Dr. Joyce White Selects UAC as First Choice for Fiscal Sponsorship

December 19, 2014

An inside look at the Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology’s first year at the Coalition

For over 20 years Dr. Joyce White was Director of the Ban Chiang Project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, but in 2013 the museum decided to reorganize itself and suddenly the Ban Chiang Project and Dr. White needed a new way to continue her work.

Dr. Joyce White came to the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) after learning about fiscal sponsorship. Leveraging the services of UAC, Dr. White has successfully created The Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology (ISEAA) which has allowed her to not only continue her important work, but her new independence has also allowed to pursue additional entrepreneurial avenues that she wasn’t able to when she was affiliated with a large university system.

How did you learn about Fiscal Sponsorship and why did you choose Fiscal Sponsorship as a model for ISEAA?

A longtime supporter of mine suggested Fiscal Sponsorship.  I had never heard of Fiscal Sponsors, but once I educated myself via the internet and with an interview with a California Fiscal Sponsor, it was clearly the way forward.  I had a track record of fundraising from public and private foundations as well as private donors, but a new non-profit entity needed to be created to manage the funds I would continue to raise to support this endeavor.  I had several donors who were willing to pledge 5 years of support to start the ISEAA on a plausible financial platform. Once it was clear to me that becoming a partner with a fiscal sponsor would be so much faster, easier, and more economical than starting my own 501©(3), it was a no-brainer.

Why did you choose UAC to be your fiscal sponsor? How has UAC helped the ISEAA over the first year?

Through the process of educating myself about Fiscal Sponsorship—the different kinds, the different missions, the different criteria, the different services provided, the national ones and the local ones—I realized I needed a “full service” fiscal sponsor that would handle accounting, payroll, liability insurance, etc. I contacted Arun and one thing led to another and within about 6 weeks of being off the Penn payroll, I was sitting in the UAC conference room being grilled about what ISEAA was all about and my track record for the past re fundraising etc. expected resources. I felt comfortable. UAC felt like a good organization with good, sincere people.  After that, it was mostly paperwork.

UAC has helped ISEAA in 2 fundamental ways.  First, as expected, is the financial management of the funds we have raised. My assigned accountant Lee is a dream to work with.  But icing on the cake and of unexpected great benefit are the capacity-building offerings through Coalition U and the summer marketing internship program.  I and my volunteers have learned so much about how to put ourselves forward in the modern world. From social media, to Wikipedia, to Indiegogo, step by step we are implementing these new ideas and skills, often with the help of the younger generation who come to us in various ways.  We try to provide them with a quality experience and they have helped us up our game to reach new audiences.

How is being at UAC different than being at the University?

There are several differences between UAC and the University. Being a partner in a Fiscal Partner Organization means that if we do well, the Fiscal sponsor (UAC) does well. So everyone is on the same page about doing well and accomplishing our mission. At a big place like Penn, and with the corporatization of Universities, there is more of a structure of competition for access, attention, and resources. When administrations change, priorities change, and something that has been built over decades can be deemed no longer useful to the corporate University, even if the discipline and community of peers is still relying on the program. So the atmosphere is different. Another plus of the fiscal sponsor situation is that finances are straightforward and transparent.  In a huge place like Penn, which has very complicated accounting procedures involving numerous individuals at various levels in the University, it can be very difficult to track income and control outgo in one’s accounts. We are of course still reliant on Penn Museum for space, though down-sized, and consulting scholar status for myself and collaborating professionals, so that we can access the library, archives, etc. But I think they are getting a good deal, they get to keep access to our expertise but not have to pay for it, we keep 2 of their flagship projects going, even if they are not seen as high priority at the moment.

So what’s on the agenda for Dr. White next year? She plans to launch an Indiegogo Campaign to raise funds to support the Lao staff in a short field season in Luang Prabang. If funded, she will be noted at the “International Archaelogist.” We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.


Dr. White is an internationally recognized archaeologist specializing in the prehistory of Southeast Asia since 1974, especially in Thailand and Laos. She is the world’s expert on the site of Ban Chiang, Thailand, named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1992 due to significant discoveries of a previously unknown civilization.