources, and legal supports needed to successfully support grassroots groups so that in return they may strengthen our communities. 

TSNE, in partnership with the Learning Lab Board and in dialogue with over 70 grassroots leaders (many of whom were BIPOC leaders), sought to explore two pressing needs within the fiscal sponsorship sector:

  1. What barriers do BIPOC-led grassroots groups encounter in attempting to access equitable holistic, responsive, and culturally aligned fiscal sponsorship services?  
  2. How can fiscal sponsors reimagine their services and delivery models to provide holistic, responsive, and culturally aligned fiscal management and capacity-building services to support BIPOC-led grassroots groups that support marginalized communities?  

TSNE and NYU Metro Center partnered with four diverse fiscal sponsors from across the country to explore how they addressed these questions and to amplify their evolving work. CultureWorks, Foraker, Movement Strategy Center, and Urban Affairs Coalition reimagined risk and provided holistic, responsive, and culturally aligned fiscal management and capacity-building services to support the unique needs of grassroots groups. TSNE lifts up these fiscal sponsors’ emerging practices that aim to provide essential administrative, financial management, and capacity-building supports to under-resourced grassroots groups, especially those led by BIPOC leaders. These are not prescriptive “best practices,” but rather emerging practices from select fiscal sponsors that demonstrate how to conduct equity-centered and transformative services.

TSNE is inspired by the inclusive and relentless work of these fiscal sponsors. As we continue on our forever journey to becoming an equitable organization, TSNE will use the Learning Lab’s findings to guide our social impact investing strategy, inform strategic planning, and champion lessons learned from funders, fiscal sponsors, and capacity builders.  

Emerging Practices for Equity-Centered Fiscal Sponsorship and Capacity-Building Work with Under-Resourced Nonprofit Grassroots Organizations

  1. Provide a range of integrated administrative fiscal sponsorship and capacity-building services to ensure grassroots organizations have access to culturally aligned and customized supports.
  2. Build organizational cultures that center relationship building, mutual learning, and open, frequent dialogue as a means to provide services that culturally align with the values and goals of BIPOC-led grassroots organizations.
  3. Develop and take advantage of external partnerships to complement and supplement your current service offerings for grassroots groups.
  4. Experiment with revenue models that allow for integrated fiscal sponsorship and capacity-building services to be rendered sustainably for grassroots groups.
  5. Ensure grassroots groups have access to resources using flexible criteria to determine risk, a multistep risk assessment during the application process, and organizational health assessments to continuously review and understand projects’ evolving work.

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