Spark Connecting Community
Spark Connecting Community grants put building and nurturing community front and center. We aim to support emerging grassroots projects with the potential to build 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 is a grant round for local champions who are collaborating with others; we want to help you turn your idea into a reality! This grassroots grantmaking model focuses on strengthening community connections that lead to action and impact. While we are looking to fund projects throughout Vermont, this year we will prioritize projects from under-represented counties in grantmaking. Spark applications from Essex, Grand Isle, and Franklin counties will receive priority consideration.
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.
This program will prioritize projects that:
- Increase Vermonters access to opportunity as outlined in our five areas of impact,
- Increase opportunities for positive social interaction while assuring full accessibility,
- Connect people with each other in deep and meaningful ways that are grounded in acts of generosity, and
- Connect people to the environment around them in ways that encourage stewardship and respect.
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;
- Community-created public art to support downtown revitalization;
- A nature trail to support environmental education and encourage healthy exercise; and
- A community diversity event and dialogue in a town experiencing changing demographics.
View a recent list of projects funded by the Spark Connecting Community grant program here.
How We Evaluate Your Application
The Vermont Community Foundation utilizes 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 beyond this grant
- Having received a request from the community for the work to happen
- Application demonstrates that the work will result in cross-difference connection within a community (i.e. bringing together groups of people who might not otherwise cross paths).
- Applications received from Essex, Grand Isle, and Franklin counties will receive priority consideration.
- The program will prioritize applicants with operating budgets of $500,000 or less.
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).
- Ongoing, recurring, or annual events or projects.
Performance ticket subsidies or scholarships that are not directly connected to community-building work. However, the 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).
Events and performances that do not prioritize audience or community engagement.
Individuals (applicant should apply as part of a nonprofit organization, community group, municipality, or similar entity)
Expenses that have already been incurred.
Requests for general operating support.
Programs with religious instruction.
Indirect expenses for a project (including fiscal sponsor fees).
Repeat support for the same, or a similar, project.
Who May Apply
- First time grant seekers are encouraged to apply and be in touch if any help is needed with the application process.
- 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.
Grants will be in the range of $500-$5,000.
Deadline and Notification
Spark Connecting Community 2024 Deadline:
- The Spark Connecting Community grant program will offer one competitive grant round in 2024.
- Applications will be accepted between February 20 - April 2, 2024. Applications must be received by 5PM on Tuesday, April 2 in order to be considered.
- We anticipate notifying applicants of grant decisions in May or June. Grants can be used to cover activities beginning in May 2024 and extending through June 2025.
For more information on the status of your application, please contact email@example.com or 802-388-3355 opt. 6.
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.
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.