2017 Bush Prize winner Hmong American Farmers Association
Bush Prize winner Hmong American Farmers Association

Bush Prize for Community Innovation

Accepting applications March 3 to April 9, 2020

The Bush Prize for Community Innovation celebrates organizations with a track record of successful community problem solving. Bush Prize winners are extraordinary not only in what they do, but in how they do it. They work inclusively, in partnership with others, to make our region better for everyone. 

Winners receive a package of recognition, including a flexible grant of 25 percent of the organization’s last fiscal year expenses, up to $500,000.

Each year we award the Bush Prize in each of the three states we serve: Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, including the 23 Native nations that share the same geography.

Meet the 2019 winners

  • Bush Prize grants must be used for a charitable purpose.
  • Organizations that are 501(c)(3) public charities or government entities (including schools) are eligible for the Bush Prize. Groups of organizations (such as coalitions or collaboratives) are eligible to apply, but only one organization may receive the grant.
  • The Foundation accepts Bush Prize applications from fiscal sponsors. The fiscal sponsor organization must submit the grant application and, if the grant is approved, becomes the grantee and receives the funds. The Foundation fiscal sponsorship overview provides additional information.
  • Prize winners must be located in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or one of the 23 Native nations that share the same geography. The specific community innovations highlighted in the Bush Prize application must also have occurred within that geography.
Selection Criteria

Does the organization have a pattern of innovative solutions?

  • Are these breakthroughs in addressing community needs more effective, equitable or sustainable than existing approaches?
  • Did these innovative solutions make a significant difference?
  • Could the organization inspire or inform others?

Does the organization have a pattern of using inclusive, collaborative and resourceful processes?

  • Inclusive: meaningfully engaging key stakeholders, thoughtfully identifying those needed to create the intended change and, whenever possible, including those directly affected by the problem.
  • Collaborative: a true joint effort, with partners willing to share ownership and decision-making as they pursue an innovation together.
  • Resourceful: using existing resources and assets creatively to make the most of what a community already has.

Does the organizational leadership foster a culture of innovation?

  • Is the organization stable and strong in terms of governance and finance? 

Additional Considerations

At least 50% of Bush Prize winners will be organizations that advance racial and/or economic equity in our region. For the purposes of this grant program, the Bush Foundation defines this as organizations whose primary purpose is to improve access, outcomes, opportunities or treatment based on race and/or economic standing.

Over time we seek a portfolio of Bush Prize winners that represents the full diversity of this region. That includes representation across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations and includes a variety of:

  • Applicant organization sizes
  • Communities served (both in terms of size and demographics)
  • Types of issues addressed

We also seek representation of community-led organizations — organizations that are led by people who come from the communities they serve.

How to Apply
Application Resources

Applications for the 2020 Bush Prize will be accepted from March 3 to noon Central on April 9, 2020. We are not currently accepting applications.

We use an online application system. We understand this may present a barrier to some applicants, and we will make reasonable efforts to accommodate particular needs on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us to discuss your specific circumstances. 


  • We recommend using Chrome or Firefox as your web browser to complete the online application.
  • The online application counts characters differently than programs like Microsoft Word. Type your answers directly in the application instead of copying and pasting from another program.
  • Some fields have a character count limit. The application will stop you from typing without warning when you reach the limit.
  • Use plain text to complete your answers. Avoid using bold, italic, underlined or centered text, special characters or bullets. If you need to separate things in list form, use bullet substitutes such as plus signs (+), asterisks (*) or hyphens (-).
  • Your application can be saved to revisit and finish at any time. We recommend that you save early and often! To save a change and continue working in the current tab of the application, click the "Save" button at the bottom of the page.
  • The online application automatically times out when inactive for two hours. In case of a time-out, all text entered after your last save will be lost. Please note that there is no change to the computer screen after this time-out occurs. Save your work often!
  • Applications that are started but not submitted within 24 months of being started will be deleted from our system.
Selection Process

Initial Review

We conduct an initial review of applications and select finalists to move forward with in-person interviews and reference reviews. 

Finalist Review

The Community Innovation Team will conduct site visits and review references. 

If your organization is selected as a finalist, we may request financial materials to include in our staff review. These may include audits, IRS Form 990s or internal financial statements, depending on the size of your organization. We collect these documents to understand the health and capacity of your organization and to provide better support to our applicants and grantees. We aim to be a resource and provide an open space to talk if there are financial challenges or areas where your organization struggles. Financial health is one of many factors in our decision making. If you have any questions, please reach out to us via the contact information at the bottom of this webpage.

A panel of community leaders will review and recommend Bush Prize winners from the Minnesota applicant pool. The Foundation’s North Dakota Advisory Committee and South Dakota Advisory Committee review and recommend Bush Prize winners from the other two respective applicant pools. Bush Foundation Board members may also participate in the selection process.

It is important to us that our processes are transparent. If any of our selection committee members has a conflict of interest with an organization being considered for the Bush Prize, they will not be a part of any selection discussions or decisions for that year. The Foundation defines “conflict of interest” as being a staff or board member of, or having a contractual relationship with, an organization.

Winners will be notified in the fall.

All selections are based on program eligibility requirements and criteria.

Next Opportunity to Apply

We will accept applications for the Bush Prize for Community Innovation March 3 to noon Central on April 9, 2020.

Working with Bush Prize Winners

The Foundation hopes to build a supportive relationship with Bush Prize winners by:

Working Together

We’ll create a grant agreement including an agreed-upon timeline, reporting schedule and use of funds. The Bush Prize grants are flexible and can be used to advance the charitable purpose of your organization. Funds must be used to support work in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or one of the 23 Native nations.

We’ll be responsive and direct in our communication with you, and will continue to be available to you throughout the grant period. We hope to build a relationship that is supportive and helpful, but also allows you to focus on what you do best.

Learning and Evaluation

We want to know if we’re making a difference, and will ask you to participate in the evaluation of the Bush Prize program, including your experience being a Prize winner. We will use what we learn together to improve the program over time.

We will ask you to share how you used your funds and key lessons learned (successes as well as challenges) as part of your interim and final grant reports. We may share portions of these reports publicly on the Foundation’s website in consultation with you, as Learning Logs.

We’ll periodically invite you to participate in Foundation-sponsored events for Bush Prize winners to meet one another, share the stories of their work and learn together.

Sharing Your Story

We want to publicly recognize you as a Bush Prize winner. We’ll ask you to provide basic content about your work and to participate in both a short, Foundation-produced film and a creative case study that tell your story. We’ll share the films and case studies on our website and through other media.

We may request that you share periodic, informal updates for the Foundation’s media promotional opportunities.

We will invite you to partner with us in various ways to help others learn from your successful innovation experience(s).

We're here to help

For more information, or to talk with someone on the Community Innovation Team, use our online scheduling system to set up a call. You can also contact the Community Innovation Team at CommunityInnovation@BushFoundation.org or 651-379-2266.