We canceled the Bush Prize for 2020 and 2021 to consider the program's future. Learn more about the new, community-based direction for 2022.
About the Bush Prize
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% of the organization’s last fiscal year expenses, up to $500,000.
What We Fund
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.
The Bush Prize recognizes organizations that have a culture of innovation and a history of creating innovative solutions to challenges in their communities. Bush Prize funds are flexible and can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including but not limited to project work, general operating expenses and building financial reserves.
Information for Applicants
The Bush Prize 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 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. Our 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.
- Bush Prize funds must be used for a charitable purpose.
Bush Prize applications will be reviewed based on the following 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?
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.
We canceled the 2020 Bush Prize program in order to redirect funds to aid people dealing with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in our region.
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 as soon as possible, but no later than one week before the application deadline, to discuss your specific circumstances. We cannot make accommodations after that deadline.
The stages of the Bush Prize selection process:
- Bush Foundation staff conduct a thorough review of applications and select finalists in late June.
- Members of the Community Innovation team conduct site visits and reference checks in July. This includes in-person visits to each finalist and talking with references who can give insight into how each organization operates and the impact it has made. Bush Foundation staff also conduct a financial review of each finalist.
- Three selection panels of community leaders and Foundation board members select Bush Prize winners in late September: our North Dakota Advisory Committee, South Dakota Advisory Committee and Minnesota Bush Prize Selection Panel.
- Bush Prize winners are notified in late September and announced publicly in November.
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.
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.
The Foundation hopes to build a supportive relationship with Bush Prize winners.
- 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 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. (See a sample interim report (PDF) and a sample final report (PDF).)
- 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.