Tiny Spark is an independent, nonprofit news program and podcast that reports deeply and constructively on philanthropy, nonprofits, international aid and social good initiatives.
Founded in 2011 by former Africa correspondent Amy Costello, Tiny Spark stories have included an investigation into TOMS Shoes and exposed the harm caused by medical volunteers in post-quake Haiti. The program also features in-depth interviews with leading voices from the world of philanthropy, international aid and development.
A number of leading news outlets have cited Tiny Spark investigations, including Slate, The Atlantic and Mother Jones. Our work has also been featured on NPR, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The Huffington Post. We co-produced a global investigative series with PRI’s The World called Tracking Charity.
Tiny Spark, Inc. is a woman-owned nonprofit corporation and is supported by a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Founder & Managing Editor
Amy has spent the past decade reporting on some of the most pressing human rights issues of the day. For four years, she was the Africa Correspondent for PRI’s The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. Her stories were heard by millions of listeners across the United States and around the globe. She has reported for NPR, PBS television, and the BBC World Service.
During her time in Africa, Amy traveled extensively across the continent, producing in-depth, documentary-style radio reports on topics ranging from American anti-terrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa to sexual abuse by United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone. She has reported many stories on children in Africa, including child laborers in Ivory Coast, AIDS orphans in South Africa, and Ethiopian children bound for adoptive homes in the United States.
Amy visited Darfur, Sudan to investigate allegations of genocide for the PBS television program, FRONTLINE/World. During her three-week tour, Amy traveled with rebel soldiers, African Union troops, and civilians who had been displaced by the violence. She confronted militias and government officials accused of carrying out the genocide. Her story, Sudan: The Quick and the Terrible was nominated for an Emmy Award.
Amy was a producer at NPR for three years before she moved to Africa. She has worked as an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, her alma mater. Since returning to the United States, Amy has continued to report on human rights issues, moderating podcasts for UNICEF, Human Rights Watch and the PBS television miniseries, Women, War & Peace. She also reported a follow-up story for FRONTLINE/World on the PlayPump, a celebrated idea designed to “do good”. Along the way she uncovered myriad problems with the technology, an experience which would become the impetus for Tiny Spark. She lives in Austin, Texas.
Before joining Tiny Spark, Amy Ta worked on NPR’s Tell Me More, Weekend Edition and NPR Music. During her time at NPR, she produced intimate conversations about diverse issues, such as coping with mental illness, life and death in prison, breaking racial barriers in Hollywood, and more. Amy earned two Bachelor’s degrees in International Development and Communication Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has been to Thailand, Peru, Jamaica, Czech Republic and New Zealand. She is an avid documentary and sports photographer.
From her base in southern California, Amy juggles a number of responsibilities for Tiny Spark, whether assisting in our investigative work to using her fine technical skills to produce in-depth interviews. Amy generates and vets story ideas, researches, interviews, writes/edits, and other things too numerous to list here.
Freddie began her career at the BBC World Service in London, where she produced Focus on Africa, Network Africa and Africa Have Your Say from Bush House, and spent two years reporting from Zanzibar. In Washington, DC, Freddie joined NPR’s Morning Edition and later Tell Me More. She also spent a year traveling around the US with NPR host Michel Martin to produce the live events series ‘Going There,’ where they addressed issues like racial tensions in Ferguson, football and ethics in Dallas, voting rights in Charlotte, and immigration in Miami. Freddie has continued to make feature-length radio documentaries for the BBC on topics as diverse as heroin addiction, traditional Taarab music, and cricket in the UAE.
Born in Kenya, brought up in the Middle East, educated in the UK, and having lived and worked in the US, Freddie is excited to bring her international perspective to Tiny Spark. She is based in Dubai.
Director of Development
Jennifer has fundraised for more than 20 years, most recently as Director of Development with the Futuro Media Group, where she raised over $6 million in three years and grew their monthly sustainer program by over 200% in less than six months. Jennifer has also worked for the American Academy in Rome, The White House and The US Embassy to the Vatican. She is a frequent visitor to her husband’s native Guatemala and is eager to help take Tiny Spark to the next level, so she asked us to say: If you would like to make a gift to help support the work we do, please click HERE and select the donate button.
Board of Directors
Andrew is the inaugural Chair in Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement and the first professor of practice in the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. He also served as the multimedia editor at The New York Times, where he helped guide the newspaper’s print-driven format into the multimedia era. He integrated new approaches to interactive storytelling with The Times’ long tradition of journalistic excellence to help shape the industry with techniques still in use today.
Ellen is Vice President and Bureau Chief at Scripps Howard News Service. As former Executive Director of the Center for Public Integrity, she oversaw the organization’s domestic investigations and editorial staff. As former Senior Vice President of News at NPR, she managed 36 bureaus, more than 400 U.S. and international staffers, and a $75 million budget. Under her leadership, NPR’s audience grew from four million unique monthly visitors in 2006 to 12 million in 2010, and NPR earned several prestigious awards, including Peabody Awards, Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards, Robert F. Kennedy Awards and George Polk Awards.
Doug White, a longtime leader in the nation’s philanthropic sphere, is an advisor to philanthropists and nonprofits. He is the former director of Columbia University’s Master of Science in Fundraising Management program, where he taught board governance, fundraising and ethics. He is also the former academic director of New York University’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising. Doug has written four books, including Abusing Donor Intent, which examines the historic lawsuit brought against Princeton by the children of Charles and Marie Robertson, a couple who donated $35 million to the school in 1961. He was also an occasional guest on Tiny Spark before joining its board.
*Amy Costello is President of the Board of Directors.