INFORMATION FOR GRANTSEEKERS

Grantseekers should read through the below sections before considering applying.

WHAT WE FUND & WHAT WE DON’T

We appreciate that time spent on grant applications is time not spent on your work. We don’t want you to make the effort to apply for a project we can’t fund! Please read this to make sure your project fits the criteria.

We cannot fund projects outside of our scope.
  • WE DO FUND early stage organizations and projects. We offer grants to innovative and important work that has not yet established broad sources of support. For Sparkplug, what matters is that the project comes from and supports an engaged community.

  • WE DO FUND small-to-medium organizations or ideas. We most often fund projects with small budgets, and that are less likely to receive corporate, institutional, or government funding.

  • WE DO FUND 501c3 non-profits or individuals, communities or collectives that have a US-based 501c3 fiscal sponsor. For more information on finding a fiscal sponsor please see the FAQs section below.

  • WE DO FUND materials and activities that make new ideas real and sustainable. This can include support for a new organization’s growth like outreach materials, short-term staff to get your project underway, and short-term general operating support for new organizations only. We have very occasionally funded website development or software purchases where it drives other work. A grant can cover capacity-building expenses like trainings that grow your community leadership.

  • WE DO FUND one-year grants. Since we focus on start-up projects and organizations, we accept applications for up to one year. If you're a new organization interested in a start-up grant that spans beyond one year, you are invited to note that on your application - but can only apply for one year of funding. We'll be in touch if we think we can do more.

  • WE DO FUND with an eye for community accountability and inclusion. We recognize that power imbalances in the world impact how work happens in any organization. Power imbalances shift how people within organizations interact, and how organizations’ work affects others in their communities. Community accountability means that power imbalances are acknowledged within an organization (this goes beyond having a diverse board or team), that organizations have made an effort to understand how power affects their work, and that some ongoing means of addressing power imbalances are in place. Inclusion means that the organization deliberately structures itself to be guided by, and to support, people on the downside of power imbalances.

  • WE DO FUND projects in the US and Palestine/Israel. Our funding in Palestine/Israel, given current conditions of colonial apartheid, is limited to projects that involve Palestinian communities, operate with Palestinian leadership (and may also include non-Palestinian leadership), and work for justice.

  • WE DON’T FUND businesses or any organization or individual without a fiscal sponsor.

  • WE DON’T FUND general operating expenses such as regular ongoing salaries, office space rental, etc., except for start-up projects and start-up organizations.

  • WE DON’T FUND lobbying or election campaigns.

  • WE DON’T FUND technology equipment such as computers, printers, etc.

  • Under the Education Funding Area: WE DON’T FUND budget replacement for classes or programs within the formal education system that have been cut. Click here learn more about the projects we do fund under the Education Funding Area.

  • Under the Community Organizing Funding Area: WE DON’T FUND service projects. We only fund projects that are designed, led, and implemented by members of the affected community AND that aim to change systems and shift power. We do not fund projects that provide aid. Click here learn more about the projects we do fund under the Community Organizing Funding Area.

  • Under the Music Funding Area: WE DON’T FUND budget replacement for music programs in the education system suffering from budget cuts. Click here learn more about the projects we do fund under the Music Funding Area.

  • WE DON’T FUND multi-year requests. We accept applications for one-year grants. If you're a new organization interested in a start-up grant that spans beyond one year, you are invited to note that on your application. We'll be in touch if we think we can do more.

  • WE DON’T FUND projects or organizations in Palestine/Israel that do not have either a US-based 501c3 fiscal sponsor or Israeli documentation of NGO status.

  • WE DON’T FUND religious projects, projects run by religious organizations, or any project that involves religious practice, no matter how peripheral religion is to the project. We also do not fund projects that limit their work to a religious community.

  • WE DON’T FUND visual arts projects, films, medical research or relief, dance, animal rescue, athletic programs, tuition grants, or scholarships.

  • WE DON’T FUND university-based projects.

  • WE DON’T FUND any projects or organizations with budgets larger than $1 million. Chapters of national organizations should not apply if their national organization’s budget is greater than $1 million.

  • WE DON’T FUND technology equipment such as computers, printers, etc.

