Spark Connecting Community

Spark Connecting Community grants put building and nurturing community front and center. We aim to support grassroots work that builds social capital—the connective tissue of our communities. Social capital can be described as the value developed from working together, connecting across differences, and sharing common place-based experiences. Higher levels of social capital are correlated with better health outcomes, higher educational achievement, increased civic engagement, and greater resilience—all of which help build community vitality.

This grassroots grantmaking model focuses on strengthening community connections that lead to action and impact. This is a grant round for local champions who are collaborating with others; we want to help you turn your idea into a reality!

  • We are looking to fund projects throughout Vermont.  
  • We are looking for projects where a small grant can make a big difference.
  • We want to collect stories and share them widely, to help create even more sparks that inspire more philanthropy. 

What We Fund

The Spark program will accept applications from hyperlocal, place-based projects (applications from a single community or a few towns working in partnership in the same region) or statewide/regional projects that support a community of individuals with a shared identity or interest, such as a project supporting visual artists throughout the state.

This program will prioritize funding projects that:

  • Increase Vermonters access to opportunity as outlined in our four focus areas
  • Connect people with each other in deep and meaningful ways that are grounded in acts of generosity

  • Connect people to the environment around them in ways that encourage stewardship and respect

  • Increase opportunities for positive social interaction

  • As part of a project budget, the Spark program will support stipends to individuals who otherwise would not be able to participate to ensure more inclusive community processes, programs, and/or events (ex. childcare support, stipends to individuals, or transportation).

Here are some examples of what the program will fund:

  • Out of school and/or experiential learning opportunities for students to connect with local community members;
  • Establishing a garden at a child care center;
  • Community-created public art to support downtown revitalization;
  • A nature trail to support environmental education and encourage healthy exercise;
  • A creative program for people in recovery from drug and substance abuse; and
  • A community diversity event and dialogue in a town experiencing changing demographics.

How We Evaluate Your Application

The Community Foundation will consider the following criteria when reviewing applications to the Spark program:

  • Application clearly demonstrates how the proposed work will build or result in greater social capital
  • Application provides evidence of community buy-in, interest, and/or engagement by:
    • Demonstrating collaboration or volunteer engagement
    • Having additional funding sources for the work that are not the VCF
    • Having received a request from the community for the work to happen
  • Applications that can demonstrate that the work will result in cross-difference connection within a community will receive higher priority in the review process (i.e. bringing together groups of people who might not otherwise cross paths).

What We Don't Fund

  • Capital costs and campaigns, unless the capital investment is needed for an activity or event that builds community connections (for example, eligible expenses may include purchase of materials to construct or expand on a community garden or greenhouse; purchase of upgraded lighting or furniture to expand use of a local gathering space; and/or purchase of materials to repair a skatepark and restore safe use)
  • Performance ticket subsidies or scholarships that are not directly connected to community-building work
  • Events and performances that do not have any components of audience or community engagement
  • Debt reduction
  • Individuals (applicant should apply as part of a nonprofit organization, community group, municipality, or similar entity)
  • Expenses that have already been incurred
  • Programs with religious instruction
  • Indirect expenses for a project (including fiscal sponsor fees)
  • Repeat support of the same project

Who May Apply

  • First time grant seekers are encouraged to apply and be in touch if any help is needed with the application
  • Groups and organizations may apply multiple times but may only receive funding once in a calendar year, even if the organization is applying for funding for projects in different communities or towns
  • An organization serving as fiscal sponsor for a Spark grantee does remain eligible to submit another application for a different project

All applicants to programs at the Vermont Community Foundation must meet these guidelines.

Grant Size

Grants will be in the range of $500-$3,000.

Deadline and Notification

Spark Connecting Community 2022 Deadlines:

  • Round one: Applications will be accepted between January 18 - March 8, 2022. Applications must be received by 5PM on Tuesday, March 8 to be considered. Applicants will be notified of grant decisions in April.
  • Round two: Applications will be accepted between June 6 - July 18, 2022. Applications must be received by 5PM on Monday, July 18 to be considered. Applicants will be notified of grant decisions in September.

For more information on the status of your application, please contact grants@vermontcf.org. 

Notifications on approved and denied applications will be made by email to the email address used to submit the application. Notification timelines are approximate. If you have not received an email, you can check your organization’s email history in your Online Grants Manager account. 

Application Process

All applications must be submitted electronically. Visit our Online Grants Center page to learn how and to register for a new account. Or click here to access your existing account.

To help you prepare, click here to preview a sample of the application. Please note that this is a PDF sample and not the actual application. To view and begin working on the application, login to the Online Grants Manager (OGM), which can be accessed at www.vermontcf.org/OGM.