Spark Ventures

We build partnerships that lift communities out of poverty and empower future leaders

aka Spark   |   Chicago, IL   |  www.sparkventures.org

Mission

Spark Ventures builds partnerships that lift communities out of poverty and empowers future leaders. Spark Ventures directs human and financial resources to grassroots partner organizations around the world to provide nutrition, healthcare, education and jobs. By focusing our resources in areas of business, job creation and capacity building, we seek to have a lasting and sustainable impact. These efforts are anchored by our community of strategic donors who support this sustainable model with their donations of time, talent and treasure, and by our impact travel program that is life-changing and world-changing, fostering personal connections between Spark supporters and the vulnerable communities Spark serves.

Ruling year info

2007

Executive Director

Kristin Schrepferman

Main address

208 South LaSalle Street, Suite 1670

Chicago, IL 60604 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

51-0626562

NTEE code info

Fund Raising and/or Fund Distribution (S12)

Fund Raising and/or Fund Distribution (K12)

Fund Raising and/or Fund Distribution (O12)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2020, 2018 and 2017.
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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Spark Ventures addresses the lack of education, healthcare, and nutrition caused by poverty, and the limitations this poverty places on the local grassroots organizations attempting to serve the children and their families. By partnering with these local humanitarian groups, Spark Ventures works side by side with local leaders to create a future where all children have the opportunity and resources to achieve their potential.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Partner Development

Spark Ventures partners with grassroots organizations doing humanitarian work for the most vulnerable individuals in areas of extreme poverty. With a foundation of relationships and accountability, Spark strengthens those organizations through training and leadership/organizational development, financial and volunteer resources, and strategies for economic sustainability. With regular travel to partner organizations, Spark Ventures provides personal engagement, cultural exchange and the foundation for its dedicated community of strategic donors.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

Through our partnership, Hope Community School provides high-impact nutrition, education and healthcare programming to over 400 vulnerable children and their families in Zambia.

At the launch of the Spark Ventures partnership in 2007, Hope served 70 children in a rented facility with no paid staff, no supplies, meals or health services. Today, Hope Community School has a thriving campus, including a preschool, primary school, orphanage, library, health clinic, and multi-purpose building serving over 400 children and their families year-round. Students have books, uniforms and supplies. Hope’s salaried teachers receive professional development and continuing education. With a 100% primary school graduation rate for every class since 2010, Hope students receive one of the best primary educations in the area. A scholarship program encourages Hope School graduates to continue their secondary school education.

The robust meal program at Hope School provides students with what is often their only or best meal of the day. The nurse at Hope's on-campus clinic coordinates testing and administers treatment for malaria as well as other common diseases and illnesses. The entire community has been receiving education and awareness training and resources to address the global coronavirus pandemic.

The Educator Empowerment Initiative, launched in 2020, is building global partnerships between US-based teachers and Hope Community School. With an expanding pen-pal program, real-time Skype conversations and teacher exchanges, Spark is improving educational opportunities as well as encouraging understanding and bonds of friendship across the world.

Spark has created over 50 jobs through partnership support, at the school and including agriculture jobs at poultry and vegetable farms launched to contribute food and profits back to the school. Spark has helped to create an overall enhanced organizational structure with job descriptions and reporting structure, leadership development and strategic planning.

Adults in the impoverished Hope community are offered skills training in farming and handicrafts. The recently formed “Village Banking” initiative encourages women to use provided supplies and skills to sell their vegetables and crafts and save​ a small percentage of their profits on a weekly basis. The program is educating and empowering members of the community to understand and attain financial security through business and budgeting training.

Elderly women participate in the “Women of Worth” program, formed to fulfill nutritional, healthcare, emotional and social needs with social interaction, food supplies, skills training, and guest speakers.

Since 2007, over 500 Spark travelers have helped with leadership training and financial accountability, launched a computer lab, inspired hundreds of children through a reading program, and provided medical care through annual clinics.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

In 2013, Spark Ventures expanded our partnerships to include Las Tías in León, Nicaragua. Las Tías was started by 8 businesswomen in 1989 after the revolution in their country. They began reaching out to street children and 20 years later, they had two thriving community centers providing meals, education, health care, and job skills training – serving over 150 youth annually.

But their funding sources were slowly disappearing, jeopardizing their high-impact work. Spark stepped in to cover salaries, expand their meal program, renovate outdated facilities, support vocational skills training for adolescents, and hire additional social workers to support the mental health of children coming from unstable homes or with a history of child abuse. Before Spark, Las Tias struggled with leadership transitions; Spark has provided succession planning and strategic advice which have strengthened the leadership team.

