Brooklyn Community Foundation Launches Spark Prize to Honor Nonprofit Changemakers

Up to $600,000 will Be Awarded to Organizations Representing Excellence and Impact of Brooklyn’s Nonprofit Sector

Application Opens Monday, May 2nd at

Today, Brooklyn Community Foundation announces the inaugural Spark Prize, the first and only honor of its kind celebrating changemakers in the borough’s thriving nonprofit sector. Five organizations will each receive the $100,000 prize this year, selected through a competitive application process by a diverse committee of distinguished civic, business, and neighborhood leaders hailing from Brooklyn.

Brooklyn nonprofit organizations with annual operating budgets over $350,000 and a minimum of five years in operation are invited to apply starting Monday, May 2 through Friday, June 3, 2016 at Organizations do not need to be previous grantees of Brooklyn Community Foundation to be eligible. Application criteria and guidelines are available at

Brooklyn is home to over 2,000 nonprofits, yet they collectively receive less than 5% of funds distributed by New York City foundations, according to a Foundation Center report. Brooklyn Community Foundation created the Spark Prize to drive support to the borough’s nonprofit sector and showcase community-led solutions addressing Brooklyn’s challenges.

“As Brooklyn’s community foundation, we want to shine the spotlight on outstanding organizations that are building equity and strength in our communities,” said Brooklyn Community Foundation President and CEO Cecilia Clarke. “Just as Brooklyn is home to some of the most creative businesses and brands in the world, it’s also a hotbed for exciting nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. We hope that the Spark Prize will be a valuable ‘seal of approval’ for organizations that embody Brooklyn’s ingenuity, strong values, and bold leadership.”

The Spark Prize will be an annual competition and Brooklyn Community Foundation will provide $600,000 in total funds to organizations applying this year. The five winning nonprofits will each receive $100,000 in general operating support, distributed over a two to three year period at the determination of the recipient. In addition, the 20 finalists will receive up to $5,000 each on Giving Tuesday—the annual national day of giving observed the Tuesday after Thanksgiving—to match contributions from local donors. The Foundation will announce the finalists in October and winners in January.

The Spark Prize Committee will be responsible for reviewing and scoring applications to determine the 20 finalists and 5 winners. Committee members include Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of NYC Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, Matthew Stinchcomb, Executive Director of, Tupper Thomas, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks, Jonathan Butler, Co-Founder of Brooklyn Flea/Smorgasburg, Diana Reyna, Deputy Brooklyn Borough President, Aletha Maybank, Associate Commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Martin Dunn, President of Dunn Development Corp., and Rabbi Andy Bachman, Director of Jewish Content and Community Ritual at 92Y. View the Spark Prize Committee list, in formation, at

The Spark Prize is presented in partnership with the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

“The spirit of generosity that animates the people of this borough defines us as One Brooklyn,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “Since 2009, Brooklyn Community Foundation has been an integral part of our nonprofit community, directing resources to some of the most innovative social service organizations in Brooklyn. I'm proud to partner on this prize that will continue that valuable legacy and showcase our thriving nonprofit sector to the world.”

“Brooklyn nonprofits do incredible work to assist residents and improve local neighborhoods throughout the borough, and the Spark Prize is a terrific way to assist them in furthering their efforts,” added Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carlo A. Scissura. “Thank you to the Brooklyn Community Foundation for supporting the nonprofit community in Brooklyn, and I know the eventual winners will put these awards to good use.”

The Spark Prize is designed to recognize nonprofits with a strong history of service to Brooklyn that can demonstrate creativity, impact, and healthy disruption within their field, as well as a strong vision for the future of their organization in Brooklyn and beyond. The Prize will also advance Brooklyn Community Foundation’s vision for a fair and just Brooklyn by lifting up organizations working for greater equity and racial justice in the borough.

Applying organizations will be asked to submit a 1,000 word essay on the following criteria: 

  • Born in Brooklyn: Organizations that have a deep history in Brooklyn and continued commitment to serving the borough. 
  • Commitment to Equity: Organizations that address systemic challenges and are working toward racial and social justice for all Brooklynites.
  • Values Driven: Organizations that have strong, articulated values that permeate through all aspects of their work and align with Brooklyn Community Foundation’s five defining values: Courage, Respect, Honesty, Collaboration, and Creativity.
  • Vision for Future: Organizations that have a strong forward-looking vision for their work in Brooklyn and beyond.

Application Clinics for nonprofits interested in applying will be held at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Monday, May 9 from 5-6:30PM and Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Bedford Stuyvesant on Tuesday, May 17 from 10-11:30AM. Organizations are asked to RSVP in advance at

The Spark Prize is named after Brooklyn Community Foundation’s mission to spark lasting social change in Brooklyn. It is the signature program of the Foundation’s Brooklyn Accelerator, a hub for building capacity and resources in Brooklyn’s nonprofit community. Through the Brooklyn Accelerator, the Foundation also offers free workshops for nonprofits, Board matching and governance training, and an Incubator that hosts start-up nonprofit enterprises. Reaching a diverse cross-section of Brooklyn nonprofits, the Prize will also strengthen the Foundation’s services to its donors who depend on its expertise and knowledge of the borough’s nonprofits to help guide their local giving and philanthropy.


About Brooklyn Community Foundation

Brooklyn Community Foundation is on a mission to spark lasting social change, mobilizing people, capital, and expertise for a fair and just Brooklyn. Since its founding in 2009, the Foundation and its donors have provided over $25 million in grants to more than 300 nonprofits throughout the borough, bolstering vital programs and services while responding to urgent community needs and opportunities. In 2014, following a six-month borough wide community engagement project called Brooklyn Insights, the Foundation unveiled a new strategic action plan focused on youth, neighborhood strength, nonprofit capacity, and racial justice. Learn more at


Media Contact: 

Liane Stegmaier, Director of Communications