50th Anniversary Spark Grants FAQ 2016-17

Q:  What are Spark Grants and what will they fund?

A:  To celebrate our 50th anniversary of sparking community connections, the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation (LVCF) will award a total of $300,000 in grants (called “Spark Grants”) during 2017. LVCF is dedicating $50,000 to each of the following issues (called “Spark Issues”) and will fund up to five (5) projects per issue during the months indicated below:

  • Mental & Behavioral Health, including substance abuse (February 2017)
  • Cultural Enrichment (April 2017)
  • Food & Housing Access (May 2017)
  • Environment & Sustainability (July 2017)
  • Human Trafficking (September 2017)
  • Veterans Affairs (November 2017)

The Spark Issues have been selected based on LVCF’s knowledge of important community needs that would benefit from increased public awareness and increased funding.  The goals of the Sparks Grants are to engage the community in taking action, increase awareness of important community issues, highlight organizations that are having an impact, and ultimately increase the quality of life in the Lehigh Valley.

Q:  What are the amounts of the Spark Grants?

A:   The Community Foundation will award $50,000 in grants to each Spark Issue for a total of $300,000 in grants to celebrate our 50th anniversary.  For each Spark Issue, the $50,000 in grants may be divided and awarded to up to five (5) organizations.

Q:  Which organizations can apply for the Spark Grants?

A:  Publicly supported 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations with locations and programs in Lehigh or Northampton Counties with programs serving any of the six Spark Issues are invited to apply.  Organizations may apply for more than one issue.

Q:  How do the Spark Grants differ from the Community Partnership Grants?

A:  Note that this approach (Spark Grants) is based on program purpose and is not the same as the LVCF Community Partnership Grants for which eligibility is based on organization purpose.  For example, a healthcare organization may have a program serving veterans specifically, so that organization would be eligible to apply for a Veterans Affairs Spark Grant.

Q:  What types of programs will be funded?

A:  Organizations with programs that address a particular Spark Issue are eligible for funding, within the guidelines discussed above.  During application evaluation, consideration will be given to applications that demonstrate a variety of factors, including:

  • The potential for collaboration with other organizations
  • The potential to leverage the Spark Grant to obtain additional funding from other sources
  • The potential impact of the Spark Grant to launch a new program or expand the scope of an existing program within the Lehigh Valley

Q:  What is the application process?

A:   The application process involves two phases: 

Phase 1:  Applicants must complete an online application that describes the program, its impact on the issue, and other information.  Applications will be evaluated by a “Spark Team” that will select up to five (5) finalists per issue.

Phase 2: The five (5) finalists selected from Phase 1 will be invited to submit a one-minute video (details below) that will be posted on the Community Foundation’s Facebook page and website. Community members will be encouraged to engage in the grants process by viewing the videos and voting for a program/video of interest over a two-week period.  The Spark Team will then come together one more time to allocate the $50,000 in grants among the finalists. 

Q:  What is the purpose of the video as part of the application?

A:   The purpose of the video is to engage the community through a public awareness campaign in support of the six issues and organizations making a difference.  The intention is to have fun and share your passion for important issues with others.  The videos will be promoted through the Community Foundation’s social media, website, and other online channels where visitors may vote on the videos they prefer. Video voting is one measure for consideration in the evaluation process, and does not represent a majority factor.

Q: What are the requirements of the video

A:  Videos should have the following common characteristics:

  • Video should demonstrate how the organization is a spark for improving life in the Lehigh Valley.  What makes the program the “spark”?  What are you doing to “Be The Spark”?“
  • Home-grown” or organic quality – recording the video on your cell phone is highly encouraged.  “Professionally produced” videos are discouraged. 
  • Up to one (1) minute in length. 
  • End the video with “Happy 50th Anniversary to the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation” and consider a “spark hug” of someone or something that represents your organization, program, mission, or issue.  It should answer the question – What does your organization embrace?
  • The preferred file type is MP4 or MOV.

The video is not meant to be overly burdensome or complex. If you feel that video production may be outside of your organization’s capabilities at this time, please contact the Community Foundation for technical assistance.

Q:  How will the video and the ‘voting’ influence the Spark Team evaluation of the application?

A:   The Spark Team will select proposals for funding based on the following evaluation criteria:

  • Written portion of the application (Phase 1)

  • Video portion of the application (Phase 2) which includes:

  • Public preferences, as evidenced through community ‘voting’

  • Applicant’s overall engagement with the campaign

The Community Foundation encourages applicants to help spread the word through their community networks via email, social media, and other means. The video campaign is meant to be a fun and unique way to share information about your organization and how you are helping the Lehigh Valley. It is also an opportunity for the community to get involved in a grants process.  The Community Foundation urges ‘video finalists’ to engage their donors and partners to view their videos and learn more about the work of their organizations and the Spark Issues. 

Please Note:  The Spark Team retains the ultimate authority to make the final grant allocation decisions.  The results of public voting is just one element of consideration and does not constitute a majority influence over the decision. 


Q:  What is the timeline for the Spark Grants?

A:   The Community Foundation will focus on each Spark Issue on a rolling basis, as follows:

Spark Issue

Written Application Available

Written Application Due

Video Finalists Announced

Community Awareness Campaign

Grants Announced


Mental & Behavioral Health




1/30 - 2/17/2017



Cultural Enrichment




4/3 - 4/14/2017



Food & Housing Access




5/8 - 5/19/2017



Environment & Sustainability




7/3 - 7/14/2017



Human Trafficking




9/11 - 9/22/2017



Veterans Affairs




11/6 - 11/17/2017



Dates provided are estimates and subject to change.  Please contact LVCF to confirm dates
* extended from December 30, 2016


The Community Foundation intends to issue grant checks shortly after the grants are announced at the end of each month in 2017. 

Q:  How can I access the online application?

A:   To access the application directly, CLICK HERE, or visit the Spark Grant page on the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation website at http://www.lehighvalleyfoundation.org/grants/50th-anniversary-spark-grants and follow the instructions. There you will find additional instructions and resources for completing an application.

Questions: If you have specific questions concerning the application, please contact Megan Briggs, Director of Community Investments, at 610 351-5353, ext. 11 or email: meganb@lvcfoundation.org