It’s cold here in Winnipeg. In fact, it’s so cold it caused me to stay indoors during the holiday and log an unhealthy amount of hours in front of my television.  One of the series I became invested in during this TV marathon were the James Bond movies. Do you have a favourite Bond? Sean Connery, Roger Moore, maybe George Lazenby?  Whoever it is, since Bond’s inception each movie follows the same pattern- villain has evil plan to take over the world and Bond stops him.  Sometimes this happens on a tropical island, sometimes this happens on…another tropical island, one time it happened in space. Either way, the films and the characters in them follow the same familiar process.  


While watching the Brosnan movies, with the era’s focus on high tech gadgets (so many lasers), it struck me that Bond is a character that is a superior spy but without his support system (Moneypenny, Q, and M) working behind the scenes his missions to save the world would prove even more challenging.   


Maybe it was the cabin fever setting in but this got me thinking, is Spark Q?  Q’s role is to support Bond by designing gadgets and weapons he can use on his missions. Spark’s role is to support organizations working on critical issues in our city by creating skilled volunteer matches.  Therefore like Q, we help our James Bond’s (Winnipeg’s nonprofits) achieve their organizational capacity missions.  Furthermore like Q, who designs these gadgets behind the scenes, the ways that Spark creates matches might be unknown to the Bond-ian organizations we work with and you readers alike.  We announce Spark matches on social media but what do we do to make these matches a reality in the first place?


Just like organizations need to go through a process to prep for pro bono (read that article here) we at Spark have our own process that we go through to ensure the matches we create are successful and result in high impacts for the organization. The following is our 4 step process for successful Spark matches. 



A key piece of what we do is assessment.  To achieve this we set up a meeting with an organization to discuss issues they have identified as potential projects they would like to work on.  During these meetings we work as a group to get a sense of what exactly the projects could look like, who would be involved, exactly what level and type of expertise is required, and how these projects will benefit the organizations. Post meeting, the Spark staff debrief and discuss what kind of outside expertise we should recruit to best meet the organization’s needs. Once we’ve identified the necessary skills we go through our volunteer roster and select those that would be the best fit for the project.



Once we have an idea of the project and identified a potential volunteer we reach out to the individual with a sketch of what the project is.  If they are interested we set up a meeting with the organization.  


Now, more often than not recruitment happens before a project comes across our desks, and it’s great when it does! Word of mouth has become a strong recruitment tool but we also reach out via social media, networking events, and presentations.   When an individual has expressed interest in volunteering with Spark we invite them for coffee as an opportunity to discuss their professional skills, level of experience, leadership skills, personality, and interests.  All of these attributes combine to make a great match.  



At this stage a project is sufficiently scoped out, a volunteer has expressed interest, and a meeting date has been set.  If possible, we hold the meeting at the organization.  We feel that it gives the volunteer a better sense of who the organization is and they type of work they do.  At the meeting the organization discusses their work and the challenge they are having.  The volunteer, in turn, discusses how they might envision working with the organization on how to address the issue.  If the solution fits and both parties agree to work together we create a work plan that outlines each parties outcomes, task dates, and deadlines. A work plan can help the project stay organized and hold people accountable to tasks and deadlines.  After a plan is drafted and signed by all parties the organization and volunteer get to work.  



We make sure to check-in with the project and monitor its development along the way. Once the project is complete we send out short evaluations to both the volunteers and organizations.  Six month later we contact the organization again and ask about the impact the completion of the project has had on the organization.  We report this information back to the volunteer to show the value of their pro bono work.  


So there you have it.  While we leverage pro bono work instead of designing jet packs or wrist dart guns, Spark and Q do come to the same results- we both help build the capacity of our respective Bonds.  In our case, however, the processes we use to get there are now known.  Our cover might be blown now but I still believe you can consider us Q.