Michelson Spark Grants

The 2021 Digital Equity funding cycle will be open from March 8, 2021 – March 29, 2021.

The application and letter of inquiry 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 and awarded 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 reaching a decision on each application within 15 business days

Spark Grant Awardees

Click the logo to learn more about the work we have funded.

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.

R

Alignment with focus areas

R

Lasting organizational sustainability

R

Measurability of project impact

Grant Evaluation Criteria

Baseline Grant Criteria

  • Grant ask is up to $25,000.
  • 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.
  • 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 cycle 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.
  • Preference will be given to grants that cover a specific self-contained milestone focus including inflection points, things that may open up a new foothold with a partner (i.e. enabling a new partnership with a market leader), or a new proof of concept.
  • For this funding cycle we will not be funding general operating expenses such as rent, utilities, server costs, etc.

Digital Equity Cycle Focus Areas:

Education and Awareness

  • Developing digital literacy curricula, educational toolkits, emergent models, or learning communities. Applications demonstrating an intentional focus on accessibility/scale are preferred.
  • Education and awareness on low-cost internet options to unserved and underserved communities, with an emphasis on: 1) Leveraging existing campaigns/programs to disseminate information (e.g. CalFresh, Covered California, Public Libraries, Public Housing Developments); 2) Multilingual marketing materials.
  • Showcasing community and student digital equity experiences, perspectives, and voices to elected officials, stakeholders, and the public at large.

Research

  • Research that helps map digital equity gaps throughout the state of California, including broadband adoption, broadband bandwidth/speed, device access, and digital literacy.

Scaling Best Practices

  • Efforts that take digital navigator models to scale across the state of California. 
  • Ideas and programs that build on innovative connectivity solutions spearheaded by community-based organizations, established nonprofit partners, or government (e.g. libraries, municipal agencies, neighborhood-led initiatives). Said efforts should have a latency that is sufficiently low to allow real-time interactive applications, with a goal of achieving at least 100 mbps downstream.
  • Successful initiatives to provide tenants in apartments/multi-dwelling units with access to connectivity services through multiple internet service providers.

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 15 business days of your LOI submission date.

Grant Committee

Phil Kim

Phil Kim

Chief Executive Officer

Mayra Lombera

Mayra Lombera

Chief Operating Officer

Ryan Erickson-Kulas

Ryan Erickson-Kulas

Program Officer

Miguel León

Miguel León

Program Officer

Hannah Levinson

Hannah Levinson

Digital Equity Program Lead

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Want to Learn More?

Michelson 20MM team members Miguel León, Ryan Erickson-Kulas, and Hannah Levinson hosted a webinar on February 23rd providing an in-depth overview of the Digital Equity Spark Grants funding cycle. The slides presented are available here.