Fiscal Sponsorship & NYWIFT for Indie Filmmakers

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Musician Clarice Magalhães and producer-director Irene Walsh in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Walsh’s documentary LAPA: The Heart of Samba chronicles a community of musicians and composers as their music resurrects a Rio de Janeiro neighborhood.

My first feature-length documentary, LAPA: The Heart of Samba, is a project that I have largely funded myself, with a third of the support coming from friends, family and people interested in Brazilian culture. Now in post-production, the costs for finishing the film are looming. So, I’ve decided to explore other areas of fundraising, like fiscal sponsorship.

What Is Fiscal Sponsorship? 
A fiscal sponsor is a nonprofit organization that manages tax-deductible contributions between a funding source and an arts project. Basically, many companies and individuals have money that they want to donate to the arts, but in order to get tax deductions for their donations, they must give those funds to a nonprofit 501©(3) organization.

The nonprofit organization receives a small percentage of those funds in exchange for administering the funds and then allocates the rest to the project or artist. Many fiscal sponsors require that you become a member of their organization, and it’s rare you’ll have more than one fiscal sponsor for a project. 

Why Have a Fiscal Sponsor?
There are organizations and companies—like Cinereach and The Fledgling Fund—that offer film grants. Without a fiscal sponsor, a filmmaker can’t access many of these resources. So, although a fiscal sponsor generally does not do the legwork of grant-writing or seeking supporters for you, having a fiscal sponsor opens doors to allow funding to reach you, the artist.

Having a fiscal sponsor has also given my friends, family and other supporters the added incentive of a tax deduction. You can learn more about fiscal sponsorship at the Foundation Center’s Grant Space.

Choosing NYWIFT as My Fiscal Sponsor
I looked for fiscal sponsors that support filmmakers and artists in New York City, and whose membership benefits would best support my artistic journey. After a lot of research, I chose New York Women in Film & Television as the fiscal sponsor for my documentary. The resources at NYWIFT stood out to me as smart, varied, and professional.

NYWIFT also offers workshops that provide the kind of information I need while producing my films, such as grant writing, pitching, negotiating film music rights, career coaching, navigating film festival publicity, and maximizing social media. Plus, NYWIFT’s film screenings are great. I can meet the filmmakers and pose questions to industry professionals. I also get to scope out venues for my future screenings!

Other fiscal sponsors that made my short list include Independent Filmmakers Project, Women Make Movies and Fractured Atlas.

Crowdfunding & Fiscal Sponsorship
Right now, I have an Indiegogo campaign through April 27. Since NYWIFT has a partnership with Indiegogo, all contributions to my film through Indiegogo are tax-deductible—an added incentive for contributors.

When we as individual artists can align ourselves with a bigger brand name, it creates confidence for those who want to support us. And there’s a good reason for that: Having accountability to a fiscal sponsor is a responsibility that includes regular reporting and accurate accounting. 

Would I seek fiscal sponsorship again? Yes, and as early as possible. I have already been approved by NYWIFT for my second documentary, 13 Minutes Apart.

IRENE WALSH (Split Rock Films)

Editors’ Note: Fiscal sponsorship is just one of the many member benefits that NYWIFT offers. Apply for membership during the Spring Membership Drive through May 5, 2014, and receive 50% off the initiation fee.

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