Do you have a great idea to bring Fayette County nonprofits, businesses and community groups together to address the needs of children and families? Through SPARK Prize, a “Shark Tank” style live competition, we award small grants to help communities test innovative ideas that can move the needle on our region’s most pressing issues. Prizes will be awarded at our Fayette County event on Thursday, March 7, 2019 at  Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America (776 Highway 74 South, Peachtree City).

To enter the 2019 SPARK Prize competition, submit a video here. Read on below to learn more about the United Way of Greater Atlanta in Fayette County SPARK Prize selection criteria and frequently asked questions.


How do I apply?

Interested applicants are asked to submit a 3-5 minute video presentation explaining their idea,  the problem they are attempting to solve, and their innovative solution. Videos do not have to be professionally recorded–cell phone/digital camera videos are highly encouraged. Videos are to be submitted via the SPARK Prize website. Applicants that are selected to go on to the next stage will be required to submit a three-page proposal and will receive support with improving their presentation and implementation plan.


What is the deadline for submission?

The application period begins on Friday, November 9, 2018. The deadline for video submission has been extended to Friday, January 4 at 5:00 p.m. Finalists selected to move forward will be notified by January 25, 2019.


How many awards will be made?

The number of awards will be based on the dollars available and judges’ decisions. The judges will determine which ideas they want to invest in. All ideas that are presented at the event will be eligible for funding.


How much are the awards?

These are small awards that will help communities test an innovative idea. Requests can be made in any amount up to $20,000. Awards will be given based on the ability of the applicants to demonstrate a clear project plan and use of the funds.


Who is eligible?

Any individual, group or organization that has an innovative idea can apply. Special consideration for organizations with a budget under $150,000 will be given. Individuals and community groups must have affiliation with a registered 501c3 that will serve as their fiscal agent.


Is this funding renewable?

This funding supports 9-12 month projects. There is currently no commitment being made for additional funding. The SPARK Prize winners will receive coaching post-award. Having a nonprofit or small business partner may also help with consideration for sustainability.


How will award winners be selected?

This award is designed to reward organizations with budgets of less than $150,000 who provide direct service within Fayette County. All videos will be reviewed by a panel of community leaders that include entrepreneurs, business partners, nonprofit service leaders, issue experts and others who will be vetting ideas for:


  • Alignment – How well the project or program is aligned with United Way’s Child Well-Being agenda and county priorities. In Fayette County, the most pressing issues include affordable housing; food insecurity; and uninsured or underinsured individuals and families.
  • Solution Oriented – Clearly articulates a need with goals that directly address a particular community/social problem, removes barriers, or increases efficiencies.
  • Creativity – Ability to demonstrate creativity, new or unconventional thinking.
  • Innovation – Project or program is unique and cutting edge for the field; new to the community.
  • Thoughtful Implementation – Feasibility of the implementation plan (sufficient resources, feasible scope of work and timeline, clear goals and objectives).
  • Leverage – Ability to use funds to leverage additional skills, expertise, human capital and other resources to ensure project success. (Examples: engage 100 community volunteers, 25 hours in-kind web development expertise, or $2,000 matching funds)


Finalists will be selected from the larger pool of applicants and will be required to submit a three-page proposal. The final winners will be selected by a panel of judges at a live event on March 7, 2019 using the above set of criteria.


Why is United Way offering this now?

United Way of Greater Atlanta in Fayette County is committed to solving complex community problems and building a community of leaders who are continuously looking for innovative and creative solutions. The SPARK Prize grew out of listening to our stakeholders — both nonprofit agencies and donors. They both expressed a desire to support innovative and collaborative ideas.


Why invest in small nonprofits?

Innovation often emerges from small nimble organizations, but their creativity and innovative solutions can lay dormant because of lack of flexible resources. We must empower people to be innovators and assist leaders to accelerate solutions. This award is designed to reward organizations with budgets of less than $150,000 who provide direct service within Fayette County.


Can the prize be used for planning or research?

The SPARK Prize is designed to reward individuals and organizations that have already spent some time planning and are ready to move into testing their idea. There should be a well thought-out concept. The prize supports projects that can be implemented within 9-12 months of the award. Additionally, all funded projects will need to have clear milestones of progress and measures of success that show the impact on individuals and families.


How do I know if I have a truly innovative idea?

Our best advice is to test your idea with a wide variety of people and practice making your “pitch.” This will help to renew your idea and allow you to master your presentation.


Determine what type of innovation you are proposing. Consider the following categories of innovation, adapted from the Harvard Business Review.

  • Core – These types of innovation optimize existing services or functions. These innovations are usually incremental and leverage existing assets to yield a meaningful improvement in results. Often the new idea, if successful, will become incorporated as a standard within the organization.
  • Expansion – These types of innovation enhance or expand existing services and may have some characteristics of core and transformational innovations. Expansion innovations may use existing assets to engage with clients differently or use volunteers in a new way. These might also be initiatives from another arena that have not been applied to your organization or within your community.
  • Transformational – These innovations represent a breakthrough or significantly change how a service or function is delivered. The initiative disrupts the norm and suggests new ways of meeting a need or engaging clients that requires the organization to develop new capacities and/or bring on new skills.