The Southern Documentary Fund offers fiscal sponsorship for documentary projects made in or about the American South. Having a fiscal sponsor allows artists to solicit funds from government agencies, foundations, trusts, individuals, and other philanthropic sources that require IRS nonprofit status in order to contribute to a project. These contributions are then tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Comprehensive applications are required for each project seeking sponsorship (see submission info below). All submissions are reviewed by our New Projects Panel, and accepted or denied based on artistic and editorial merit, the artist’s ability to complete the project successfully, and the need for fiscal sponsorship and mentoring services. Sponsored projects range from broadcast-quality feature-length documentaries with budgets close to one million dollars, to relatively modest projects with budgets in the thousands. We sponsor first films by passionate and talented novices, as well as works of mid-career professionals or veterans. In addition to films, SDF is proud of our distinctive collection of sponsored photography and audio projects. The range of subject matters is broad and diverse, including projects about social justice, the environment, history, and the arts.

SDF’s fiscally sponsored projects receive annual in-depth project consultations; crowd-funding consulting and campaigns through our partner platforms; rough cut reviews and public work in-progress screenings; pro-bono legal, distribution, and engagement consultations with entertainment attorneys, distribution executives, and impact producers; and unique pages on SDF’s website (including a donation button). SDF charges a modest 6% administrative fee for any monies contributed to projects through our Fiscal Sponsorship program, plus credit card or other payment processing fees incurred for online donations.

Submission Instructions

Artists are invited to apply to SDF for fiscal sponsorship on a quarterly basis—deadlines are January 15, April 15, and October 15. The application fee is $50.  Please note that we will not be doing our normal July 15th cycle in 2018 in order to focus on streamlining our sponsorship process.  

If you have an urgent need for sponsorship that falls outside our established deadlines, please contact SDF staff for information regarding an out-of-cycle application. The fee for out-of-cycle applications is $75. All applications for sponsorship are accepted through our online form at

  • Click here to apply.
  • The required fee must be paid separately through PayPal here.
  • Download a budget template here.

Criteria for project selection include:

  • Relevance or merit of the subject matter
  • Quality of the proposal
  • Experience of key personnel
  • Whether the budget is well developed and realistic
  • Fundraising ability
  • Whether the project meets the goals of SDF as stated in our mission statement
  • Distribution potential

If you have questions regarding fiscal sponsorship or the application process, please contact us at

New Projects Panel

Vivian Bowman-Edwards

Mikel Barton
Sally Bloom
Nazanin Knudsen
Courtney Reid-Eaton
Naomi Walker

Deepest thanks to former panelists over the years:
Mark Barroso
Dawn Dreyer
Lana Garland
Sandra Jacobi
Eric Johnson
Michelle Lanier
Eric Martin
Marc Maximov
Jim O’Brien
Bruce Orenstein
Rachel Raney
Diane Robertson
Loren Smith
Nicole Triche
Judy Van Wyk
Monique Velazquez
Tom Whiteside