Fiscal Sponsorship

Fiscal Sponsorship Through DER

DER welcomes applications for fiscal sponsorship of film and media productions. We are particularly interested in projects that support our mission to foster cross-cultural understanding, but will consider a wide range of social issue documentaries.

As a non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, Documentary Educational Resources has been offering fiscal sponsorship to film and educational media projects related to our mission since 1971. Profiles for a sampling of our current projects can be found here. DER has worked with numerous funding agencies, including:

Foundations, such as the Alec Baldwin Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Barr Foundation, The Ford Foundation, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, Fledgling Fund, Golden Rule Foundation, I Have A Dream Foundation, Kaplan Fund, LEF Foundation,The MacArthur Foundation, Mary Wohlford Foundation, The National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF), National Philanthropic Trust, Park Foundation, The Puffin Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Roth Family Foundation, The Sloan Foundation, Spunk Foundation International, Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation, Sundance Institute, Tides Foundation, and the Wallace Genetic Foundation

Federal, state, and community agencies and humanities councils, including The Alaska Humanities Forum, Corporation For Public Broadcasting (CPB), The Cambridge Arts Council, Community Foundation of Western Mass, The Maine Humanities Council, The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), Mass Humanities, National Endowment For the Humanities (NEH), The National Science Foundation (NSF), The New Hampshire Humanities Council (NHHC), The Rhode Island Committee on the Humanities (RICH), and the RI Council for the Humanities


Am I eligible for the DER Fiscal Sponsorship Program?

The DER Fiscal Sponsorship program accepts film and media projects that align with the DER mission of fostering cross-cultural understanding, but will consider a wide range of social issue documentaries. Filmmakers and directors of educational media projects who reside in North America are eligible for fiscal sponsorship through DER, but we cannot sponsor filmmakers outside of North America. This does not exclude filmmakers who reside in North America but are working abroad. We accept projects in the planning, the production, the post-production and the marketing and promotion phase.

How does the application process work?

Fiscal sponsorship applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Filmmakers should submit a 2-page proposal, a 1-2 page budget, and key personnel CVs to the Executive Director, Alice Apley (). For more information see the Application section on the DER website.

How long does it take for my application to be reviewed?

It varies, but could take as long as a month to process an application. If you have an upcoming grant deadline, please plan ahead and submit your application in a timely manner.

Are there program fees?

  • One-time project initiation fee: $100 per project
  • Quick turnaround fee: There will be a $25 fee applied to any project for which the filmmaker requests review of a fiscal sponsorship application 5 or fewer days prior to a grant or other deadline.
  • Proposal consultation fee: There will be a $50 fee for a 30-minute consultation, providing feedback for strengthening a submitted proposal. This fee is waived for projects accepted into the program.
  • Administrative fees: There is a 5% administrative fee for all check donations, 6% for federal funds, and 8% for credit card donations including Paypal.

What are the Benefits of the DER Fiscal Sponsorship Program?

Fiscal Sponsorship may make your project eligible for funding reserved only for 501(c)(3) organizations and permits tax deduction benefits for individual donors to your project. DER offers consultations on fundraising, budgeting, and production. Email to schedule your consultation. DER will provide feedback on your project proposal and or rough cut. Your project will also be listed on our website along with a donate button. You can have access to the DER catalog of over 800 ethnographic films. Our program allows you access to the Foundation Directory online and thousands of private foundations (email for log-in information.) DER will promote project activity on its social media as seen fit by the DER staff.

What does the DER Fiscal Sponsorship Program NOT do?

DER does not provide grants or do fundraising research for your project. The program does not allow you to funnel nondeductible contributions, individual investments or personal income through DER for your project. You and your staff may not make tax-deductible contributions to your own project through the program. DER does not provide loans or advances to your project.

How long is my Fiscal Sponsorship agreement with DER?

DER has a continuous fiscal sponsorship agreement. This means that your sponsorship stands until you close your account with DER or terminate the agreement as outlined in the policies and procedures.


Can I have multiple fiscal sponsors for the same project?

DER will allow a filmmaker to have another fiscal sponsor if they are soliciting funds from a funder who requires a local sponsor (and it is not in Massachusetts).

Can I have multiple sponsored projects in the DER Fiscal Sponsorship Program?

Yes, but you must apply for each project separately and there is no guarantee of acceptance.

Does DER have any creative control over my project?

No. DER has no creative control over your project. The Filmmaker retains control of artistic production and postproduction decisions. However, the Filmmaker is expected to notify DER of proposed major changes in content or approach to ensure that the Project continues to adhere to DER?s mission and fiscal sponsorship program, and so that DER can relate any significant changes to funders, as appropriate.

Does DER have any rights over intellectual property or physical materials related to the project?

No. The Filmmaker retains all intellectual property rights in connection with the Project as well as custody of the original film footage and outtakes, sound recordings and research materials gathered during film production and paid for by the Project. The Filmmaker agrees to give DER permission to use project materials in DER promotional materials and activities.

