What is a “Fiscal Sponsor”?

Starting a nonprofit corporation is the most difficult type of legal incorporation you can accomplish in America today. The United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has revoked 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from hundreds of thousands of charitable corporations, some within just months after they were first granted c3 status due to a computer glitch. This has devastating effects on the basic bookkeeping and survival of nonprofit activities worldwide. The IRS is widely known to be slow to grant c3 status — so slow that their computers immediately revoke it after determination letters are finally sent, because the proper Form 990 submissions are not in their system from the past 2 years (never mind it’s almost impossible to properly submit the Form 990 without first gaining nonprofit status and a corresponding Employer Identification Number)!

In other words: the IRS is so slow to acknowledge innovative nonprofit activity and its worldwide benefits that it makes new nonprofit incorporation nearly impossible, implicitly favoring for-profit activity instead.

For the reasons above, among others, the majority of responses to my early search for nonprofit startup advice can be summarized in one short emphatic phrase: “Find a fiscal sponsor!” So what the heck is that?

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