Luke Savisky, E/x MN, Northern Spark 2015. Photo: Ian Plant
Northern's event Northern Spark 2015. Photo: Ian Plant, Luke Savisky, E/x MN.

Community Innovation Grants

Applications accepted on a rolling basis

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Community Innovation grants fund problem-solving projects that make the region better for everyone.

Community Innovation Grants

The Bush Foundation provides Community Innovation grants of $10,000 to $200,000. Community Innovation grants of $500 to $20,000 are available from our intermediary partner organizations: Headwaters Foundation for Justice (MN)The Consensus Council (ND) and the South Dakota Community Foundation (SD).

There are no application deadlines for our Community Innovation grants. Organizations are welcome to apply anytime using our online application system.

Watch our 2019 informational webinar to learn more about Community Innovation grants.

Meet our 2019 grantees

What we fund

There are many steps between identifying a problem and implementing a solution, especially if you are engaging your community, making the most of existing resources and working collaboratively with other organizations along the way. 

Your problem-solving process can be at any stage, including: identifying the need, building shared understanding of the issue, generating ideas or testing and implementing solutions. Proposals can focus on one area or span multiple stages.

CI Theory of Change

You define your community

You identify and define your community. For example, it could be a geographic community, a community of common interest or a racial/cultural identity.

You define the issue

We fund projects that address all sorts of community problems.


Community Innovation grants may be awarded to 501(c)(3) public charities or government entities (including schools). Coalitions or collaboratives are eligible to apply, but only one organization may receive the grant.

  • For organizations that do not have 501(c)(3) status, the Foundation accepts Community Innovation grant 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. Our fiscal sponsorship overview provides additional information.
  • Grants must be used for projects located in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or the 23 Native nations that share the same geography.
  • Grants must be used for a charitable purpose.
Selection criteria

Community Innovation Grant Program Fit

  • Does the project use inclusive, collaborative and resourceful processes to pursue an innovative solution to a community challenge?
      • 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.
  • Is the process likely to lead to a community innovation - a breakthrough in addressing a community need that is more effective, equitable or sustainable than existing approaches?


  • Is the project plan thoughtful, realistic and does it address the identified community need?
  • Does the applicant have the capacity to execute the work effectively or have a plan to meet the needed capacity?


  • Is the project likely to make a significant, sustainable difference, now or in the future?
  • Will the project inspire or inform others?

Additional Considerations

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

Over time we seek a portfolio of Community Innovation grants 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

For grants from $10,000 - $200,000

There is no application deadline for our Community Innovation grants. Organizations are welcome to apply anytime using our online application system. We strongly encourage all organizations to do the following before submitting an application.

  1. Review the selection criteria with your community partners.
  2. Read key insights and lessons shared by Community Innovation grantees.
  3. Set up a phone call to discuss your proposal with a Community Innovation team member. You can use our online scheduling system to set up a call. The Community Innovation team is also available at or 651-379-2266.

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.


For grants from $500 - $20,000

We partner with the Headwaters Foundation for Justice (MN), The Consensus Council (ND) and the South Dakota Community Foundation (SD) to provide Community Innovation grants for projects with budgets of $500 - $20,000. The program content and criteria for these grants is the same as the Community Innovation grants offered here at the Bush Foundation. Interested applicants can apply directly to the state program most applicable for their project using the links above.

Selection Process

There are two stages in the Bush Foundation’s Community Innovation grant selection process.

  1. Initial Review. Members of the Community Innovation team will evaluate applications and select finalists on a rolling basis. We will communicate our decision via email approximately six to eight weeks from the date the application is submitted.
  2. Finalist Review. A member of the Community Innovation team will schedule a phone call with finalists to discuss the application. We may also request additional information during this stage. The Community Innovation team then makes its final decision and notifies the applicant organization.

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.

For most applications, we estimate the entire selection process – from the time we receive the application to when we make the final decision to award a Community Innovation grant – will take four months. Organizations can expect to receive their grant payment about one month following the final decision.

Working with Community Innovation Grantees

The Foundation hopes to build a supportive relationship with Community Innovation grantees by:

Working Together

We’ll create a grant agreement based on your proposal, including an agreed upon timeline for the project and use of funds.

We’ll be responsive and direct in our communication with you, and will be available to you throughout your grant term. We hope to build a relationship that is supportive when you want us to be, without being in your way. We want you to be able 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 our evaluation of the Community Innovation grant program. We will use what we learn together to improve this grant program over time.

We will ask you to share key lessons learned (successes as well as challenges) during our meetings and as part of your interim and final grant reports. Portions of these reports will be shared publicly at Community Innovation Learning Logs.

We acknowledge that not all grant projects will lead to a community innovation. And, in fact, sometimes the path to an innovation includes unexpected or undesirable outcomes. Learning from these moments is an important part of creating new community solutions, and we look forward to doing that with you.  

We’ll invite you to participate in Foundation-sponsored events for grantees to meet one another, share the stories of your work and learn together.

Sharing Your Story

We want to publicly recognize the good work that grantees are doing. We will ask you to provide basic content about your organization and project for our grant recipient database.

We may request that you share periodic, informal updates for the Bush Foundation to use in online media promotions.

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 or 651-379-2266.