"Creating Your Own Project" series - Fiscal Sponsorship

"How Philly Moves" photo shoot (Photo: JJ Tiziou
Freelancers are more likely to start their own projects than company dancers. While those with company contracts spend much of their time focusing their energy towards getting promoted, freelancers often have extra time to flex their creativity muscles. For many years, I have been focused on simulating the season of an annually contracted dancer through my freelance career. As I traveled the world from company to company, I watched many of my other freelancing friends create their own projects. Well, now that I've settled down in Philly for the past 3 months, I've had more time to develop my own ideas and see where they take me. In a handful of coming posts, I'll be sharing more about a project that I am creating. But for the time being, I'd like to discuss fiscal sponsorship, an important aspect of raising funds for your own projects. 

When I first started brainstorming ideas to give myself a platform to work more on my choreography, I knew that I would need to navigate the tricky technique of fundraising. I don't like asking people for financial support and have always had great pride in my ability to do things on my own. But when it comes to major arts projects, very few artists can execute their plans without a solid base of funding. Most people's first fundraising thought darts straight into the land of crowd-sourcing (like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Rockethub, which I will discuss in a future blog). While this method of fundraising can be a great supplemental tool, there are many more strategic and fruitful ways to fund a project. 

Initially, the people that are going to provide the base of funding for your work will be your friends and family, as well as people that have shown previous interest in you as an artist. But without the ability to offer tax-deductible donations, you are unlikely to field sponsorship beyond $100. Most people don't mind giving a small amount of money without much benefit for themselves other than the gratification of giving and seeing somebody else's passion project come to fruition. Anything over $100 will be difficult to field without a benefit for the donor. What is the best perk you can give somebody who wants to offer a substantial gift? A tax deduction.

How does a lone individual like me offer tax-deductible donations when I am my one single entity. I'm not prepared to start a non-profit organization or field a board for my very first try at self-producing my art. In all of my research over the past few months, I have found that there is a way that I can offer such benefits to anybody that is inspired enough by my work to help commission my process. I can do this through fiscal sponsorship.

Fiscal sponsorship is when a not-for-profit organization (often 501(c)3) offers a pathway for funds an individual raises to be filtered through their company back to the creator in order to help them offer tax-deductible benefits to donors, often for a fee of 5-10% of the donation amount. Essentially, donations are legally funneled through the organization to appear as if the company is receiving the gift.

Beyond the benefit of receiving tax credits on donations, fiscal sponsorship also allows an individual to apply for grants in a way that they couldn't have before. Again, using the umbrella of the sponsoring non-profit, one can reach out beyond seeking offerings for individuals and apply for grants that are only available to not-for-profit companies. Using fiscal sponsorship, you can open many more pathways to receive larger amounts of funding to make your project a reality.

How do you find an organization to fiscally sponsor you? I did a great deal of research on my path to funding my work. After checking out a handful of potential sponsors, I settled on New York Live Arts (often referred to as NYLA). In order to apply for sponsorship, I had to sign up as an Associate Artist ($100 fee). From there, I had to write a proposal. This included information about my project, its mission, a loose timeline, a budget, and how I planned on raising funds. Once I submitted all of this information, I had to travel to New York City for an in-person meeting to discuss specific details of my project. I was lucky enough that NYLA was happy to fiscally sponsor me with no further questions beyond my proposal.

While I set my sights on NYLA for sponsorship, there are many other organizations that help artists gain a non-profit-like status. Among those I researched were Fractured Atlas and The Field. These organizations regularly offer fiscal sponsorship to artists. Along my path, I also found that you can reach out to any non-profit organization and request that they allow funds to be allocated through their organization. If you have a relationship that could open up this door, be sure to have clear terms on how this set up will work in writing. Every organization will be different in the percentage of funds they keep for helping you out,  how long it takes for that money to be released, how you apply for grants, what type of grants you can apply for, and much more. Be sure that all of this is clear before you sign any contract. Also be aware that you will be responsible to pay taxes on the money that you raise. Keep tabs on your expenses to make sure that you deduct the expenses to minimize how much you have to pay back at the end of the year.

Fiscal sponsorship is a god-send to many self-creating artists like myself. It is very unlikely for most individuals to receive larger donations without offering something to funders beyond your final product. With fiscal sponsorship, you not only open up the possibilities of greater funding, you vastly expand your pool of grant applications. If you ever consider creating your own work; whether for one show, a tour, an installation series, or anything else that inspires you, definitely look into connecting with a respectable non-profit organization that will allow your funds to be stream-lined through their system.


Catch Up on LOFD - Previous Posts List

When I started writing Life of a Freelance Dancer, I knew that I wanted to place my writing in the simpler, old-school format that blogs used to be in when I first started reading them over a decade ago. I like the simplicity of having a continuous stream of thought flowing from page to page without the distractions of a home page that looks more like a website than a web log. While I am still quite happy with the format that I have chosen to write in, I do understand the lack of accessibility can make it difficult to look back and see what blog topics have already been written. Keeping this in mind, I want to help my newer readers out and refresh my dedicated readers memories by offering this list of all of my previous posts. Enjoy!

