Michelson Spark Grants

The Student Basic Needs funding cycle is open for proposals September 5 to September 19, 2023. For support with your application, a sample Letter of Interest (LOI), sample application, and informational webinar are available for reference.

Submit a Proposal

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


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


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.


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.

Grant Evaluation Criteria

Baseline Grant Criteria

  • Grant ask is up to $25,000
  • This funding cycle seeks to support projects that advance systems-level strategies with the potential to create positive impact at scale and inform public policy.
  • Proposals where Michelson Spark Grant funds are part of a larger overall project with multiple funding streams are welcomed.
  • We are particularly interested in innovative efforts that catalyze systemic solutions in support of the basic needs of college students; this could include, but is not limited to, housing, food insecurity, health/mental health, and childcare.
  • For this round of funding, we are focusing our impact on organizations doing work in California—organizations whose work does not impact California will be ineligible for this opportunity.
  • During this funding cycle, we will not pursue initiatives that would result in direct assistance to students, such as emergency student aid, laptops and hotspots for remote learning, or food and housing vouchers. While we realize there is a tremendous need among students for direct support, at this time we are leveraging our funding to effect broader systemic change.

Student Basic Needs Funding Cycle Focus Areas

  • Leveraging technology solutions to maximize and measure the effectiveness and efficiency of basic needs supports and capture student academic success. This could include:
    • Systems to help assess student basic needs by providing data that captures the need for additional support and tells the story of who is accessing basic needs services
    • Streamlining deployment and information about basic needs supports, emphasizing local resources—both on and off campus—for students taking classes online or in-person
    • Providing support for students during “off-hours
  • Incorporating basic needs within the campus culture and climate. This could include efforts that strengthen the continuum of care for students’ basic needs. Topics may include:
    • Support for students transitioning between two-year and four-year institutions
    • Identifying students who have stopped or dropped out due to basic needs issues and assisting them with re-enrollment
    • Using student voices and perspectives to inform student basic needs efforts, policies, programming, etc.
  • Innovative approaches and promising practices that promote positive academic outcomes for students receiving direct financial assistance aimed at mitigating student basic needs concerns. This could include research, evaluation, or efforts that scale the impact of public benefits assistance, tax credits for eligible students, universal basic income, and approaches to liquidating institutional HEERF dollars.

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

Queena Hoang

Queena Hoang

Senior Program Manager

Past Spark Grant Recipients

spark grant hero image

Want to Learn More?

On August 24th, members of the Grant Committee hosted an informational webinar on the funding cycle, focus areas, and Spark Grants process.