A trend that began in California has made its way across the country as fiscal sponsors have taken to organizing regional networking events to share information, ideas, strategies and common concerns.
Besides the annual National Network of Fiscal Sponsors conferences, ongoing since 2007, groups of sponsors in Northern California, Southern California and the mid-Atlantic region have been meeting twice a year or more.
Laurie Bezold, managing partner at Fusion Partnerships, an organizer of the mid-Atlantic regional meetings that began in 2015, touts them as a place where fiscal sponsors can “find ways to get together and collaborate more, to learn and talk about things that everybody wants.”
“It’s a chance to build relationships,” said Cynthia Freeman, senior program director at Community Partners Los Angeles, who, starting in 2012, co-organized the first regional meetings that has become the Southern California Fiscal Sponsors Network.
Networking, she said, is a key benefit of the regional meetings, a venue where neighboring fiscal sponsors can “share strategies, information, templates and commiserate about the challenges and delights of dealing with them.”
“We need to get together, learn from one another, mentor one another,” — Karen Harvey, Philadelphia’s Urban Affairs Coalition
Informal meetings in Los Angeles between Freeman and Jennifer Hoffman, Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs executive director, starting in January 2012, proved so useful to other fiscal sponsors ꟷ San Francisco’s Common Council Foundation was the first to join in ꟷ that in summer 2014 they began inviting other fiscal sponsors to participate and held their first Southern California regional meeting that Sept. 15 and now meet quarterly.
Hoffman said in December that she and Freeman are looking at late January or early February for the next regional meeting.
Hoffman said that representatives from 20-30 organizations fill the conference room and others teleconference, from San Diego to the San Francisco Bay Area and even Montana.
Agenda feature nuts-and-bolts items:
- “How to assign a donation when the project is not identified”
- “Online portals for projects to submit bills for payment”
- “Projects that hire employees without FS approval”
- “Practicalities of sponsoring nonprofits that are membership organizations”
- “Accrual vs. cash method for projects, balance sheets, cash balance at year-end,” and more.
“Meetings are designed to enable attendees to share strategies, challenges, and tips about fiscal sponsorship (including financial, legal and HR issues) with peers from other fiscal sponsorship organizations in the region,” Lauren Kay, Community Partners director of communications, wrote.
In Northern California in July, nine fiscal sponsor organizations sent 16 representatives to Berkeley’s Earth Island Institute for the region’s third meeting. The agenda included discussions of handling projects’ intellectual property; the Trump administration’s effect on nonprofits; and how to go about referring a project to another fiscal sponsor.
Mid-Atlantic fiscal sponsors have been meeting semiannually since late 2015, all-day affairs that include roundtable discussions, announcements and suggestions for future events. The first meeting was in Philadelphia, then Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and back to Philadelphia in May.
Bezold said they are only in the very early stages of planning for the next mid-Atlantic meeting, sometime in April.
Presenters last September included Angel Braestrup, executive director of the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, who discussed regional issues from a grantmaker’s perspective ꟷ with a focus on social justice, equity and inclusion ꟷ and working with fiscal sponsors in general, including highlights and case studies.
“Every region is different; the needs of fiscal sponsors are different. We’re trying to encourage knowledge sharing and building best practices People get a lot of value out of it …” — Tamsin Elias, network coordinator of the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors
The gathering also heard from Ben Scheelk, program manager of the Ocean Foundation, who discussed collaboration possibilities among projects with a single fiscal sponsor, and an article on the topic he had recently published in the Nonprofit Quarterly (http://tinyurl.com/schleen). In May, Melissa Hamilton of CultureWorks talked about the benefits of a comprehensive management program for artists.
Asta Petkeviciute, fiscal sponsorship practice leader at Boston’s TSNE MissionWorks (formerly Third Sector New England, earliest known fiscal sponsor since 1959) is convening fiscal sponsors based in New England for a regional meeting, perhaps at Boston’s NonProfit Center.
Although the region has yet to formally make an affiliation, Petkeviciute said in December that she is closing in on a meeting date in January.
Petkeviciute proposed in an email it would be an opportunity for fiscal sponsors to make connections, “talk about common matters that we all are trying to address, and discuss how we could collaborate and network in the future.” But she didn’t want to discuss specific agenda items.
“We usually try to make sure that they’re kept confidential as to what kind of stories will come out of them, how we influence a particular topic,” said Petkeviciute, who’s also on the National Network steering committee.
Tamsin Elias, network coordinator of the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors, said groups in New York have met intermittently and that Colorado Nonprofit Development Center in Denver is attempting to organize fiscal sponsors in the Mountain and Southwest region.
“Every region is different; the needs of fiscal sponsors are different. We’re trying to encourage knowledge sharing and building best practices People get a lot of value out of it,” she said.
The topic of regional meetings was on the agenda for the Ntional Network’s October NNFS gathering in New Orleans, during an “affinity group” meeting the first day.
“We need to get together, learn from one another, mentor one another,” Karen Harvey, of Philadelphia’s Urban Affairs Coalition, said at the outset.
Roy Pringle, of Technical Assistance Partnership in Phoenix, cited a lack of peer organizations in his city or even statewide, but, in a microcosm of the benefits of meet-ups, was networking with Paul Aragon, of Albuquerque’s SINC (Social Impact and Nonprofit Community) about establishing a regional group, or perhaps linking with Southern California’s.
Midwestern fiscal sponsors, including Joe Voss of Creative Many Michigan in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Danielle Gangelhoff of Propel Nonprofits in Minneapolis, lamented that the hundreds of miles between them and other sponsors in the region would inhibit getting together, although alternatives such as teleconferencing were suggested.
Barbara Webster-Hawkins, of the Foundation for California Community Colleges, suggested that instead of geographic alignments, “There could be thematic affinity groups.”
ATTENDEES AT REGIONAL CONFERENCES
Southern California Fiscal Sponsors Network:
Advancing Justice LA
Charitable Ventures OC
Dance Resource Center
The Film Collaborative
Pasadena Arts Council
Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE)
Social Impact Fund
Special Services for Groups
Alliance for Global Justice
CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia
Docs in Progress
Federation of Neighborhood Centers Philadelphia
Humanitarian Social Innovation
The Ocean Foundation
Strong City Baltimore
Urban Affairs Coalition
Women in Film and Video
Chinese Progressive Association
Common Counsel Foundation
Earth Island Institute
Independent Arts & Media
Public Health Institute
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
San Francisco Study Center
Social Good Fund