About Fiscal Sponsors


Many applicants have questions about fiscal sponsors, particularly who may act as one and how they are designated. Below, we’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions and provided answers.


A fiscal sponsor is an organization that agrees to accept and be responsible for grant monies on your behalf.

Unless a fiscal sponsor is designated, The NEA Foundation will make the grant payable directly to the lead applicant as an individual. In this case, the IRS may consider the grant personal income and therefore taxable. The Foundation, by law, must issue you a 1099 (reporting form for miscellaneous income) at the end of the year, a copy of which goes directly to the IRS. Fiscal sponsors, on the other hand, are usually non-profit organizations and thus able to accept the funds without tax liability. The NEA Foundation is not qualified to give tax advice, and makes no recommendations about whether or not you should designate a fiscal sponsor; the choice is up to each applicant. We suggest you consult with a tax advisor or accountant if you are unsure.

This varies. Generally speaking, your school, school district, school board, institution's grants administration or development office, or local union might serve as a fiscal sponsor.

This depends mostly on the administrative structure of your school district, college, or university. If you are unsure of the procedure, consult with your principal, someone from the central office, your dean, or someone from your institution's sponsored research office. You may also wish to consult colleagues who have previously received grants to find out about their experience. A representative of the organization you designate as fiscal sponsor must sign the applicant data sheet where indicated. This individual must be authorized to represent and act in the name of the organization, specifically in the receipt, disbursement, and oversight of grant monies. In addition, you should be careful to verify that the address of the fiscal sponsor entered on the form is the correct and complete mailing address to which a check may be sent.

The fiscal sponsor is responsible for receiving and safeguarding your grant funds. Furthermore, the fiscal sponsor is legally obligated to:

  • maintain separate records of disbursements related to the grant
  • keep receipts for at least three years following receipt of the grant
  • make financial records available to The NEA Foundation upon request
  • disburse funds in accordance with the purpose of the grant application
  • disburse funds solely at the direction of the grantee

It is your responsibility as a grantee to follow up with the fiscal sponsor organization to make sure you receive your funds when you need them. If a check issued by The NEA Foundation (either to an individual or an organization) does not arrive within a reasonable period after award notification and appears to have been misplaced or lost in transit, you should contact the foundation. However, there will be a minimum waiting period of 60 days from such notification before The NEA Foundation will stop payment on the original check and issue a new one.

There may be some disadvantages to designating a fiscal sponsor. For example:

You will not have direct control over the funds, but will need to deal with one or more intermediaries at the fiscal agency to arrange disbursement.

Since most fiscal sponsors are large, complex organizations, there could be delays in accessing funds.

Changes in personnel at the fiscal agency could result in delays or miscommunication.

It will be your responsibility to identify and follow up with the appropriate representative of the fiscal sponsor organization to ensure that you receive your grant in a timely fashion.

If you wish to have a fiscal sponsor accept the grant in the event that your proposal is approved, you must designate the sponsor at the time of your original application. The NEA Foundation will not consider requests to appoint a fiscal sponsor after an award has been made.

Whether or not a fiscal sponsor is designated, all grantees are personally responsible for submitting a complete and accurate account of all grant expenditures by the deadline specified in your award letter. If you have a fiscal sponsor, you should arrange to obtain an accounting of expenditures for the final report several weeks prior to its due date.

DISCLAIMER: The above should be considered general information rather than specific tax advice. We recommend you consult a tax specialist or accountant with any questions about your situation.


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