Spark! Connecting Community

At the Community Foundation, we know the critical role that strong personal connections play in keeping communities healthy and thriving—especially in the face of a widening opportunity gap. We see it firsthand in the grants we make that support people working and volunteering to help those in need and that help communities come together. We see it in the work we do with donors who want to make a difference in their own towns and villages.

The Spark! Connecting Community grant program puts building and nurturing community front and center. We aim to support the work happening throughout Vermont’s 251 towns that builds social capital—the connective tissue of our communities. Social capital refers to the level of trust that members of a group have for one another and the institutions that serve them. The more social capital a community has, the stronger the members’ sense of engagement and the greater their commitment is to each other and the world around them. Higher levels of social capital are correlated with better health outcomes, higher educational achievement, and increased civic engagement. When community members enjoy spending time together, care for one another, and work together to build a better world, everyone is better off.

With these grants we want to light the spark that keeps Vermonters healthy and happy. We want to fund projects throughout Vermont where a small grant can make a big difference. We want to collect stories and share them widely to create even more sparks that will inspire more philanthropy. 

Our grassroots grantmaking model focuses on strengthening community connections that lead to action and impact. This is a grant round for community heroes and champions—in other words, anyone who cares and wants to make a difference for their neighbors. We want to help you turn your community idea into reality!

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.

Grant applications will be accepted from organizations that are located in or serve the people of Vermont. Organizations must be tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or be a public agency or municipality in the state of Vermont. Nonprofit organizations or community groups who do not have 501(c)(3) status may apply for grant awards if another tax-exempt organization acts as a fiscal sponsor. 

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity (as defined in paragraph 249(c)(4) of title 18, United States Code), sexual orientation, marital or parental status, political affiliation, military service, physical or mental ability be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity funded in whole or in part with funds made available (meaning any funds having a competitive application process) by the Vermont Community Foundation, and any other program or activity funded in whole or in part with funds appropriated for grants, cooperative agreements, and other assistance administered by the Foundation. 

Grant applicants must employ staff and provide services without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity (as defined in paragraph 249(c)(4) of title 18, United States Code), sexual orientation, marital or parental status, political affiliation, military service, physical or mental ability.

Grant Size

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

Deadlines and Notifications

The 2018 grant round deadlines and notification dates are listed below. Applications must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on the deadline. 

March 15 - notification by end of May
July 26 - notification by mid-October
October 16 - notification by end of December

Notifications on approved and denied applications will be made by email to email address used to submit the application. Notifications timelines above are approximate. If you have not received an email, you can check your organization’s email history in your Online Grants Manager account. Please consider the notification date when determining which round meets your needs.

Application Process

All applications must be submitted electronically via the Online Grants Manager. Visit our Online Grants Center to learn how to use the Grants Manager, including accessing your existing account or registering for the first time. The electronic application form will be available after logging in to your account. 

To help you prepare, click here to view or download the 2018 application questions

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