Welcome to the SPARK Prize 2020!

Through SPARK Prize, United Way of Greater Atlanta awards small grants to fund collaborative and innovative projects that address Greater Atlanta’s pressing challenges to improving child well-being.

The deadline to apply for the SPARK Prize is Friday, December 4, 2020 by 6:00 p.m.

Individuals, community groups and agencies of any size are encouraged to enter a submission to compete in the SPARK competition, with special consideration for organizations or groups with a budget under $500,000.

To enter the 2020 SPARK Prize competition or find additional information, follow the links below:

Dekalb County SPARK Prize

Your innovative idea can spark a change!

Do you have a great idea to address homelessness and improve child well-being in your local community? In partnership, United Way of Greater Atlanta, Kennesaw State University, Cobb Community Foundation and Cobb Collaborative will award small grants to fund collaborative and innovative projects that address homelessness and improve child well-being in Cobb County. Prizes will be awarded at the event on November 3, 2020

SPARK Prize is a “Shark Tank” style competition that awards grants to fund projects addressing Greater Atlanta’s greatest social challenges throughout the 13-county region. Through the SPARK Prize competition, United Way incentivizes cooperation and social advancements among nonprofits, community and business groups.

The deadline to submit your idea for the Northwest Region SPARK Prize competition is Friday, August 21, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.

To enter the 2020 SPARK Prize competition or find additional information, follow the links below:
Northwest Region SPARK Prize

This event will allow out-of-the-box thinkers to present their innovative idea to address the needs of children and families in their own communities.

Larry Campbell had a vision.

He could take a $25,000 investment and put it into his organization immediately, and over the next fiscal year, he felt he could turn that into a viable revenue stream — 15 percent of which he could pump back into a tutoring program for children in his community.

This was the impetus for Corners Industries several years ago. Campbell is the executive director of Corners Outreach, which encompasses Corners Academy and Corners Industries.

“Corners Academy serves over 450 students in Title 1 schools [in Greater Atlanta], and we do after-school programs and summer camps to help improve their academic standing,” Campbell says. “We began that in 2012.”

But Campbell says Corners wanted to also help families in these communities gain employment and work jobs with better wages and better hours. He wanted to give them an opportunity to earn a living and have the chance to play a bigger role in their children’s lives.

Corners Industries provides lawn services to their community. During the busy season, they service up to 120 yards weekly or biweekly, employ about eight people to full and part-time jobs, generate around $300,000 annually per truck unit and give 15 percent of those proceeds back to Corners Academy — toward a proven curriculum preparing children for the Georgia Milestones Assessment.

More kids served, more families helped.

Think of the impact an extra $25,000 could make.

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s SPARK Prize competition gave Campbell the perfect opportunity to expand Corners’ service.

The competition awards grants to organizations that fund projects addressing Greater Atlanta’s social challenges.

Through the SPARK Prize Competition, United Way incentivizes innovative advancements among nonprofits, community and business groups. SPARK Prize rewards those focusing on improving the child well-being of Greater Atlanta’s 13 counties.

The deadline to submit your idea for this year’s SPARK Prize is Feb. 7 at 6 p.m., and you can submit to competitions in Gwinnett, North Fulton or South Fulton counties.

At each of the regional events, competitors present innovative ideas addressing the needs of children and families in their communities – these are brought to judges in a sort of Shark Tank-esque presentation, and a winner is selected and given the prize.

Campbell took his winnings from the Gwinnett SPARK Prize competition and purchased another truck and lawn equipment. He says this helped generate about $200,000 this past year — $30,000 of that went back into Corners Academy.

 

‘WE WERE THRILLED TO PARTICIPATE’

An estimated 100,000-300,000 youth are at-risk for sex exploitation in the United States each year. This fact shocked Bob Rodgers.

The numbers in Atlanta were staggering, as well. It was something leadership in Atlanta desperately wanted to address.

“I think there was this realization after the city woke up to the fact that not only does sex trafficking exist, but this was a significant problem in our city,” Rodgers says. “The mayor at the time, Shirley Franklin, had done some research around it and… Atlanta was high on the list of instances of sex trafficking. It was just a convergence of things in a two or three-year period.”

Rodgers worked previously as president of a graduate university when he says he “stumbled” across the issue and “couldn’t believe it was occurring at such a broad scale.”

