Not all community projects can afford to become their own nonprofit. The process requires time and resources that could otherwise devoted to the project itself. What’s more, this work is often ignited by members of the community who see a problem and are willing to create a solution out of their own pockets. We assemble for the greater good of the people. Through fiscal sponsorship, we can open access to grant funds for those incredible mission-driven projects. Foundations and some donors often solely fund tax exempt organizations for many important reasons—501(c)3 requires fiscal oversight of a board, public record-keeping, proof of public good, and comes with restrictions to certain activities such as lobbying.

Fiscal sponsorship allows approved projects to come under Assembly’s fiscal umbrella so that you can get to work, and we can help with financial oversight. The relationships with funders, creative freedom, ownership of intellectual property and project coordination all remain with the project creators.

If you have started a project for the greater good and are interested in applying for fiscal sponsorship, take a look at the process below.



Step 1: Inquiry

An artist, creative business or community group contacts Assembly to discuss the potential of fiscal sponsorship for a project. If the mission sounds aligned, they may be asked to fill in a survey as part of step 2.

Step 2: Written Request

The potential project will complete an application form to help Assembly assess capacity to implement the project and adhere to general grant and funding requirements. This includes a brief summary of the project, a projected budget and timeline.

Step 3: Staff review

Assembly staff reviews the written project (see new project criteria below). Projects are assessed based on the project criteria as well as alignment with Assembly’s mission as well as any potential risks that may be associated with sponsoring the project.

Step 4: Meeting

Assembly staff meets with project leadership to discuss the project and agreement in more detail. Assembly offers a high-level view of the arts and culture sector and may provide insights, suggest partners, help solidify a project or serve as a “thought partner” in other ways based on the project.

Step 5: Signed Agreement

Each party reviews and signs a written agreement. No funds will be distributed or requested for any new projects without a signed written agreement. The agreement requires the project entity to have a primary contact person, a physical address, and its own legal, tax and accounting identity (typically EIN or SSN).

[To open a bank account in which Assembly will distribute funds, the project entity will be asked for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Social Security Number. To apply for an EIN, the project may fill out IRS Form SS-4 ( Responsibility for adhering to the appropriate legal, accounting and tax obligations lies solely with the project entity.]

Project Funding Cycle

Individual Donations

Upon receiving a signed written agreement, Assembly develops a donation campaign page for the project to receive online, tax-deductible donations. The project entity will be given a discrete URL to distribute to potential donors. 

Grant Applications

Project entities are responsible for researching and providing application material for all grant proposals. If Assembly is required to submit an application, the project entity is asked to provide evidence that it is poised for successfully acquiring the grant. This will help Assembly deploy resources where they will be most effective. Potential evidence may be:

  • At least $500 procured or 25 distinct individual donations of $10 or more to the project through the donation page provided by Assembly
  • The project has been previously funded or has been directly invited to apply by the funder

We simply ask for at least one week’s notice to apply for grant funding for existing sponsored projects and at least 3 weeks notice if you are requesting fiscal sponsorship with the intent to apply for a grant. The entity’s final materials must be provided at least 48 hours in advance of the application deadline.

Reporting / Disbursement

Once funds are available, Assembly can provide an initial disbursement to get things started based on the project needs. As those funds are spent down, we ask project entities to submit monthly financial reports with receipts. Assembly is required to maintain full discretion and control over donated funds. We use the receipts to account for all of the grant funds and as funds are spent down, Assembly continues to replenish project funds.

Exit Policy

We consider fiscal sponsorship an incubator. We love when projects are seen through to the end or even “graduate” to become their own tax-exempt nonprofit. The fiscal sponsorship relationship ends when the project is completed or when either group requests an exit in writing. The primary reason Assembly may end a relationship before then would be an activity that would jeopardize the organization’s nonprofit status such as backing a candidate for office or other restricted activities. Ultimately, continuing or discontinuing fiscal sponsorship is subject to the signed written agreement.


Criteria for New Projects

Assembly offers fiscal sponsorship for a limited number of projects that are aligned with its mission to convene, coordinate, and collaborate with everyone who lives and works in Greater Cleveland to strengthen and support those in the region who create, present, experience and appreciate all forms of arts and culture. In order to be considered for sponsorship, the project and must meet the following criteria.

Legal Criteria

  • The project must fall within Assembly’s tax-exempt purpose including education, information gathering, supporting traditionally underserved communities, economic development and public policy.
  • The project must be aligned with Assembly’s mission.
  • The project may not conduct partisan political activities.
  • The project may not conduct activities in support of or opposition to a candidate running for public office.

Project Criteria

In addition to the above legal requirements, Assembly will give priority to projects that meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • The project is a collaboration of multiple organizations and requires a neutral intermediary to secure and manage financial contributions.
  • Sponsorship would expand opportunities for artists of color or minority-owned arts businesses and nonprofits.
  • The project expands accessibility to arts and culture for people with disabilities.
  • The project exemplifies cross-sector partnerships of arts and culture with other community service sectors such as education, health, safety, neighborhoods, economic development, transportation, democracy, diplomacy and others.
  • Project managers have relevant experience and/or include evidence that the project entity has the capacity to execute the proposed project.

Additional Services for Sponsored Projects

Promotion: Assembly lists all sponsored projects on its donation page and encourages donors to contribute to creative projects in our region. Additionally, Assembly launches a giving campaign once per year, typically in the Fall, promoting all sponsored projects.

Counsel: As staff capacity permits, Assembly offers specialized counsel for projects where expertise exists such as budgeting, funder relations, business strategy, potential partners, or other strategic support as needed.

Request Fiscal Sponsorship

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    Fiscal Sponsorship 101