GTPulse: Facebook Selects Traverse City Nonprofit for Competitive Program

Facebook has been taking a more active role in helping build communities outside of the social media platform. The corporation is hosting a Community Accelerator program that focuses on providing resources for community leaders, and Traverse City nonprofit Spark in the Dark has been chosen to participate.

Spark in the Dark is a simple concept; people asking and answering requests for help. Help can be anything from needing propane to keep a home heated to needing to feed or clothe children. The Traverse City-based nonprofit’s purpose is to provide a common space in the northern Michigan community to connect people who need help, and people who want to help. That space comes in the form of a Facebook group. You’re probably in a handful of Facebook groups. I have a few local community pages (that provide endless entertainment), health groups, obligatory Tupperware and Pure Romance groups, and friend groups that I’ve joined and mostly enjoyed over the years. You won’t find inflammatory memes or political posts on the Spark in the Dark Facebook page, however. Nearing 12,000 members, it’s an attentively cared for operation that has grown rapidly since its inception in 2015. 

Although Abagail McKiernan is the founder of Spark, she now works under the job title Professional Do-Gooder. She’s the face that most people are familiar with at Spark, but she’ll tell anyone that it’s her team that has made all of Spark’s growth and success possible. Three administrators, Jennifer Morneau, Selinda Mandarano, and Shannon Peck run the Facebook page, which includes approving requested members and posts with a request for assistance, food and other items. Two others, Nick Beadleston and Adam Helbig focus on advertising, marketing, and growth.

When the opportunity to apply for the program was posted, Director of Gizmos and Gadgets, Adam Helbig pursued it aggressively.

“He’s been a huge part of this for us. He reached out to someone at Facebook’s Community Partnerships program. He hunted her down on LinkedIn and within two days we had taken a phone call with her and she encouraged us to apply.”

The criteria for applying wasn’t restrictive. To be considered, applicants had to be a group or organization making an impact. Out of the over 10,000 organizations that applied worldwide, only 77 were chosen. Other groups chosen for the Community Accelerator include an ocean conservation group, a group focused on the financial literacy and growth of black women, and a group for single fathers to share parenting tips. 

The Community Accelerator program will offer selected participants a wide variety of training and benefits. 

As stated by Facebook:

“Selected community leaders will spend three months learning from experts, coaches and a customized curriculum to create a plan to grow their community and meet their goals. They’ll spend the next three months iterating and executing on their plan with funding and continued support from their network and a dedicated team provided through the program. Up to $3 million in total will be awarded to up to [77] program participants.”

The six-month program will offer participants one-on-one consulting with experts in their field as well as collaborating on a detailed growth strategy and plan. Chosen participants will spend anywhere from five to fifteen hours a week working with mentors. Funds will also be allotted to each participant. 

“Each organization will get a set amount, the same amount for all of us. In addition, when the program has ended and we’ve met our goals that we’ve worked on together, there’s another $500,000 worth of funding on the table that we can tap in to,” Abagail said.

A big goal for Spark in the Dark is to establish designated Sparks in communities all over northern Michigan, and eventually, all over the world.

“I cannot wait to see Sparks all over because it’s such a good model,” Abagail said.

Spark in the Dark is currently looking for interested community groups all over to start a pilot Spark in their community. 

“The goal is to team up with organizations or small groups of people and Spark in the Dark becomes a program of their larger organization.”

Spark in the Dark and Facebook, at their core, share a founding principle; building community. Spark is the argument for the good that social media can do, and a picture-perfect example of what it looks like to shine a light in your community. 

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Categories: GTPulse