Small Sparks Grants

Small Sparks projects are activities and events that enhance the physical, cultural, and intellectual vitality of Golden Valley.  Based on demand these grants are currently limited to $1,000 or less per grant cycle. Applications are accepted at any time, with grants awarded in April and October. #DoMoreGood

Grant Success Stories

GVCF's Donors are the heart of the Small Sparks Grants program, and a cornerstone of our mission. So many community favorites used a GVCF Small Spark to launch and grow. #DoMoreGood


Meadowbrook Calming Corner

Last fall, the first grade teachers at Meadowbrook Elementary School in Golden Valley, along with the guidance counselor and school social worker, teamed up to focus on helping first graders learn critical self-regulation skills. In their jobs, they see children every day who have a hard time regulating their emotions for a wide variety of reasons; students may feel tired, hungry, overly-excited after playing outside, or any number of other emotions. And though the root causes may be different, one thing is consistent: kids who have a hard time self-regulating have a hard time learning. And the Meadowbrook first grade teachers wanted to help their students be even more successful in school.


In addition to using a trusted curriculum (The Zones of Regulation) to help students learn about their emotions, the teachers wanted other tools. Madeline Conrad, the school's social worker, had worked with kindergarten teachers at another Hopkins school to create Calming Corners in their classrooms. And, she saw first-hand the benefits of a designated calming space and some well-placed tools in helping kids get into the right zone to be ready to learn.


So the first grade teachers reached out to the Golden Valley Community Foundation (GVCF) for a Small Sparks grant to help build out and stock up their Calming Corners. With just $1000 from GVCF, and an additional grant from the Meadowbrook Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), they were able to do just that. Now each first grade classroom has its own Calming Corner, stocked with things like weighted blankets, stretchy bands, noise canceling headphones, beads, theraputty and more.


When children notice they are having a hard time getting into the right zone, they can go to the Calming Corner and choose a tool that will help them self-regulate. Madeline says the students love the space. "It gives them a sense that they can have more control over their emotions and that they can do things to change how they are feeling."  The kids tell her things like, "It helps me when I feel frustrated to take a couple minutes break" or "I don't know how we did it without it!" And teachers have told Madeline that kids come back and are ready to go, no matter how distracted they were.


The best part is it's not just helping the first graders; it's helping the entire school. The team was able to purchase enough supplies to create a Calming Room, where students in all grades can go when they need to help regulate their emotions. As the largest elementary school in the district, this opens up these tools and resources to almost 900 students. This is truly the case of a small idea "sparking" a big improvement in our community.

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Schaper Community Playground

The city recently celebrated the opening of the state’s first “outdoor fitness challenge course” in Schaper Park, just west of Theodore Wirth Park off Hwy. 55. The course allows kids and adults to race against time - and each other - through a 40-yard dash and an obstacle area. This project was supported by generous donors to the Golden Valley Community Foundation.

Sweet Potato Comfort Pies

With a grant from Golden Valley Community Foundation, Rose McGee expanded the Sweet Potato Comfort Pie project. The volunteers bake and delivering Sweet Potato pies to communities who have been impacted by violence and racial unrest.

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Twin Town Troubadours’ Travelling Fun Show

Sometimes all it takes is one small spark to build a fire. That's what happened last August at Brookview Community Center when the Twin Town Troubadours' hosted their Travelling Fun Show. Organizer Sarah Balk McGrill is a former resident of Golden Valley who owns an art consulting company and is a regular at Nye's Piano Bar in Minneapolis. She kept going back to Nye's because the artists had a knack for spontaneously involving their audiences in their performances, often getting them up off their feet to play, sing or dance along. She loved the feeling of this community - many of whom started out as strangers - being brought together by music.

But, Nye's was really just for adults and Sarah saw an opportunity to bring this experience to people of ALL ages. Her great idea had potential. She just needed a little help to bring it to life. That's where the Golden Valley Community Foundation (GVCF) comes in.


As a member of Golden Valley Arts,  she knew our community would love an event that welcomed all ages to make music together. So, she applied for a GVCF Small Sparks Grant and received $1,000. She used that money to organize the Travelling Fun Show, bringing together musicians, including John Eller (Nye's Piano Bar/The Shiny Lights) and Paul Porter (The Hot Lemons/Park Ave), for a family-friendly fun-filled night.


"It was so fun to watch the kids grab instruments and play along with adults of all ages," Says Sarah. "Having the musicians interact with the crowd and ask for requests was engaging and collaborative. Plus, the new Brookview Community Center was a great space!"


Seeing this event come to life was all the encouragement Sarah needed; she's looking for additional opportunities to bring the Twin Town Troubadours to other locations in the Twin Cities. And, Sarah has a message for people out there with great ideas for Golden Valley. "Go for it!" she says. The GVCF Small Sparks Grants is a great connection that can help you transform your ideas from a spark to a fire that will warm  the hearts of the community.

