Fiscal Agency: A Catalyst, Facilitator for Community Organizers

One of my most tightly held tenets of community activism: When citizens organize to take action on behalf of their neighborhoods or to advance issues of importance, the last thing that should get in their way is paperwork or bureaucratic interference—at any level.

It is this belief that is the basis for San Jose Parks Foundation’s program of Fiscal Agency. Being a Fiscal Agent means extending nonprofit status to projects, programs and groups whose purposes, missions, goals, and objectives are compatible with that of San Jose Parks Foundation.

The chief benefit to community groups is that they can move quickly, taking action without having to spend months waiting for legal paperwork to go through the state and federal government. We want the energy and effort of community activists and concerned citizens to be focused on their particular project and not on superfluous matters.

It’s not that paperwork or the requirements for filing for nonprofit status are inherently bad. This is a process that I hold in the highest esteem. But, it was never intended to slow down progress or to inhibit citizens from activism. In fact, the concept of Fiscal Agency is one that is not uncommon in the nonprofit world.

So, we created a simple process for requesting Fiscal Agency and have several groups under our organizational umbrella. The projects for which San Jose Parks Foundation serves as Fiscal Agent vary from one to another, but all of their key purposes are compatible with the foundation.

There is a standard application for Fiscal Agency, and, in certain cases, some of the requirements are waived. The application serves to guarantee that the group is a bona fide organization serving the needs of San Jose. Once accepted, a group can be immediately added to our website for online donations. We also work with each group to promote donations and enable groups to raise funds on their own.

Again, the purpose is to keep the group enthused, active and focused on its own goals without having to file papers or become burdened with unnecessary processes. Instead, San Jose Parks Foundation takes care of processing matters.

Some of the projects, programs and groups that are under or have been under the foundation’s nonprofit Fiscal umbrella include: The Abronzino Field House Project, Save Our Skatepark, Art Box Project San Jose, Almaden Winery Park Roses and Almaden Winery Park Fund, Buena Vista Park Project, Friends of Five Wounds Trail, Save Our Trails, and others.

One of the decisions that San Jose Parks Foundation has made regarding Fiscal Agency is that we will not limit ourselves in taking on projects involving parks and trails. Since most of these projects are fairly independent, we take on the role of facilitator, providing whatever support we can, as needed.
James P. Reber is the executive director of San Jose Parks Foundation, a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at [email protected]  or 408.893.PARK.

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