The Sparkpoint Toolkit

United Way Bay Area’s Guide to Replicating SparkPoint for Student Success at Postsecondary Institutions



The need is clear. Findings from The Hope Center’s #RealCollege Survey in 2019 revealed the many challenges and barriers community college students are facing in California: 60% of respondents were housing insecure in the previous year; 19% were homeless; and 50% were food insecure in the prior 30 days. A 2018 report on the basic needs of California State University students highlighted similar findings: 41.6% of students reported food insecurity, and 10.9% reported experiencing homelessness one or more times in the last 12 months. These challenges, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, disproportionately impact low-income students, students of color, and first-generation students.


To address these negative impacts, the postsecondary education trailer bill AB132 requires California Community Colleges to establish a Basic Needs Center and designate a Basic Needs Coordinator on each campus by July 1st, 2022. Other public institutions are wrestling with the same needs on their campuses. Therefore, colleges and universities are attempting to find practices that support the well-being of their students and help students stay in school, leading to increased persistence and graduation rates.


UWBA’s SparkPoint Centers have been operating since 2009 in eight San Francisco Bay Area counties. SparkPoint at postsecondary institutions offer vital resources (including food pantries, financial coaching, access to public benefits, and housing resources) that encourage students to stay in school so they can be successful and fully engage in college programs.




The SparkPoint Toolkit is divided into four sections:


  • Discovery: Start here to learn about the SparkPoint model and United Way’s role. Then take the self-assessment to determine your readiness to plan a SparkPoint at your institution
  • Planning: After you discover what SparkPoint is, achieve readiness on the self-assessment, and are ready to plan out your center, here is a comprehensive guide to planning a SparkPoint Center, with tools and guiding questions to support the process
  • Program Elements: Once your center launches, here is where you will review resources and literature that will be helpful for your SparkPoint Center
  • Resources: This is where you will access all of the tools and resources to support your planning process
  • Research and Publications: Here is where you will be able to access a collection of reports and research behind SparkPoint’s model and impact



The website is a companion piece to the toolkit to make it easier to follow and user-friendly not a standalone resource. It consists of pages devoted to the sections listed above, as well as a page dedicated to the tools shared in the toolkit pdf and a direct link to the SparkPoint Readiness Assessment in SurveyMonkey. The pages will direct you to the relevant sections in the toolkit.
As you discover effective ways to apply these tools, please share your learnings with UWBA and its partners across the Bay Area by emailing us.

Read the Full Toolkit:

Explore the SparkPoint Toolkit (PDF)

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United Way Bay Area

United Way Bay Area inspires and connects people to break the cycle of poverty in the Bay Area by supporting both the short-term needs and long-term systems change.

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