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Frequently Asked Questions

Project Support

Here you will find answers to some common questions about Earth Island’s Project Support Programs.

What is a fiscal sponsor?

Fiscal sponsors are tax-exempt, charitable ventures that, according to a June 2012 IRS report*, “have the ability to receive charitable contributions for specific projects, the infrastructure to ensure compliance with applicable federal and state laws and adequate internal controls to ensure that the funds will be used for the intended charitable purposes.” More information about fiscal sponsorship can be found on the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors web site:

Though fiscal sponsorship is sometimes described as a purely administrative relationship, at Earth Island it is a tool for providing support, building capacity, and creating community for grassroots environmental projects and activists.

* From the IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities; Report of Recommendations June 6, 2012

Where can I get more information about Fiscal Sponsorship?

Earth Island Institute was a founding member of the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors, a professional organization for fiscal sponsors. They have some very good information on their web site, including a number of useful articles available for download from their Resources for Learning.

In addition, Gregory L. Colvin’s book Fiscal Sponsorship: 6 Ways To Do It Right does a great job of describing different models of fiscal sponsorship and how they might apply to different types of projects. The book can be ordered through the San Francisco Study Center.

Does Earth Island provide projects with financial support?

Earth Island is not a grant-making organization. As described above, fiscal sponsorship describes the relationship of a sponsored project to the sponsoring organization. That said, the services provided by Earth Island have financial value and our projects receive those services even in advance of securing funding. In that way, we make an investment in the projects we support even though it is not through the direct transfer of funds.

How long does it take to become a project of Earth Island Institute?

In general, it takes between three and four months for a project to submit a project application, go through the review process, get adopted by the Board of Directors, and complete orientation. That said, ours is quite a selective process and not all projects that apply are adopted.

We consider new projects four times a year, and there are application deadlines June 1, September 1, December 1, and March 1. For more information about the project application process, please go to the Start a Project section of this site.

I’m not an environmental project, can you recommend another fiscal sponsor?

A good place to start is the Fiscal Sponsor Directory which can be found at:

Do I need funding to qualify for sponsorship?

No. Earth Island Institute does not require confirmed funding to qualify for sponsorship. However, it will be the responsibility of the sponsored project to raise the funds needed to implement their programs and reach their goals.

What if I’m already a 501(c)(3) organization, can I still get Earth Island sponsorship?

Yes, we will consider applications from existing 501(c)(3) organizations. However, Earth Island projects are required to do all of their business through Earth Island so once sponsored your existing 501(c)(3) will have to be closed or made dormant.

What if I’m working with another fiscal sponsor, can I transfer to Earth Island?

Yes, we will consider applications from projects wishing to transfer from another fiscal sponsor. Please make sure you indicate your current status in your application to Earth Island and we can discuss the specific steps in making this type of transition. Please note, the process requires the cooperation and support of your current fiscal sponsor so you are encouraged to discuss your plans with them as early as possible.

What if I need a sponsor immediately – before the next review cycle?

Under certain circumstances we will consider a project application outside of our normal review cycle; however, this is quite a labor intensive process so it is the exception rather than the rule. If you think that your project should be considered for expedited review, please submit a letter with your proposal describing the reason for your request. You will be contacted for more information and/or a decision regarding your request.

What if I only need sponsorship for a short period of time? (e.g. your waiting for your 501(c)(3) status to be approved.)

Earth Island cannot provide short-term fiscal sponsorship. Project applicants are asked to commit to a sponsorship period of one year or longer.