“It was time for me to make a change and see if there was anything I could do to protect these children and end this fight,” Rodgers says.

Rodgers is president and CEO of Street Grace, which is a faith-based organization that mobilizes leaders in the nonprofit, faith and business communities to end sex trafficking of children throughout the U.S.

“We have approached this issue as prevention and protection of children, public policy and then the pursuit of the buyers of sex trafficking,” Rodgers says.

In 2018, Street Grace participated in the North Fulton SPARK Prize competition. Street Grace wanted to use the money from the competition to fund innovative technology that uses a chatbot to “chat like a 14-year-old girl or boy” and then collect information and data on potential buyers of illegal sex.

In the past year, the program disrupted more than 10,000 instances, he says.

“It helped us uncover and identify potential buyers,” Rodgers says.

This was made possible by SPARK Prize.

“It was a neat and interesting concept, and we were thrilled to be able to participate,” he says.

 

NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS, UTILIZE PARTNERSHIPS

Helena-Kelleese Smith founded Serve Community, LLC as a marketing agency for nonprofits and small businesses. Serve Community focuses on building strategy by engaging in community development and educating others through workshops and innovative training methods to help people become better community leaders.

“We’ve been a business for a solid three years,” Smith says.

Smith worked in youth development prior to starting Serve Community. She worked with Girls, Inc., the Broward County YMCA and as a substitute teacher. She was teaching a “teen lifestyle clinic” in one of the local YMCAs in South Fulton County when she found out about the SPARK Prize.

“I wanted to do more for the teens, specifically in high school,” Smith says. “I was working in high schools and partnering with schools like Banneker and Hapeville.”

So, Smith pitched this clinic that would be implemented in South Fulton to help students with homework assignments, job applications and help them apply for scholarships and financial aid for college.

“I was able to leverage that funding and serve more kids, build connections, build partnerships and have a program where you are really getting to serve people,” she says. “I was able to serve people and give back.”

Smith, Rodgers and Campbell were able to take advantage of a unique competition and grant opportunity to make an immediate impact. Do you have the next great idea to spark change in your community?

Your innovative idea can spark a change!

Do you have a great idea to improve child well-being in your local community? United Way of Greater Atlanta is celebrating collaboration and civic innovation with the 2020 SPARK Prize™ in Gwinnett, North Fulton and South Fulton counties!

SPARK Prize is a “Shark Tank” style competition that awards grants to fund projects addressing Greater Atlanta’s greatest social challenges.Through the SPARK Prize competition, United Way incentivizes cooperation and social advancements among nonprofits, community and business groups.

The deadline to submit your idea for this year’s SPARK Prize competition is extended to Monday, February 17 at 6:00 p.m. To enter the 2020 SPARK Prize competition or find additional information for your region, follow the links below:

Each regional event will allow out-of-the-box thinkers to present their innovative idea to address the needs of children and families in their own communities.

Since February 2015, SPARK Prize has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to nonprofits, civic innovators and social entrepreneurs across Greater Atlanta and the next award can be yours! The challenge is set for you to present an innovative idea that will change lives and improve child well-being in the county you call home.

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.

SPARK Prize™ in the counties

Innovation and collaboration are not only being celebrated but rewarded with SPARK Prize events throughout Greater Atlanta! SPARK Prize is a “Shark Tank” style competition that awards grants to fund collaborative and innovative projects addressing Greater Atlanta’s greatest social challenges.

This year, United Way of Greater Atlanta is expanding SPARK Prize, with locally focused events in Gwinnett, North Fulton, South Fulton and the Northwest Region (Cobb, Douglas, Cherokee and Paulding counties).

Through the SPARK Prize competition, United Way funds small grants to incentivize cooperation and social advancements among nonprofits, community and business groups. Each regional event will allow out-of-the-box thinkers to present their innovative idea to address the needs of children and families in their own communities.

Since February 2015, SPARK Prize has granted $166,000 to 18 nonprofits, civic innovators and social entrepreneurs across Greater Atlanta and the next award can be yours! The challenge is set for you to present an innovative idea that will change lives and improve child well-being in the county you call home.

To enter the 2018 SPARK Prize competition or find additional information for your region, follow the links below: