Applications are accepted year-round.
About Community Innovation Grants
Community Innovation grants fund problem-solving projects that make the region better for everyone. Grantees work inclusively with their communities, make the most of existing resources and collaborate with other organizations as part of their problem-solving process.
The Bush Foundation provides Community Innovation grants of $10,000 to $200,000. Grants under $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).
What We Fund
There are many steps between identifying a problem and implementing a solution. 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. Your grant application can focus on one area or span multiple stages.
You 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.
How we’re adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic
We believe collaborative problem solving is more important than ever, and we recognize that COVID-19 has changed all of our worlds. When reviewing your application, we’ll want to understand how COVID-19 has affected your community and your project, and whether it’s possible for the project to be successful in the current environment. We will expedite consideration of Community Innovation grant applications that address emergencies, including projects related to COVID-19. Please contact us to talk through your project before applying.
Information for Applicants
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.
Community Innovation grant applications will be reviewed based on the following criteria:
Community Innovation 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?
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.
For grants from $10,000 to $200,000
There is no application deadline for our Community Innovation grants. Applications are accepted year-round. We strongly suggest that all potential applicants schedule a call with our team before putting together an application.
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.
For grants from $500 to $20,000
We partner with three intermediary organizations to provide Community Innovation grants under $20,000. The purpose and criteria for these grants is the same as for the Community Innovation grants offered by the Bush Foundation. Deadlines and grant amount offered vary by state. Applicants should apply directly to the state program most applicable for their project:
The stages of the Community Innovation grant selection process:
- 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. In cases of urgent need, we are able to expedite our review of your application.
- 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 page.
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.
The Foundation hopes to build a supportive relationship with Community Innovation grantees.
- If you are selected as a grantee, we’ll work together to create a grant agreement based on your proposal, including an agreed upon timeline for the project and use of funds.
- 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. (See a sample interim report (PDF) and sample final report (PDF).) With your permission, portions of these reports will be shared publicly.
- 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.