Yes, Spark MicroGrants is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. All donations to Spark MicroGrants are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
You can donate online through this website, or mail a check made out to “Spark MicroGrants” to the following address:
A microgrant is a small grant, typically between $2,000 – $10,000 that is given to a community to address a pressing communal problem. Microgrants are given to communities who demonstrate a high level of need and who have completed the Spark MicroGrant project planning process. Furthermore, microgrant funded projects cannot be used to benefit an individual, rather they must open to benefit the entire community equally. During the MicroGrant writing the process, communities come together to discuss their most pressing development and social problems and ultimately determine one to address in a microgrant. Then the community writes a microgrant project proposal, which includes a detailed budget, sustainability plan, and mechanisms to ensure benefits are distributed among community members.
Microgrants can address an array of social and development problems, and have ranged from projects addressing food insecurity to building a school and a media center. Microgrant projects must be designed by the community, address a specific communal problem, and cannot do harm.
Microfinance organizations provide loans to individuals to start profit making projects. These are loans that usually need to be paid back and typically with interest. Spark sees an opportunity to use a similar approach for the public good and improve the impact and efficiency of development funds. Spark’s microgrants enable communities to address pressing social problems even when there is no direct financial return on this investment.
Millions of communities face pressing problems that can be addressed with relatively little funding. Spark MicroGrants assesses the region, project type and community size when determining the microgrant size per community. Microgrants tend to range from $2,000-$10,000.
When searching for new communities to work with, we rely upon our facilitator fellows to travel to new areas and meet with local government officials to determine which communities are the most in need and have low levels of public infrastructure. Fellows carry out a field assessment with each community refered by the government in order to properly decide which communities are actually in the most need. We typically look for communities that have not received past aid from an NGO, in order to ensure we are reaching the communities the most in need.
The community! We believe strongly that community members know best the challenges they face and solutions to address them. While Spark helps to guide the community through the project planning process, it is ultimately the community members who present project ideas and vote on one to implement.
Before receiving a microgrant all of Spark’s partner communities participate in the Spark MicroGrants grant writing process. This typically takes between 3 to 5 months. During this process, facilitator fellows meet weekly with communities to help guide the community in determining, planning, and finally implementing a project. The first few weeks of meetings are centered around discussing the most pressing development and social problems that the community faces and then determining one to address through a microgrant. Once they have determined a project to address, a community writes a detailed project proposal which includes their budget, sustainability, benefit distribution, and implementation plans. If needed, Spark MicroGrants also tries to find other organizational partners to consultant with a community on their project plans.
Each grant is administered by a Spark MicroGrant facilitator fellow. The fellow is of the local nationality and works over the course of 3 to 5 months in partnership with the community before the microgrant is dispersed.
After a microgrant project is implemented Spark MicroGrants facilitates a series of follow up meetings to check in on the community and provide management support. In addition, several months after implementation of a project we complete follow-up monitoring and evaluation surveys in order to determine the impact of the project.
A primary condition for receiving a microgrant is that the project be sustainable and able to last beyond the dispersal of the microgrant. Our facilitators work with the community during the MicroGrant writing process to determine and develop a sustainability plan to ensure that the project and its benefits continue for years to come. Several examples of past project’s sustainability plans include saving portions of profits earned during a harvest to pay for seeds and fertilizer for the next planting or small savings groups, that allow communities to have a pool of money to use in case their project breaks and needs replacement or upgrades.
There are several mechanisms in place to ensure that microgrant money is used appropriately. Spark has few mandates for how a microgrant is used, but we do ensure that the microgrant is used for a project that a) benefits an entire community, b) community members, not just the leaders, are involved in developing the project plans for, including the budget, and c) the microgrant project must not do harm. The high level of participation by community members ensures that one person will not run off with the money, but rather that the grant money will be used according to the community designed microgrant budget. In addition, Spark MicroGrants disperses the microgrant in installments, to ensure that the project is implemented according to the plan.
A facilitator fellow is a member of the Spark MicroGrants team who leads our partner communities through the microgrant project planning process. Facilitator fellows are recent university graduates from the countries we work, currently Rwanda and Uganda. They are young, intelligent, and highly motivated. Fellows typically spend several days a week in the field finding and working hand in hand with our partner communities. Fellows facilitate meetings where the community members vote on communal challenges, plan for their project to address the challenge, complete monitoring plans and follow up with communities. Due to the amount of time that they spend in the field, facilitator fellows serve as our closest link to the communities and oftentimes write blog posts, newsletter updates, and community website profiles.
A handful of pre-existing organizations have microgrant programs. Most of these organization provide microgrants to individuals to start businesses – this is different from the Spark approach. Spark is unique in that we proactively reach out to rural poor communities and then help them design, implement and manage their own social impact projects. Spark is pioneering this new model of microgranting. If you are interested in bringing microgrants to new regions or learning more, please let us know!
Spark does not accept unsolicited applications, but please get in touch if you want to talk about your venture. We love connecting. Also, be sure to join the Local Solutions Forum if you want to join the movmement for making aid locally driven!