DER welcomes applications for fiscal sponsorship of film and media productions. We are particularly interested in projects that align with our mission to foster cross-cultural understanding, but will consider a wide range of projects addressing social and cultural issues. We welcome both veteran and new filmmakers to the program, as well as interactive documentaries and radio programs and podcasts. Projects in production as well as in outreach phases are eligible for fiscal sponsorship.
Filmmakers in the program have received funding from a wide range of funders. A small sample of these include the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Cinereach, Sundance, Chicken and Egg, the Center for Asian American Media, and numerous state humanities councils and local and national foundations. Filmmakers in the program have pitched their projects at BRITDOC’s Good Pitch, the Camden International Film Festival, Hot Docs, and IFP among others.
FISCAL SPONSORSHIP FAQS
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?
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.
I'm doing a Kickstarter campaign, can DER help?
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?
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.
Filmmakers and directors of educational media projects who reside in North America are eligible for fiscal sponsorship through DER. We cannot sponsor filmmakers outside North America. Fiscal sponsorship applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Please note that it may take as long as a month to process an application.
Who is eligible for DER fiscal sponsorship?
Filmmakers and directors of educational media projects who reside in North America are eligible for fiscal sponsorship through DER. We cannot sponsor filmmakers outside North America.
How do I apply for fiscal sponsorship?
Filmmakers and educational media project directors should submit the following documents:
- 3-page proposal. The proposal should be text only and can include links to additional media, such as sample reels, still images, etc. A strong proposal will include the following elements:
- The significance of the film/project.
- A brief discussion of the story and/or aspects of the issue you will explore.
- Your unique qualifications for completing this project successfully, such as knowledge, skills, access, or history of involvement with the characters and/or subject matter.
- The genre and/or visual style of the film (e.g. observational or experimental documentary, use of formal or informal interviews, inclusion of narration, style of shooting or editing, and use of archival footage).
- Discussion of films or media projects, if any, that have served as models for this project or treat similar subject matter and/or how your film will differ from these.
- Where you are in the research, development and/or production process, including a brief description of work completed.
- An outline of your plans for fundraising for the project. Will you been seeking funding from federal funders, foundation and/or private donations? Please mention any major grants you will be applying for. Are you planning on doing events and/or crowdfunding campaigns?
- A brief timeline for your project, indicating when you expect to complete key milestones.
- How you intend to distribute the film, including your target audience.
- Links to a sample of your work, a trailer, or to other projects completed by the producer, director and/or filmmaking team.
- Your name, Production Company Name (if applicable), and mailing address
- 1-2 page budget. The budget should itemize pre-production, production, and post-production expenses. The budget should cover the entire project, not just the current phase of production. (If you are applying for a particular grant, feel free to use the template from that organization.) For tips on preparing a film budget, see “A (Revised!) Introduction to Documentary Budgeting”, by Robert Bahar.
- CV of producer, director and/or other key personnel, selected to illustrate the competence in your project’s subject area necessary to complete the project. Please do not submit more than three CVs.
Fiscal sponsorship applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Please note that it may take as long as a month to process an application.
Applications should be sent to DER’s Executive Director, Alice Apley ().
DER charges a one-time joining fee of $100.
From accepted projects, we take a small percentage of the donated/granted money raised by your funding efforts to cover our administrative and consulting efforts.
Documentary Educational Resources is committed to supporting independent documentary, and enabling a healthy dialogue that offer critical perspectives on social and cultural issues, give voice to the underrepresented, and reflect on filmmaking as a means of cultural representation. Through our Fiscal Sponsorship program, we represent a wide variety of films that offer stories, perspectives and introduce audiences to individuals outside of the commercial media. Please support these important works.