Does DER pay contractors directly? Does DER issue 1099s?

DER will pay contractors directly upon receipt of a request from the Filmmaker. The Filmmaker must include an invoice from the contractor. This is not required, however, and if you prefer to pay all of your contractors yourself you may do so only after notifying DER.

DER issues 1099s to filmmakers and their contractors who have received $600 or more directly from DER for services rendered (e.g., for research, production, editing, and other work completed). LLCs will not receive 1099s unless listed as a sole proprietor on your W-9.

Can I use DER's insurance policy?

No. Filmmaker's are required to obtain their own insurance including standard production and general liability insurance, worker?s compensation, and errors and omissions prior to broadcast as appropriate.

If I am being sponsored by DER does that guarantee distribution when I am finished with my film?

No. DER does not guarantee distribution. You can, however, submit your project for distribution consideration by following our submission guidelines which are available on our website.


What is a donor vs. an investor?

A donor makes charitable donations to your project with no goods or services exchanged. Investors require a return or financial reward based on terms and conditions you set forth in any loan or investor agreement. We advise you to work with competent professionals on the creation of these documents.

Are there reporting requirements?

The minimum reporting requirements expected of all filmmakers are an annual update of Project progress to DER and a final report as outlined in the policies and procedures. Filmmakers may have further reporting required by funders.

How will I know when someone has donated?

DER will notify you about every donation or grant that comes in for your project via email. Each donor will receive an acknowledgement letter from DER that can be used for tax purposes.

Can I receive in-kind donations?

In-Kind donations are accepted. You must submit an In-Kind contribution report (created by Filmmaker) that lists the contribution, its fair market value, the donor name and address, the date of the contribution and the purpose. You cannot deduct the value of your time or services, personal, living or family expenses. If you have further questions about what is an acceptable in-kind donation, please refer to the IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

How do I access the funds in my account?

As stated in our Policies and Procedures, you are required to submit an invoice in order to access the funds in your account. Please see the example invoice. DER must see all the expenses for which you are spending the funds or for which you are being reimbursed.

Example Invoice

I'm doing a Kickstarter campaign, can DER help?

Yes! DER can still receive tax-deductible donations on behalf of your funders through Kickstarter. When you are ready to launch, contact to connect your Kickstarter account to DER's Amazon Payments account.

How do I get a profile of my project up on the DER website?

DER maintains a list of projects receiving fiscal sponsorship on our website. A profile of your project on our website allows individuals to donate directly to your project through our Paypal account. If you are interested in receiving secure on-line credit card donations, you need to post your project on our website. To list your project on our site, please send the following to :

  • • Project title
  • • Project director
  • • Project synopsis (80 words or less)
  • • A thumbnail image (maximum file size 3MB, please)
  • • Your website URL (if applicable)
  • • Link to your trailer (if applicable)

Do I need to credit DER on printed materials and end credits? If so, what do I use?

Yes. As outlined in our Policies and Procedures, Filmmakers are required to credit DER as the "Fiscal Sponsor" on all printed and online fundraising and promotional materials as well as in the end credits of your project. If you need an official DER logo for this purpose, please email .

I'm applying for a federal grant through DER, what do I need to know?

For grants made by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Science Foundation (NSF) or other State Arts and Humanities Councils, DER is the institutional applicant applying on your behalf. Although you provide the bulk of the information and write the proposal for your project, DER is responsible for submitting reports and project updates for those who are funded. For these types of grant applications, you must notify us at least one month prior to deadline. Additionally, DER must approve your final proposal no later than two weeks prior to the grant deadline.


Policies and Procedures for fiscal sponsorship through DER.


  • • Keep your receipts and vendor invoices
  • • Keep us informed of any changes to your budget or project
  • • Keep us informed of grants you are applying to
  • • Credit DER as "fiscal sponsor"
  • • Get appropriate insurance
  • • 1099s
  • • Get signed consent forms



Alice Apley, Executive Director, reviews fiscal sponsorship applications, offers assistance with fundraising strategies and is the point person for federal grant submissions. She can be reached at .

Bob Follansbee, Office Administrator, manages the fiscal accounts for all projects and is the contact point for fundraising events and Kickstarter campaigns. He processes all donations and invoices, disburses funds and is the main email contact for all Fiscal Sponsorship project coordinators. He can be reached at .

Frank Aveni, Director of Design and Media, is the point person for all web activity having to do with Fiscal Sponsorship. He receives summaries and images from projects to add to the website, aids project coordinators in setting up donate buttons on project websites, and assists in any other technical aspects that might arise. He can be reached at .

Alijah Case, Communications & Outreach Manager, is the point person for all social media. Please contact her with any upcoming events, reviews, or other items that would appropriately promote your project on our Facebook and Twitter pages. You can reach her at .


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