Supporting emerging technology and data projects through fiscal sponsorship and incubation services

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Aspiration's fiscal sponsorship landing page:

Aspiration Model: Aspiration has two types of fiscal services:

  • Fiscal Sponsorship -- a lot of coaching and capacity building support; extend 501c3
  • Fiscal Management -- not technically a fiscal sponsor but we manage their funds and deploy them around contracts and grants.

Goals around Aspiration's fiscal sponsorship model:

  • Goal is to equip projects with knowledge and infrastructure they need. So a point of criteria is an interest in eventually being an independent organization.
  • Sliding scale fee for administrative services based on size and need.
  • Capacity Building: we work with orgs to set a path towards spinning out by defining readyness, including knowledge (np management fundamentals, strategic plan, fundraising, financial plan around cash flow, personnel) // emphasis on documentation as well.

Aspiration provides the following capacity building supports to support capacity building:

  • Knowledge (Org dev and non-profit managment fundamentals, fundraising models)
  • Strategic plan (near and far term objectives)
  • Financial plan (cash flow analysis and funding plan)
  • Personnel plan
  • Operations (infrastructure, process, and documentation)

Other models:

  • Some don't have a goal of spinning orgs off.
  • Range can be 3% to 15% depending on services included

Big Questions:

  • How do we set parameters for who we do and don't support, both in terms of legal parameters (is your work truly compatible with a c3) and in terms of alliance with our own values and mission.

Moving between fiscal hosts:

  • Depends a lot on the host.
  • Fiscal Sponsorship is a legal designation. So at Aspiration prospective project needs to submit a description of their project and what they hope to achieve (mission and values), budget proposal, financial history and goals. Review for alignment with Aspiration's mission. This goes to Aspiration's board of directors for approval and is reviwed

Fiscally sponsored projects need to be consistent with the org's mission. Legally there's probably more wiggle room in "mission conformance" but it's better to be clearly aligned.

Defining Criteria

  • Legally, mission conformance is a key first step. So start there.
  • Do you do breadth or depth? Breadth = lots of programs, mission compliance widely defined, challenging when different projects have very different needs; depth = very narrow definition of alignment, more opportunities for networking and community building, can support strategic planning and strategic goals. From a risk standpoint, a small narrow microcosm is more volatile.
  • Budget requirements: the parks alliance requirement was $5K-10K that you could consistently raise year after year. Other orgs have higher minimums or expect to support groups in raising that minimum.
  • Community Buy-In: understanding consituents and being able to demonstrate that you know that the community wants that.
  • Geographic Restrictions?
  • Understanding your plan and goals: knowing whether your goal is to grow or hold steady. What are your programs going to look like?


  • Do you provide strategic planning as a fiscal sponsor?
  • Do you provide strategic coaching to projects?
  • Are you starting from scratch and looking for support (high touch) or are you just looking to be able to take a grant here and there?
  • As a sponsor do you want to be modular in your offerings or really define the model that works and commit to that.

Models to Consider

  • Open Collective
  • Aspirations
  • Parks Alliance

Association of Independents in Radio ( already doing fiscal sponsorship, looking to strengthen their model

  • Guidance for our members on How to choose a fiscal sponsor (alignment, objectives, timeline of spin out, level of support and level of support
  • Guidance for us as we exand into providing this service to emerging projects.

G - membership organization, professional dev, support services, also a fiscal sponsor

  • How to choose a fiscal project? Governing org is broad, how to hone in on fiscal sponsorship requirements. How do know that an organization seeking fiscal sponsorship aligns with the sponsor org's mission, vision, and values? What happens when a young organization applies for fiscal sponsorship, but is not necessarily aligned with our core values? Do we simply reject the application or do we coach this young organization to change and grow to meet certain criteria?

M - Used to work for SF Park's alliance, McClatchy Foundation

  • How can fiscal sponsorship support small orgs

R - Funded by Open Collective, shopping around for fiscal sponsor