Areas of funding

Click the icons below to learn more about our three thematic areas of funding and what qualifies for grants under each.

Providence Student Union - Fall 2020

People Power Solar Cooperative - Spring 2019
Croning Border Music - Gustav Mazumdor CD
Spring 2018

COMMUNITY ORGANIZING: Sparkplug funds work by members of a community for their community -- work that aims to create justice by making systemic change and/or shifting power. Or in other words, we fund projects that are created, run by, and meet the needs of people with shared lived experience who face the same types of oppression, discrimination, violence, or barriers, who live in the same area, or who have a shared vision and aspirations for the future.

For example, We DO fund projects created and led by LGBTQ youth to change policies that affect them, but we DON’T fund programs that provide social services for LGBTQ youth.

Some other examples of community organizing that we have funded in the past include:

+ A farmworker-led campaign against deportations and for access to drivers licenses for undocumented people.

+ Training community members as housing organizers as part of a campaign to build their leadership capacity and win local housing justice.

+ Support to frontline communities in energy democracy organizing.

+ A COVID-19 related mutual aid and advocacy project by and for people experiencing homelessness.

EDUCATION: Sparkplug funds projects to educate or support communities, including but not limited to school-age students, that move beyond traditional classroom instruction. In keeping with our justice-oriented framework, we fund education projects that engage excluded students in new ways, projects that restore knowledge that has been marginalized through racism or colonialism, and projects that rebuild community and collective problem-solving.

 

We're especially interested in supporting critical and investigative thinking, and projects that address race, gender, and class disparities in education. We do fund community-based education   and social justice curriculum development,  For example, we have funded the development and sharing of curriculum that explores connections between Palestine and the US/Mexico border region to teach students to think critically about the impact of militarized border zones on youth, families and the environment.


We do not directly fund schools and do not fund programs that have been eliminated by budget cuts. Finally, we do not fund arts projects under this funding area.


Some examples of education projects that we have funded in the past include:

+ A program using digital tools to educate consumers on how they can support farmworkers rights. 

+ A youth-led education campaign exposing and opposing militarization in their community. 

+ A digital platform to preserve the archives of a local black community. 

+ A year-long program bringing together social and environmental justice organizers to train new organizers and develop joint community projects.

 

MUSIC: Recognizing the critical importance of music in bringing communities together and building collective creativity, Sparkplug supports emerging musicians in developing new work, sharing existing work with a wider community through events or media, bringing together musicians to collaborate on creating or performing pieces, or facilitating new workshops that bring music to oppressed communities.   Applicants for music grants will be asked to submit a sample of their music with their Letter of Intent form. 

Please note that we do not provide budget replacement funding for music programs in the education system suffering from budget cuts.  The best way to understand whether your project may be fundable is to look at our past music grants.  

Some examples of music projects that we have funded in the past include:

+ A music and other media production of a multi-ethnic Ottoman world, drawing on the stories and songs of Sephardic women. 

+ Commissioned compositions and the production of CDs in selected genres. 

+ The development of a musical program, using historical materials, memorializing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911. 

+ A multi-media, semi-staged performance based on the life and poetry of the celebrated Italian Renaissance poet, Torquato Tasso.


Faqs

Click on the questions below to learn more information about our grant process.

  • The current deadline for submitting a Letter of Intent form for this grant cycle is October 11th, 2021. Final grant announcements will be made on November 29th, 2021.
  • 1. Create an Account: To begin the application process, you will be asked to create an account with a username and password. Once submitted, you can log back on to see the status of your application. If you have applied for a grant before, you can log into your existing profile.
     
    2. Basic Questionnaire: You will be asked to respond to a few basic questions to see if you meet the foundation’s criteria for a grant.
     
    3. Letter of Intent Form: If you meet our grant criteria you will be asked to fill out and submit our Letter of Intent form. This is a short form where you will describe your project and answer a few basic questions.
     
    4. Application: We will review your Letter of Intent Form. If we invite you to submit a full application you will be notified by email. (This step is intended to ensure that you only spend time on an application if it has a chance of being funded.) The application will ask further questions and request that you submit some documents. If you are having trouble submitting documents as pdfs, please see the FAQs for more information on how to do this. Note, you cannot save your application as you go.
     
