skip to Main Content
SV and Kona Co.

Client Spotlight: Spark Ventures

During the Spring of 2014, Rich Johnson, CEO of Chicago-based philanthropic organization, Spark Ventures, approached Kona Company about designing and building a new website and digital strategy.  Spark’s website was very traditional and was not mobile-friendly.  Their SEO and SEM strategies were top of mind as Spark was determined to move into more of a digital mindset.  Kona was interested in providing a digital roadmap for Spark.  As Johnson put it, “as a small team, we needed a company that would work collaboratively with us throughout the project, and really take our ideas and suggestions and run with them.” The necessity of maintaining open communication between partners is essential to discovering the core of a Digital Strategy, developing an implementation plan, and continuing to evolve as the campaign rolls out long term.

Within our partnerships with clients, we maintain that spending quality time from the get-go is essential. Johnson notes “Kona did just [this]. They invested time up-front to get a deep understanding of our unique mission and model as well as our overall design vision and then were able to lead the execution and move the project forward as we chugged along, producing and finalizing individual pieces of content to plug into the evolving site framework.”

Spark Ventures, a Chicago-based philanthropic organization, strives to bring business driven philanthropy to the world, connecting people around the world and forging lasting, meaningful and positive change in underserved communities. The Spark Ventures model of business driven philanthropy leverages charitable contributions in order to fund food and agriculture-focused private sector investments in emerging market social enterprises around the world. Through the model, returns from investments are transmitted to the local level via endowments and managed by local, non-governmental organization (NGO) partners. In turn, these partners provide high-impact educational, health and nutritional programming in communities.


Interested individuals may donate their time by becoming a volunteer or traveling around the world with the organization, by purchasing a designated gift from an online catalog or by giving financially.


For a video with more information on Spark’s vision, click here.


Spark chose to work with Kona Company because of their depth of knowledge across digital platforms.  Through their partnership, Spark and Kona developed a mobile-friendly and mission-focused website which reflects the values most important to Spark while also giving people a chance to participate in a number of ways.

Upon first visiting the new site, the visitor sees on each page a large, high-definition photograph. All the images on the site present an eye-catching visual and act as a vivid background to capture the visitor’s attention.

Additionally, user-friendly drop down tabs present the visitor with a wide variety of options for navigating the site. By simply motioning the cursor over one of the tabs, the drop down function is employed; eliminating the need to click to see more.


SV image

drop down options SV



The newly optimized website offers an online store and gift catalog. A meaningful facet of ecommerce, the online store offers site visitors to purchase four varieties of items–clothing, donations, subscriptions and trips. With the exception of a vivid header of a high definition photograph, the store’s bright white background promotes simplicity and ease in the buying experience. The distraction-free layout allows visitors to browse and select with ease. Features like these routinely boost both ecommerce conversion rates and user experience responsiveness.

As outlined within the initial objectives of the new site, Spark Ventures voiced that a crucial part of the new site is to have giving integrated throughout. Thus, on the right hand side of every page, a ‘Give Today’ module is featured. This provides a simple and elegant call to action for Spark’s web users.

Spark Ventures



In addition to the suggested donations of four designated amounts or an amount of choice, this banner offers gateways to get and stay involved such as giving a gift–options range from paying a month of an educator’s salary, to two dozen chicks, malaria testing and treatment and two weeks of meals for a child– to traveling with the Spark team, volunteering, subscribing to the Spark newsletter and visiting the online store. This model intones that the giving the gift of your time can be as meaningful as a financial contribution.

An exciting element of SV’s new website is the flat design and layout of the “What You Can Do” page. Spark imparted to our team the necessity of making this page approachable and easy to access showcasing the breadth and diversity of opportunities for involvement. This page employs Flat design with squares that showcase opportunities for involvement. Flat design–a style of interface that lacks three dimensional stylistic effects– is often described as minimalist. Flat design offers a streamlined, efficient, responsive design for different devices. Flat design is often characterized by rectangles and squares. To learn more about flat design, click here.


SV flat design


Regarding web design, this optimized website is responsive, meaning a design layout that is consistent across a wide variety of devices—from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones and tablets. This provides a website visitor with a user-friendly experience with minimal resizing, panning, and scrolling. A consistent look and feel of a site often promotes familiarity, which in turn can boost a website’s performance and conversion rates.

Spark Ventures responsive webpage


To learn more about the advantages of responsive web page design, click here.


Continual communication and updates are essential– and not just between clients and partners. Maintaining an enduring connection with visitors/participants is also crucial. The Spark Blog, with content provided by individuals at SV, allows the public to stay connected to Spark.


The Spark Blog feed

The Spark Blog is one of many components that explain the Spark vision. Spark Ventures CEO Rich Johnson noted, “We are very pleased with how the site looks and functions – and get consistent feedback from our supporters that it not only looks good, but does a good job telling the Spark Ventures story.”

Spark Ventures will continue to thrive as a leader in altering the way the world views philanthropic capital. By connecting people around the world and spreading the word about what business driven philanthropy can do, Spark Ventures and Kona Company are transforming the union between technology and philanthropy.  Kona Company CEO Kelly Cutler enjoyed the opportunity to work with Spark saying, “Collaborating with a non-profit like Spark allows us to explore our creativity and help do good in the world at the same time.  We are huge supporters of Spark and are thrilled to be their partner for all things digital”.

To learn more about Spark Ventures and ways to get involved and opportunities for engagement, visit their homepage. To follow along with Spark Ventures’ blog, visit The Spark Blog here.

For more information on how Kona Company can help transform your business using technology and digital strategy, please contact us today.


Kona Company logo