1.  What is it like to work as a freelancer?

2. How do I get work?

3. Dancing in the Last Frontier

4. Adjusting to new environments...fast!

5. Returning to my roots in Providence

6. Preparing for "limited" rehearsal gigs

7. Living with a host family

8. Dancing out of your comfort zone

9. How to pack for short-term & long-term gigs

10. The #1 question people ask

11. Picking the right pic

12. Choosing your home base

13. Summer Slow-down

14. Breaking out of my niche

15. Guest blogger - Boston Ballet Principal Lia Cirio - World Ballet Competition Gala

16. Freelancing isn't all glory

17. Working with what you have

18. A home-base experience - Dance Fusion

19. Guest blogger - Multidisciplinary Miami-based freelancer Priscilla Marrero - "Miami Light Project" experience

20. Continuing to better your technique in open class or on your own

21. How to negotiate a contract

22. Freelancer doesn't mean free

23. Freelancing her way to a company contract - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Casey Taylor

24. Experience Post - "Works & Process" @ the Guggenheim - Avi Scher & Dancers

25. Why Nutcracker season is so important

26. Things I've learned freelancing thus far

27. Meet your link to getting hired - Lauren Menger

28. The importance of your freelancing friends

29. How to find and obtain health insurance

30. The importance of taking breaks

31. Ashlee Dupre - NY-based Musical Theatre freelance artist

32. Exciting news from Life of a Freelance Dancer

33. How to make your own performance reel

34. Making it work - My hurricane Sandy rehearsal experience

35. CONTACT: A networking event connecting freelance dancers

36. How to cope with the holidays away from home

37. Surviving Nutcracker - Act like a professional, think like a student

38. In the spirit of the holidays - Part 1 (8 wild moments)

39. In the spirit of the holidays - Part 2 (12 of my favorite moments)

40. Happy New Year - Retreat yourself

41. My failure in designing my own website

42. Please vote for "Life of a Freelance Dancer" to be top blog (No Longer Active)

43. Freelancing while in a relationship

44. My go-to warm up

45. Dos and Don'ts of freelancing

46. LOFD exceeds 10,000 views

47. Take advantage of opportunities

48. Video Break - Performing as Cassio in "Othello" w/Alaska Dance Theatre

49. The mental game of freelancing

50. Staying in the loop

51. Doing your taxes as an independent contractor

52. The fine line between submissive and aggressive

53. The best advice I've gotten (Life of a Freelance Dancer turns 1 year old)

54. Video Break - Performing "The Nutcracker" grand pas de deux

55. Returning to Providence

56. Have I been forgotten?

57. Social-media whore vs. savvy

58. Get in CONTACT with your community - 6/25/13

59. Emotional health - Cultivating things you enjoy

60. New York calling

61. The overwhelming feeling that I ALWAYS need to be in shape

62. Clearing up the fear of going to classy events

63. CONTACT (2nd edition) - In case you missed it

64. Memorable moments

65. Dancers and decisions in their dancing

66. The main pitfall of a freelance dancer

67. The art of continually reinventing yourself

68. Why artists are expected to have little self-value?

69. What I learned during my week off social media

70. The rules of taking open class

71. Sometimes I write articles for website design companies

72. Why 30 is a frightening age for most dancers

73. Freelancing is rarely forever

74. Finding your comforts in a hotel

75. Is it ever appropriate to burn a bridge?

76.  In the spirit of the holidays - 2013 edition

77. Check out my article in Dance/USA - Freelancing and Nutcracker season

78. The 12 shows of Nutcracker

79. The Principal problem

80. LOFD makes Dance Magazine

81. HIRE ME!!! - Desperation vs. Patience

82. The glory and challenge of young success

83.  LOFD listed among 49 creatives geniuses

84. Emotional training in ballet

85. Contract talk - Important items to have In writing

86. The replacement dancer

87. Falling ill as a dancer - Taking care of yourself

88. It's a Freelance Life video

89. Dancing in fear

90. The reinforcement gig

91. Travel post - Extending your trip following a gig

92. The frightful first day of work

93. Performing for no reviews

94. How to approach issues appropriately

95. Being the significant other of a freelance dancer

96. The, sometimes, life of a choreographer

97. Injuries: How to handle injury & preventable factors

98. Healthy competition - From student to freelancer

99. Create your own blog

100. 100th post - 100 things that inspire me

101. A freelance dancer's summer dream - National Choreographers Initiative

102. Should artists be shamed into taking "normal" jobs?

103. Stress-free travel tips from an "Economy" jet-setter

104. How to survive burn-out

105. Video Break - My new choreography reel

106. Why post so openly on social media

107. The rules of company class

108. Using independent contracting as a trial for full-time employment

109. How failure and risk helps me succeed

110. Reacclimating to home after being away

111. Why blog when it brings me no income?

112. Dance Informa magazine interview - Dancing multiple Nutcracker gigs

113. Using teaching to supplement your salary

114. 12 reasons dance is my religion

115. My 2014 highlights - Best in a year of a gypsy dancer

116. How much should I get paid?

117. Video break - My choreography - Pas de deux from Distinct Perceptions

118. Five qualities every "dancer-preneur" needs

119. Is it ever appropriate to sue a company

120. So you think you can freelance?

121. The art of self-promotion on social media

122. MRI talk - What is it like to have an MRI?

123. 8 ways to renew your inspiration