    5. Notification: You will receive an email notifying you whether or not your application has been funded within a few days of the grant announcements posted on our website.
  • The date for grant announcements will be shared on the website. On that date, the names of grantees will be posted. Within a few days you will also receive an email notifying you if you have received a grant or not.
  • We consider grant applications for amounts from $1,000 to $20,000. Most grants are in the $10,000 to $15,000 range.
  • In short, no. We accept applications for one-year grants. If you're a new organization interested in a start-up grant that spans beyond one year, you are invited to note that on your application, but can only apply for first-year funding. We'll be in touch if we think we can do more.
  • MAKE SURE YOU MEET THE CRITERIA - Thoroughly read this section, along with the What We Fund and What We Don’t and Areas of Funding sections to make sure you meet grant application qualifications.
     
    GET SPECIFIC - Many proposals are good at describing a problem or opportunity they're addressing, but become vague when outlining how they plan to address it. Be specific. Write down the steps you'll use to get there, the people and materials you'll need to do it, etc. Tell us how you know you've chosen the right way to tackle it. Tell us what other groups you'll be working with and who will be reached by the project. Tell us how you'll know if you've been successful. You can and should use plain language.
     
    SEED FOR SUSTAINABILITY - Sparkplug is a small foundation, which is why we make grants where a small, one-time grant can have a big impact. Strong proposals demonstrate how they will use funding to seed an idea or impact and influence systems and structures for long-term change.
     
    DEMONSTRATE ACCOUNTABILITY TO COMMUNITY - Power imbalances and systemic oppression in the world impact how people within organizations interact, and how organizations make decisions that affect others in their communities. Strong proposals will demonstrate mechanisms that allow those most marginalized in their community and organization to have a voice and decision-making power in the proposed idea and implementation. (This goes beyond having a diverse board.)
  • No. Choose what is most important to you and make your best effort to figure out where your project fits.
  • No, we only accept one application per organization or individual per grant cycle.
  • Yes, you can re-apply if your initial application was not accepted.
  • Yes, but because our aspiration is to spark new ideas and projects, we look carefully before making a second grant to an organization, even for a new project. Things you should consider are:

    Did I submit a report on my first grant?

    Is the project or idea a truly new one, or is it a continuation of the work I previously applied for?
  • We recognize that a large part of the work towards equity and justice takes place outside of the non-profit 501c3 framework. Unfortunately, because of government regulations, at this moment we are limited to working within this framework.
     
    If you are not a 501c3, you will need to have a fiscal sponsor to accept funding on your behalf. The fiscal sponsor is legally responsible for proving that the grant money has been spent on non-profit purposes allowed by U.S. tax law.
     
    Fiscal sponsors may charge you for the service of being your sponsor, taking a percentage of the grant money. They might take a small amount, like 3%, or a much larger amount, like 12%. Sparkplug urges our grantees to find lower-cost fiscal sponsors. In our opinion, a fiscal sponsor fee of more than 10% exceeds a reasonable charge for the service.
     
    A fiscal sponsorship arrangement must be written down and signed by the sponsor and the grantee. When Sparkplug makes a grant through a fiscal sponsor, we ask for a copy of that signed agreement as well as documentation of the fiscal sponsor’s 501c3 status.
    If you need help finding a fiscal sponsor, we recommend looking at the following resources, as well as asking any of the community organizations that you work with. Schools and religious organizations sometimes have 501c3 status; if so, they can serve as a fiscal sponsor.
    Candid (Formerly the Foundation Center)
    And The Fiscal Sponsor Directory 
  • Do not mail any portion of your grant proposal. We cannot accept paper-based grant proposals. If you don't know how to upload the required materials, see the following fact: How do I create a pdf for the application?
  • If you need support in creating a pdf for the application, please see this resource: https://www.wikihow.com/Create-PDF-Files
  • We ask each grantee to send us a report in the year following your receipt of your grant letting us know how you used the funds, what impact(s) they had, and why you were or were not able to achieve the objectives you outlined in the grant proposal. (Since we are always trying to learn, we want to hear about things that didn’t work, as well as successes).
Katal Center for Equity, Health and Justice - Fall 2020 COMMUNITY ORGANIZING