Michelson Spark Grants

The Digital Equity Spark Grants funding cycle opens on May 28th and closes on June 11th. A sample letter of interest (LOI) and application are available for reference. 

View the Informational Webinar

Spark Grants is an innovative, just-in-time grantmaking process.

Our vision is to introduce a process that can fill urgent needs for education organizations that are well-aligned with our focus areas. We seek to fund highly impactful initiatives that would not be possible if they needed to wait through a traditional grant decision timeline.

The Spark Advantage

Timing

In the spirit of acting quickly, grants will be reviewed on a rolling basis. 

Eligibility

For this round of funding we have decided to focus our impact on organizations that are doing work in California. Organizations whose work does not impact California will be ineligible for this opportunity.

Velocity

We are committed to advancing or declining an LOI within one week of when our call for proposals close. Grants will be awarded within six weeks of the call for proposals closing.

Baseline Grant Criteria

  • We will be awarding grants up to $25,000 to nonprofits and educational institutions whose projects hit one of the focus areas outlined below.
  • We will not be funding initiatives that provide direct assistance to students during this Michelson Spark Grant round (e.g. laptops or hotspots for remote learning). While we realize there is a tremendous need in our communities for this type of direct support, we are leveraging our funding to effect broader systemic change at this time.
  • For this funding cycle, we will focus on organizations that are doing work in California.
  • Given the size and scope of digital inequity and the complexity of securing adequate funding for programs and initiatives to fully address the issue, we welcome proposals where Michelson Spark Grant funds are part of a larger overall project with multiple funding streams.

Digital Equity Funding Cycle Focus Areas

  • Eliminating Digital Discrimination: Efforts that help address the impact that low-quality and/or unaffordable Internet has in areas that may superficially appear to have Internet access, and provide tools to combat digital discrimination and to promote equitable access to broadband throughout California. By focusing on the role of race in the historical causes of digital equity, we seek to grow awareness and uplift the voices and needs of underserved communities that have been deliberately excluded from connectivity by systematic redlining and disinvestment. These may include but are not limited to:
    • Efforts that highlight disparities in broadband access
    • Research that addresses mapping shortcomings at the state level
    • Storytelling, surveying, testimonial-gathering
  • Digital Equity in Tribal Communities: Projects that help Tribal communities bridge the digital divide and achieve digital sovereignty. This may include but isn’t limited to:
    • Digital Equity Research & Education (i.e.: Research on the impact of digital inequity on Tribal communities, digital equity best practices, and more)
    • Community Capacity-building
    • Broadband Infrastructure Workforce Development
  • Policy Advocacy and Civic Engagement: Efforts that increase civic participation in digital equity policy-making and regulatory processes at the local, regional, or state-level (including the education of state policy-makers on key digital equity issues). This may include efforts focusing on education, capacity-building, and the equitable implementation of digital equity policy
  • Digital Equity as a Social Determinant of Health: Efforts that address digital inequity through its impact as a social determinant of health, and that can be a promising practice to be scaled across the state. Efforts that bridge the digital divide in at least one of the following issue areas:
    • Higher Education (i.e.: Research on the impact of digital inequity on college students)
    • Healthcare/Public Health (i.e.: Equitable access to digital healthcare)
    • Economic Opportunity (i.e.: Workforce Development; equitable access to seeking, applying, and securing jobs)
    • Civic Engagement (i.e.: Access to public benefits)
  • Digital Equity and Artificial Intelligence (AI): Projects that aim to ensure communities that have been historically underinvested have access to and are prepared to take advantage of technological advancements in AI for full participation in our society, as well as projects that are aimed at increasing transparency and equity in the use and development of AI tools.

What We’re Looking For

Our vision is to introduce a process that can fill urgent needs for education organizations that are well-aligned with our focus areas.  We seek to fund highly impactful initiatives that would not be possible if they needed to wait through a traditional grant decision timeline.

Alignment with focus areas

Lasting organizational sustainability

Measurability of project impact

Spark Grants Evaluation Process

Grant Application is Received

After LOI is submitted the Grant Committee will do an initial assessment.

Reject or Move Forward Decision is Made

Within 6 business days you will be notified if your proposal is moving forward in the process.

Complete Full Application

Proposals that advance will be asked to complete a full application.

Applications Assessed

Full applications will be assessed and a follow up call will be scheduled with those that advance to the finalist stage.

Final Decision Made

You will be notified of the Grant Committee decision within 6 weeks of our call for proposals closing.

 
 

Grant Committee

Phil Kim

Phil Kim

Chief Executive Officer

Mayra Lombera

Mayra Lombera

Chief Operating Officer

Ryan Erickson-Kulas

Ryan Erickson-Kulas

Director of Programs and Operations

Miguel Leon

Miguel Leon

Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives

Cristal Mojica

Cristal Mojica

Senior Program Manager, Digital Equity

Past Spark Grant Recipients

spark grant hero image

Want to Learn More?

Members of the grant committee hosted an informational webinar on the funding cycle, focus areas, and Spark Grants process.