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 social networks, and sharing common place-based experiences. The more social capital a community has, the stronger and more resilient those communities will be, providing desirable places for us to live, work and play. Higher levels of social capital are correlated with better health outcomes, higher educational achievement and increased civic engagement. 

  • 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. 

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! 


2021 Guidance for Proposals

The second round of 2021 Spark Connecting Community grant funding will prioritize applications seeking to:

  • Connect and engage members of the community through arts and creative activities;
  • Integrate artists, musicians, makers and/or other creatives in the creation and development of local projects; and/or
  • Create opportunities for the community to engage in creative placemaking. “Placemaking” efforts are projects and investments that improve the livability and the appeal of communities, which make places more walkable and bikeable, support local businesses, build social capital, and strengthen community identity. In particular, we are looking for creative placemaking efforts that will integrate arts, culture, and design activities into efforts that strengthen communities. Creative placemaking requires: partnership across sectors, deep community engagement, the involvement of artists, designers and culture bearers, and outcomes that advance local economic, physical, and/or social change, ultimately laying the groundwork for systems change. For more information on these definitions, visit the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Better Places program, and the National Endowment for the Arts.


What We Fund

This program will prioritize funding projects that:

  • Increase access to opportunity for low-income youth and families, as outlined in our four focus areas;
  • Connect people with each other in deep and meaningful ways that are grounded in acts of generosity and volunteerism;
  • Connect people to the environment around them in ways that encourage stewardship and respect; and/or
  • Increase opportunities for positive social interaction.

Typically, applications will be accepted from groups or organizations working in one community. Some examples include:

  • 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.


What We Don't Fund

  • Capital campaigns—this program only considers requests for renovations or equipment that have a direct and short-term connection to building community connections;
  • 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;
  • Expenses that have already been incurred;
  • Programs with religious instruction;
  • Indirect expenses for a project (including fiscal sponsor fees); or
  • Repeat support of the same project.

Who May Apply

  • First time grantwriters are encouraged to apply and to be in touch if you need help 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 their own 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 2021 Deadlines:

  • Round one: Applications will be accepted between January 25 - March 29, 2021. Applications must be received by 5PM on Monday, March 29 in order to be considered. 
  • Round two: Applications will be accepted between June 7 - August 9, 2021. Applications must be received by 5PM on Monday, August 9 in order to be considered. Applicants will be notified of grant decisions in mid-October.

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.