Sparks values and is deeply committed to promoting equity in the non-profit and for-profit social impact sectors based on her experience as a queer, multi-racial, next generation, woman in the field of philanthropy. She is currently the Executive Director of the Masto Foundation, a small US-based family foundation rooted in the Japanese-American community. Prior to taking on leadership at the foundation, Sparks worked in philanthropy for 12 years, first as a Program Officer at United Way of the Bay Area and then at Stuart Foundation (both in San Francisco). In addition, she founded a group called Queer Leaders in Philanthropy, a national network of LGBTQ-identified philanthropic professionals focused on changing the culture of philanthropy to be more empowering of LGBTQ individuals through advocacy and community building.
Sparks also has significant experience volunteering for LGBTQ philanthropic organizations. For the past seven years, she has served on the Program Committee for Horizons Foundation (the oldest LGBTQ community foundation in the US) and sat on several grant review committees for Horizons’ Community Issues Grants. She has also served as an advisor to the Astraea Lesbians Foundation for Justice (the largest US-based public foundation for global LGBTQ grant-making), Resource Generation (a national network of young, wealthy, progressive donors), AAPIP (Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy), and the Council on Foundations.
In addition to volunteering her time, Sparks has led initiatives to make the field of LGBTQ philanthropy more accessible to young people, people of color, and members of the transgender community. She founded HYPE (Horizons Young Professionals for Equality), which is now one of the largest networks of young LGBTQ donors in the US, and is a founding member of the Funding Queerly Giving Circle which, in the last four years after granting out over $750,000 (USD), has fundraised and allocated more money to LGBTQ nonprofits than any other US-based giving circle.
Prior to entering philanthropy, Sparks worked as a clinical social worker for foster care youth in Harlem, New York. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Vassar College and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of California at Berkeley. Most recently, Sparks has become involved with the angel investing group, Pipeline Angels, and has invested in eight social impact companies that are all led by female founders. Sparks currently sits on the Board of Directors at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center and splits her time between San Francisco and Seattle, where she is completing her Master’s in Business Administration at the University of Washington.