PLATINUM2024

Spark Ventures

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

aka Spark   |   Chicago, IL   |  www.sparkventures.org
GuideStar Charity Check

Spark Ventures

EIN: 51-0626562


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

Subject area info

Education

Health

Employment

Community and economic development

Population served info

Children and youth

Adults

Economically disadvantaged people

NTEE code info

Fund Raising and/or Fund Distribution (S12)

Fund Raising and/or Fund Distribution (K12)

Fund Raising and/or Fund Distribution (O12)

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 children and their families 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

We Grow Chicago is a community collaborative in Chicago's south side neighborhood of Englewood.

With years of disinvestment and structural racism, Englewood had become an opportunity and resource desert, leading many into the street economy to survive. We Grow's Peace Campus is home to nearly 15 different programs, all run by community members and volunteers that assist every generation. 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 We Grow's Spark Inspiration Computer Lab which bridges the digital divide in a community where 70% of its residents don't have an internet connection in their homes. The lab is a space for digital literacy classes, creativity workshops, empowerment programming, homework help, continuing education, employment searches, and more.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

For the past 15+ 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
Families

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

Increasing

Context Notes

Students at Hope Community School in Zambia are tested and treated for malaria as well as other diseases and illnesses. Students at Las Tias in Nicaragua receive physical and mental health care.

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

Increasing

Context Notes

Spark funds meal programming for 625 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

Increasing

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

Holding steady

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 Community School in Zambia
- A thriving campus including a PK-10 school, orphanage, library, clinic, computer lab and multi-purpose building for over 550 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
- Meal program
- Students tested and treated for malaria and other diseases
- Training and resources to develop computer literacy skills
- 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
- 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 & social worker
- Educational & wellness programs
- Meal program
- Renovated facilities
- Computer lab
- Vocational training
- 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 childrens activity room

Entreamigos, Mexico
- Strategic support and funding for the Womens 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

We Grow Chicago, United States
- Computer lab providing technology and internet access, peer-to-peer activities, and advocacy
- Summer camp support

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

Financials

Spark Ventures
Fiscal year: Jul 01 - Jun 30
Financial documents
2022 Spark Ventures 2020 SV-Audit_FY20 2019 SV-Audit-FY19
done  Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant. info

Revenue vs. expenses:  breakdown

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info
NET GAIN/LOSS:    in 
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.

Liquidity in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

32.36

Average of 70.46 over 10 years

Months of cash in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

7.5

Average of 5.3 over 10 years

Fringe rate in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

12%

Average of 14% over 10 years

Funding sources info

Source: IRS Form 990

Assets & liabilities info

Source: IRS Form 990

Financial data

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Spark Ventures

Revenue & expenses

Fiscal Year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data

Spark Ventures

Balance sheet

Fiscal Year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

The balance sheet gives a snapshot of the financial health of an organization at a particular point in time. An organization's total assets should generally exceed its total liabilities, or it cannot survive long, but the types of assets and liabilities must also be considered. For instance, an organization's current assets (cash, receivables, securities, etc.) should be sufficient to cover its current liabilities (payables, deferred revenue, current year loan, and note payments). Otherwise, the organization may face solvency problems. On the other hand, an organization whose cash and equivalents greatly exceed its current liabilities might not be putting its money to best use.

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data

Spark Ventures

Financial trends analysis Glossary & formula definitions

Fiscal Year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

This snapshot of Spark Ventures’s financial trends applies Nonprofit Finance Fund® analysis to data hosted by GuideStar. While it highlights the data that matter most, remember that context is key – numbers only tell part of any story.

