A Catalyst for Social Innovation

A Catalyst for Social Innovation

A Catalyst for Social Innovation

Unpacking Fiscal Sponsorship’s Pre-Approved Grant Relationship

Unpacking Fiscal Sponsorship’s Pre-Approved Grant Relationship

Unpacking Fiscal Sponsorship’s Pre-Approved Grant Relationship

In the diverse ecosystem of social organizations striving to make a difference, navigating the complexities of legal and financial structures can often be as challenging as addressing the social issues themselves. The Fiscal Sponsorship offers a unique framework to support social initiatives. The “Pre-Approved Grant Relationship” model, also called Model C by some, offers a flexible arrangement that allows emerging projects and organizations to thrive under the umbrella of an established 501(c)(3) nonprofit. In this blog post, we will discuss the intricacies of the pre-approved grant relationship model, its benefits, and why it serves as an indispensable vehicle for social impact organizations looking to amplify their impact.

Understanding Pre-Approved Grant Relationships

Fiscal Sponsorship, in general, refers to the practice where an established 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (the sponsor) offers its legal and tax-exempt status to a project or group (the sponsored program). This relationship enables the sponsored program to receive grants and tax-deductible donations under the sponsor's exempt status, while the sponsor ensures compliance with legal and financial regulations.

The Pre-Approved Grant Relationship is distinct in that the sponsor does not directly involve itself in the sponsored program’s operations. Instead, the sponsor pre-approves the charitable efforts of the sponsored program and grants funds to them. These grants are funded by donations that the sponsor receives on behalf of the sponsored program. The sponsored program then carries out its initiatives independently, reporting back to the sponsor on the use of funds and the project's progress.

The Benefits of Pre-Approved Grant Relationships

  • Autonomy and Flexibility: Pre-Approved Grant Relationships allow sponsored programs to maintain a high degree of autonomy and control over their projects. Because the sponsor does not directly manage the project, sponsored programs can innovate and adapt quickly to changing circumstances within their operational framework and charitable oversight of the sponsor.

  • Efficiency and Speed: For new projects or groups that aim to address urgent social needs, establishing a separate nonprofit entity and obtaining tax-exempt status can be time-consuming and complex. Pre-Approved Grant Relationships can be established relatively quickly, allowing projects to commence without lengthy bureaucratic delays.

  • Access to Funding: By partnering with a Fiscal Sponsor, sponsored programs can access grants and donations that require tax-exempt status, opening up a wider pool of potential funding sources. 

  • Reduced Administrative Burden: Sponsored programs benefit from the sponsor's infrastructure, including grant management, legal compliance, and donor reporting. 

  • Risk Management: Fiscal Sponsors provide a layer of due diligence and expenditure responsibility that mitigates legal and financial risks. This protective oversight is beneficial for both the sponsoree and potential donors, ensuring that funds are used appropriately and effectively.

Why Pre-Approved Grant Relationships are Vital for Social Impact Organizations

Pre-Approved Grant Relationships are particularly important for impact organizations for several reasons:

  • Enabling Innovation: By reducing barriers to entry and providing a supportive framework, the Pre-Approved Grant Relationship encourages innovation and experimentation in addressing social issues. This can lead to the development of novel solutions and approaches that might not emerge within more traditional structures.

  • Supporting Grassroots Initiatives: The Pre-Approved Grant Relationship is ideal for grassroots projects and emerging leaders who may have transformative ideas but lack the resources or infrastructure to implement them independently.

  • Building Capacity: Over time, projects using a Pre-Approved Grant relationship can develop their organizational capacities and track records, potentially spinning off into independent nonprofits or social enterprises when ready.


The Pre-Approved Grant Relationship represents an important vehicle for empowering social impact organizations and projects, providing them with the legal and financial scaffolding necessary to initiate and sustain their impact-driven endeavors. By offering flexibility, reducing administrative burdens, and facilitating access to funding, the Pre-Approved Grant Relationship enables social innovators to focus on what they do best: making a meaningful difference in their communities and beyond. As the social sector continues to evolve, the importance of adaptable and supportive structures like fiscal sponsorships will only grow, highlighting its role as a catalyst for social innovation and change.

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