Since the launch of our partnership in 2013, more than 120 people have traveled with Spark to support this work, while also helping expand the Las Tías library, helping with leadership succession, and creating a new children’s activity room.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

The Entreamigos community center was founded in 2006 in the heart of San Pancho, Mexico. What started as teaching arts and crafts on a picnic table in a neighborhood front yard has grown into a vibrant center dedicated to education, environmentalism, womens’ empowerment, youth and their families.

Spark Ventures, provides funding and strategic support to Entreamigos’ Women’s Entrepreneur group, which empowers women of the lowest socio-economic level. These women meet regularly and produce products from recycled goods that are sold in Entreamigos’ gallery. The women are paid for their products and also gain valuable business and life skills.

Spark Ventures also supports the “Jungle Group” – an after-school program for children grades 2-6 who are behaviorally and academically challenged, providing diverse educational initiatives, tutoring, mentoring and more.

Spark has also provided funding to support Entreamigos’ city-wide recycling program, which was created by and continues to be managed by Entreamigos.

Since the launch of our partnership in 2017, more than 70 people have traveled with Spark to support this work, while also helping to provide school supplies, arts & crafts supplies, books, launch a photography program and sponsor recycling bins.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

The culmination of Spark Ventures’ careful search for a local partner was celebrated at its 2020 Fall Gala with the announcement of its partnership with I Grow Chicago, a community-led organization whose programs closely align with Spark’s mission to provide sustainable solutions to lift communities out of poverty and empower future leaders. I Grow Chicago was founded in 2013 at the corner of 64th and Honore – in Chicago’s south side neighborhood of Englewood. From one woman’s idea to a whole neighborhood’s heart, I Grow Chicago is the story of people coming together and working for change. It’s a history of violence and trauma but also one of hope, resiliency and most of all, love.
 
With years of disinvestment and structural racism, Englewood had become an opportunity and resource desert, leading many into the street economy to survive. Children couldn’t play outside, and residents stayed in their homes out of fear.
 
Today, the Peace House stands at the same corner where the seed for I Grow Chicago was planted. It serves as the community center on the neighborhood’s Peace Campus – a gathering and healing zone made up of 6 previously vacant lots and 2 homes. This campus is home to nearly 15 different programs, all run by community members and volunteers that assist every generation of West Englewood. Residents learn the tools they need to stop violence before it starts, from how to take a deep breath before reacting, to how to apply for and succeed in jobs.
 
Spark Ventures provides funding to support I Grow Chicago’s “Born to Thrive” program. This program now provides in-person educational support for remote learning on the Peace Campus. Forty of the neighborhood’s most vulnerable children and teens receive technology and internet access, school supplies, social-emotional support, peer-to-peer activities, meals and snacks, transportation, and advocacy. Thanks in part to Spark’s support, I Grow Chicago has employed three community members to staff the “Born to Thrive” program. They are educating and advocating for children at a critical time, in a neighborhood where the barriers to virtual learning disproportionately affect students.

Population(s) Served
Adolescents
Children
Preteens
Economically disadvantaged people
At-risk youth

For the past 10+ years we have brought over 700 travelers to Zambia, Nicaragua and Mexico to see our work in action. These trips are unforgettable journeys bringing to life our unique approach to philanthropy and our on-the-ground partnerships.

Our experiences are culturally empowering, mutually beneficial and focused on lasting impact. Take part in meaningful engagement with community leaders and see our work first-hand while experiencing the best of the countries we work in. Our expertly curated adventures will introduce you to unique cultural highlights, historical insights & natural wonders.

For a full list of upcoming experiences, visit www.sparkventures.org/travel

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children
Preteens

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of children receiving medical services

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Related Program

Hope Community School Partnership

Type of Metric

Context - describing the issue we work on

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Students at Hope Community School in Zambia are tested and treated for malaria as well as other diseases and illnesses.

Number of children reached with a meal each school day

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Related Program

Partner Development

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Spark funds meal programming for 430 students at Hope Community School in Zambia and at Las Tias in Nicaragua.

Number of children who have access to education

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Related Program

Partner Development

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Number of jobs created and maintained

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults

Related Program

Partner Development

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Spark has helped create and maintain jobs at our partner organizations in Zambia, Nicaragua and Mexico.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Spark Ventures ultimate goal is to lift communities out of poverty, where everyone has the resources and opportunity to achieve his or her potential.