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Business model indicators

Profitability info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) before depreciation -$69,906 $76,978 $95,553 $116,349 -$10,500
As % of expenses -12.0% 14.9% 15.5% 18.0% -1.2%
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) after depreciation -$69,906 $76,978 $95,553 $116,349 -$10,500
As % of expenses -12.0% 14.9% 15.5% 18.0% -1.2%
Revenue composition info
Total revenue (unrestricted & restricted) $552,584 $592,917 $719,726 $780,757 $845,024
Total revenue, % change over prior year -25.8% 7.3% 21.4% 8.5% 8.2%
Program services revenue 2.9% 0.0% 15.7% 10.9% 13.2%
Membership dues 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Investment income 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Government grants 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
All other grants and contributions 94.4% 99.9% 84.3% 89.1% 86.8%
Other revenue 2.7% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Expense composition info
Total expenses before depreciation $584,545 $517,201 $616,582 $644,973 $856,923
Total expenses, % change over prior year -22.4% -11.5% 19.2% 4.6% 32.9%
Personnel 18.4% 29.3% 28.6% 30.5% 27.6%
Professional fees 4.9% 3.0% 2.5% 3.1% 3.5%
Occupancy 0.8% 0.5% 0.7% 1.1% 1.0%
Interest 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Pass-through 32.5% 56.5% 48.5% 56.2% 51.0%
All other expenses 43.5% 10.7% 19.7% 9.1% 16.9%
Full cost components (estimated) info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Total expenses (after depreciation) $584,545 $517,201 $616,582 $644,973 $856,923
One month of savings $48,712 $43,100 $51,382 $53,748 $71,410
Debt principal payment $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Fixed asset additions $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Total full costs (estimated) $633,257 $560,301 $667,964 $698,721 $928,333

Capital structure indicators

Liquidity info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Months of cash 4.4 6.9 8.6 10.8 7.5
Months of cash and investments 4.4 6.9 8.6 10.8 7.5
Months of estimated liquid unrestricted net assets 3.7 6.0 6.9 8.7 6.4
Balance sheet composition info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Cash $214,264 $298,617 $440,456 $578,103 $534,036
Investments $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Receivables $4,000 $2,252 $2,000 $1,000 $0
Gross land, buildings, equipment (LBE) $10,558 $10,558 $8,007 $0 $0
Accumulated depreciation (as a % of LBE) 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Liabilities (as a % of assets) 0.2% 2.4% 10.9% 8.0% 3.1%
Unrestricted net assets $179,934 $256,912 $352,464 $468,813 $458,313
Temporarily restricted net assets $37,946 $36,684 N/A N/A N/A
Permanently restricted net assets $0 $0 N/A N/A N/A
Total restricted net assets $37,946 $36,684 $44,275 $63,710 $62,311
Total net assets $217,880 $293,596 $396,739 $532,523 $520,624

Key data checks

Key data checks info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Material data errors No No No No No

Operations

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

Documents
Form 1023/1024 is not available for this organization

Executive Director

Kristin Schrepferman

Kristin Schrepferman has been an enthusiastic supporter of Spark since 2014 and officially joined the Spark team in 2017. She has over 36 years of experience in marketing, sales, operations, and nonprofit leadership. She has a long history of dedication to children in need. Her most rewarding life experiences have come from foster parenting, adoption, volunteering, mentoring, working in schools with students from some of Chicago's most underserved neighborhoods, and working to provide equitable opportunities for disadvantaged communities. Kristin is driven by the impact that access quality education, healthcare, and nutrition has on lifting communities out of poverty and empowering individuals.

Number of employees

Source: IRS Form 990

Spark Ventures

Officers, directors, trustees, and key employees

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Compensation
Other
Related
Show data for fiscal year
Compensation data
Download up to 5 most recent years of officer and director compensation data for this organization

There are no highest paid employees recorded for this organization.

Spark Ventures

Board of directors
as of 02/05/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board of directors data
Download the most recent year of board of directors data for this organization
Board co-chair

Michael Campbell

Fusion Risk Management

Term: 2020 - 2024


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

Community Volunteer

Doak Elliott

CDW

Rich Johnson

Spaulding Ridge

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

Tumsheen Qureshi

Grainger

Leon Reed

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 12/8/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 02/05/2024

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.