Martin Luther King JR. Day Celebration 

Four years ago, Golden Valley resident Rose McGee watched the events of Ferguson unfold following a police officer shooting of an unarmed man. “I’m sitting there watching TV and getting very frustrated, as other people were, and wondering what I could do,” said McGee. So, she went into her kitchen and began baking sweet potato pies.


She put 30 Sweet Potato Comfort Pies into her car and drove to Ferguson. She visited the site of Brown’s shooting, where she met a young woman who had known the young man and offered her pies.  McGee continued handing out pies whenever she thought, “this person seems like they need a pie", including following the shootings of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile in MN.


In 2015, McGee organized Sweet Potato Comfort Pies with support from the Golden Valley Community Foundation, an event on the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in which volunteers gathered in a Golden Valley church kitchen to bake sweet potato pies. They made 86, representing the age Dr. King would have been that year. The next day, community members gathered to share the pies and tell personal stories, an event meant to foster dialogue about race. They have repeated the event again each year since 2015, building in small changes as they learned what worked well.


After four successful years, McGee and her team of volunteer community members knew they needed to start planning for Dr. King's 90th birthday in 2019. Because she worked with the Golden Valley Community Foundation (GVCF) to organize the first MLK Jr. Day celebration, she applied for a Small Sparks Grant to cover the costs of a meeting space and a skilled facilitator who would help the group plan.


Thanks to a $1,000 Small Sparks Grant from GVCF, the group met in the summer of 2018 to make plans for the 2019 celebration. As a result, their event will be broadened with more arts programming meant to encourage dialogue. The planning group identified musicians and artists who can foster the conversation McGee and her team are aiming to spark. They have also identified ways to strengthen their existing partnership with Perpich Arts Education High School in Golden Valley. The 2019 event is shaping up to be a strong, positive community engagement event.  GVCF is grateful for the opportunity to support McGee in her efforts with Sweet Potato Comfort Pie: a catalyst for caring and building community.

Grant Application

Small Sparks projects are activities and events that enhance the physical, cultural, and intellectual vitality of Golden Valley. Small Sparks Grants strengthen the community, encourage individuals to take action in creative and constructive ways, and draw upon the personal interests of the organizers. These grants are awarded for new and existing projects.

Based on demand these grants are currently limited to $1,000 or less per grant cycle. Applications are accepted at any time, with grants awarded in April and October.


Consideration for Grants

Consideration for Grants

As you complete your application, be certain that:

  • Your project is carefully thought out, with a scope of work, a plan of action, a budget for the project, and you have the individuals needed to implement it.

  • You have a realistic timetable for implementing the project.

  • Your application is completed and submitted within the prescribed time frame.

  • You will be able to provide information to the GVCF Board within 12 months of receiving the funds. You will need to verify the completion of your project, account for expenses, and share the outcomes of your work.

  • If you are a non-profit 501(c)(3), or public agency, you provide documentation of your IRS status.

  • Your project serves Golden Valley according to the Foundation’s purpose and community focus.

  • As part of the selection process, you, or a representative, may be asked to personally visit with members of the Golden Valley Community Foundation to discuss your project and answer any questions.

  • Based on demand these grants are currently limited to $1,000 or less per grant cycle. Applications are accepted at any time, with grants awarded in April and October.

Sample Questions

  1. Briefly describe the purpose of the project or program, the need it addresses, the goal and how it benefits the community of Golden Valley.

  2. How will you measure the success of your project?

  3. Give the names, experience, and describe briefly the role of the individuals who will supervise or implement the project:

  4. Geographic area to be served

  5. Summarize your budget request:Total project budget: $
    Small Sparks Grant amount requested: $
    Anticipated implementation dates:Show itemized project budget (please attach)

  6. Are you planning to approach other funding sources? If so, please list:

  7. If you do not get the full amount of your request, is your project still viable?

  8. Have you submitted a prior grant request for funds from the Golden Valley Community Foundation?________   No       ________   Yes:  If so, was it: _______approved        ______declined             Date:__________Comments:

  9. Please describe any relationship, or interest, with members of the Golden Valley Community Foundation which might be considered a conflict of interest if not declared.

Prior to submission

If, prior to completing your application, you would like to contact the Golden Valley Community Foundation (GVCF), to gauge the merit of your application, please contact us via email or leave a detailed message outlining your project, at 612-440-GVCF (4823).
We value your dedication and appreciate your community building efforts.


Based on demand these grants are currently limited to $1,000 or less per grant cycle. Applications are accepted at any time, with grants awarded in April and October.

Thank you for your application.

Community Focus

The Golden Valley Community Foundation serves as a steward for community building. Our grants are intended to be a catalyst for positive change in Golden Valley that:

  • foster community engagement

  • provide recreation

  • support the arts

  • care for the environment

  • bring visitors to the community to work, shop and play