Eradicating poverty is achieved by providing sustainable solutions to the serious problems of inadequate education, nutrition, healthcare and jobs. With a foundation of relationships and accountability, Spark Ventures strengthens grassroots organizations which serve vulnerable children and their families through training and leadership/organizational development, financial and volunteer resources, and strategies for economic sustainability. Through philanthropic investments in local social businesses, Spark Ventures leverages charitable contributions to provide ongoing funding for high-impact programming in education, health and nutrition. With regular travel to partner organizations, Spark Ventures provides personal engagement, cultural exchange and the foundation for its dedicated community of strategic donors.

Spark Ventures has brought together a team of diverse stakeholders (on staff, as members of its Board and in other advising capacities) who have a broad range of skills critical to executing our mission. With educators, medical personnel, highly trained development practitioners, businesspeople with a myriad of skills including in-depth experience specific to emerging market economies, the team of professionals working to advance our mission are some of the best in their fields.

Since its inception in 2007, Spark Ventures has been able to go from serving 60 children to serving thousands of children and hundreds of adults (as detailed in other parts of this Profile). Spark's compelling direct impact has been possible because of Spark Ventures “small but mighty" staff and its dedicated volunteers. Spark’s successes in fundraising events and campaigns, the expansion of its donor base and social media following, and the life-changing effect of its impact travel program have resulted in an almost tenfold increase in annual revenue.

Spark Ventures has successfully partnered with four grassroots organizations transforming lives for the better with expanded support by volunteers, donors and travelers. With consistent collaboration and strategic planning, programs are expanded and enhanced.

Hope Ministries in Zambia
- A thriving campus including a preschool, primary school, orphanage, library, health clinic and multi-purpose building for over 400 children and their families year-round.
- Students have books, uniforms and supplies.
- Salaried teachers get professional development and continuing education.
- 100% primary school graduation for every class since 2010.
- Secondary School Scholarships.
- Medical care by full-time nurse.
- Robust meal program.
- Students tested and treated for malaria and other diseases.
- Students receive training and resources to address the pandemic.
- Educator Empowerment Initiative, launched in 2020, is building global partnerships between US-based teachers/students and Hope School.
- Over 50 new jobs at the school and poultry & vegetable farms, launched to contribute food and profits back to the school.
- An overall enhanced organizational structure with job descriptions, reporting structure, leadership development and strategic planning.
- Skills training for adults in farming and handicrafts. “Village Banking” initiative encourages women to use provided supplies and skills to sell their vegetables and crafts and ​save a percentage of their profits on a weekly basis.
- Elderly women participate in the “Women of Worth” program to fulfill nutritional, healthcare, emotional and social needs.
- Over 500 Spark travelers have helped with leadership training and financial accountability, launched a computer lab, inspired hundreds of children through a reading program, and provided medical care through annual clinics.

Las Tias, Nicaragua
- Staff salaries & additional social worker
- Expanded meal program
- Renovated facilities
- Succession planning and strategic advice strengthening the leadership team.
- Over 120 people have traveled with Spark to support this work, while also helping expand the library, helping with leadership succession, and creating a new children’s activity room.

Entreamigos, Mexico
- Strategic support and funding for the Women’s Entrepreneur group.
- Support for the after-school Jungle Group for behaviorally and academically challenged primary students.
- Funding for Entreamigos' city-wide recycling program and sponsoring recycling bins.
- Traveling with more than 70 people to support this work, and helping to provide school supplies, arts & crafts supplies, books, and launch a photography program.

I Grow Chicago, United States
- Support for the salaries of “Born to Thrive” program staff members.
- Forty of the neighborhood’s most vulnerable children and teens receive technology and internet access, school supplies, social-emotional support, peer-to-peer activities, meals & snacks, transportation, and advocacy.

Financials

Spark Ventures
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Spark Ventures

Board of directors
as of 6/18/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Michael Campbell

Fusion Risk Management

Term: 2020 -


Board co-chair

Julie Tafel Klaus

Scott Barbeau

Upbeat Music & Arts

Constance Benrud

Community Volunteer

Sue Bernstein

Community Volunteer

Michael Campbell

Fusion Risk Management

Kathy Campbell Wolf

Community Volunteer

Julie Cook

Netsmart

Doak Elliott

US Foods

Rich Johnson

s4 Partners

Jennifer Kim

Community Volunteer

Vicki Kraft

Community Volunteer

Dan Marcus

Marcus Capital

Patti O'Neil

Rush University Medical Center

Kristin Schrepferman

Spark Ventures

Julie Tafel Klaus

Community Volunteer

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 06/18/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data