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A Spark Strategy Conversation

  |   non-profit, organization, social enterprise, spark ventures

Over the last year, our leadership engaged in a strategy initiative to prepare for the next decade. Spark supporters have been uniquely drawn to our organization for its partnerships and focus on business driven philanthropy. Will anything about these two important aspects change? Our Marketing Manager, Stephanie Denzer spoke with board leaders, Kathy Wolf and Scott Barbeau, to get their thoughts on the exciting developments ahead.


Deep relationships with our partners are key to Spark’s success. Will that be changing in the future?


Kathy: Spark Ventures IS the partnerships. Our impact with Hope in Zambia and Las Tías in Nicaragua- it’s been realized over time, through a long-term commitment and that’s not going to change. Yet our goal in the coming years is to broaden our reach even further because there are so many communities that would benefit from a partnership with Spark. We intend to continue to walk alongside our first two partners, while identifying new opportunities that align with our approach.


Is there anything about Spark’s approach or model that you see changing?


Scott: As most people know, we launched large agribusinesses with Hope and Las Tías, and we remain committed to the success of those projects. Moving forward, we plan to stay aligned with a business driven philanthropy approach and our values of empowerment and local sustainability, but we are identifying ways that require less capital, time and fewer human resources from Spark.


Can you give us an example of what that might look like?


Scott: In addition to program support, we’d be helping to build on existing income generators, rather than launching large new businesses. For example, Las Tías has a successful revolving fund for parents of the students in their program. The parents receive small loans from this fund to start a business and the interest from loan repayments help Las Tías cover operational expenses and salaries. We could help expand the fund – creating more small businesses, jobs and sustainability for Las Tías. And as we’ve started to identify potential new partners for Spark, we’ve found numerous organizations already using business to drive social impact and Spark can come alongside to help them grow their impact.


Lastly, how does Spark grow its fundraising over the next 10 years?


Kathy: It starts with appreciation, and on behalf of the board of directors, I want to thank each person who has given to Spark Ventures. We wouldn’t be here without you. And I believe we grow our support base through more people seeing our partnerships firsthand. The importance of our impact travel experiences was one of the big takeaways from our strategy work and I can attest to it personally. This summer my husband and kids will travel back to Zambia with me for my 4th trip. You can’t underestimate how these trips create ambassadors and help connect resources. Trips that build connections are powerful and key to Spark’s future.