Fiscal Sponsorships Help Create Meaningful Lives

Do you know what these nonprofits have in common?

• Safe Places Little Rock 

• Feed the Children, Inc.

• Be the Star You Are

• Hands Across the Sea, Inc.  

Each one is a women’s organization making a difference. The four nonprofits (and fifty-three others) made  GreatNonprofits’ Women’s Empowerment Awards list in 2012.

Women have a huge presence in the nonprofit sector, filling nearly 70 percent of nonprofit staff positions in the United States. Many women in the industry are known as progressives, and are responsible for changing how nonprofits create and compete through marketing, fundraising, social media, activism and technology.

Ogilvy Public Relations and Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communications wanted to learn more about why women were the backbone of Web 2.0 social change and philanthropy today. Their 2010 study revealed that 8 in 10 American women believe that supporting nonprofit causes creates a sense of purpose and meaning in life.

As a result, more women than men may be drawn into nonprofit service because women are more likely to believe that everyone can make a difference through support of their favorite cause.

What does this optimism mean for the 158 million women in the United States?   

There is a greater likelihood that women will find a professional fit with an organization in their community either as a long-term volunteer, consultant or as a board or staff member because of the emotional connection they feel to the causes they support.

For some women this may even lead them to start their own nonprofit organization. Establishing and maintaining a nonprofit can be difficult though, so it is fortunate that several woman-focused fiscal sponsorships exist:

Global Fund for Women – Supports regional philanthropic capacity in other countries that strengthen community-based efforts to advance women’s rights.

New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) – Accepts tax-deductible contributions on behalf of women whose nonprofit film and video projects are being undertaken for a creative, educational or charitable purpose.

Women Make Movies – Accepts and administers contributions made to women’s film projects.

Women’s Caucus for Art (WCA) – Offers project and fiscal management services to women whose projects create community through art, education, and social activism.

These fiscal sponsorship programs are a part of tax-exempt corporations that agree to receive and disburse funding for other projects. Acting as an umbrella organization, they take on the legal and financial management responsibility associated with administering funds received on a project’s behalf. In this way, fiscal sponsors broaden the available funding avenues that an individual or community group can pursue without possessing their own 501(c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt status.

Several other notable fiscal sponsorship programs in the U.S. have a history of working with women-focused community projects as well, including Fractured AtlasUnited Charitable Programs, Community Partners and Tides.

At a time when women are brushing against the glass ceiling of the sector, fiscal sponsorships provide another path for them to advance both the public good and their own desires for a high-impact life.

Adrienne Lewis-Wagner is a freelance fund development consultant living in Michigan. Her blog The Prospect can be found at


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