Applications are accepted year-round.
About Community Innovation Grants
The Community Innovation grant program is a flexible program that invests in great ideas and the people who power them across our region.
CI grants fund the most promising ideas, across issue areas that have the potential to make our region better for everyone. Through this program, we aim to:
- Develop, test and spread great ideas: CI grants invest in efforts to develop and test ideas to solve problems and create opportunity, and then spread the best ideas across communities.
- Inspire, equip and connect leaders: Great ideas spread through people. CI grants invest in efforts to inspire, equip and connect leaders to more effectively lead change.
What We Fund
We are open to ideas on any issue that aligns with our values and purpose. We believe great ideas can come from all corners of a community and address an array of issues. We look for the potential and momentum of an idea. We will consider any idea applicants share with us, and we also engage with communities to seek out and encourage promising proposals.
We will consider organizations of all sizes and ideas at all stages of development. We are looking for big transformation, but know big ideas can start small. We will consider ideas at all stages of development — the idea just needs to be defined enough that we can consider its potential impact. We award grants to organizations of all sizes.
We are flexible in when and how we invest. Applications are welcome at any time throughout the year, and we are flexible in how we fund an idea. We offer grants and program-related investments (PRIs — low-interest loans that are paid back over time), and do not place caps on the amount or duration of these funds. What matters is matching the funding to what best supports an idea.
CI grants support a wide variety of ideas and projects. To get a feel for what CI grants look like in practice, here is a small sampling of stories about recent CI grantees.
Before applying for a grant, please schedule a call with our team so that we can hear your ideas and answer your questions.
Information for Applicants
Community Innovation grants are typically awarded to 501(c)(3) public charities or government entities (including schools), with very rare exceptions when a different type of grantee organization serves the work best. Coalitions or collaboratives are eligible to apply.
- For organizations that do not have 501(c)(3) status, the Foundation accepts Community Innovation grant applications from organizations working with a fiscal sponsor. If you become a finalist in the grant selection process, we will learn more about your fiscal sponsor and collect a fiscal sponsorship agreement. If fiscal sponsorship does not meet the needs of your organization or your work, please talk with a Bush Foundation staff member about your situation.
- Grants must be used to advance a charitable purpose located in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or the 23 Native nations that share the same geography.
The Community Innovation grant program invests in efforts to develop, test and spread great ideas that will make the region better for everyone and inspire, equip and connect leaders to more effectively lead change. We are committed to advancing equity in all our work, with a particular commitment to supporting efforts that move our region toward racial equity.
Community Innovation grant applications will be reviewed based on the following criteria:
- Could the proposal have transformative impact? We are looking for proposals with the greatest potential to make the region better for everyone. This could mean concepts that are big in scale or ideas that start small with the potential to grow and spread. We will favor ideas that will change systems to make the region more equitable in opportunities and outcomes, especially for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and people from rural communities.
- Is the plan strong? We will consider whether the plan is doable and whether it uses resources in a way that is likely to lead to success. We are looking for thoughtful consideration of how change can happen. Who is affected? Who has power? How will key stakeholders be engaged along the way? We will favor proposals that are truly inclusive and collaborative.
- Are the people leading the effort positioned to be successful? We will consider whether the people leading the effort have the support, relationships, experience and capacity to be successful. We want to support people who are learning and growing in their ability to advance equity, in particular racial equity, and work effectively across differences. We also consider whether they are committed to learning, improving and sharing what they learn with others.
- How does it fit with our other investments? We aim to have a diverse group of investments over time, across a variety of issues, communities and organizations. At times, we invest in things that will complement or amplify grants we've already made. We are particularly interested in funding community-led organizations, especially those led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and/or people from rural communities.
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.
In order to support big transformation in our region, we have no set limit on our grant amounts. In 2021, grant awards ranged from $198,000 to $4,000,000. Please indicate in your application the amount you need to support your idea. We’re happy to discuss this with you during your pre-application call with our team.
The CI grant application is short and intended to help us understand your idea. If you move forward in the selection process, we will connect with you to learn more.
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.
The stages of the Community Innovation grant selection process:
- Bush Foundation staff will evaluate applications and select finalists based on the selection criteria. Selection decisions are made on a rolling basis. We will communicate our decision via email approximately six to eight weeks from the date the application is submitted. Applicants who do not move forward in the process will have an opportunity to receive feedback, if desired.
- A staff member will schedule a phone call with finalists to discuss the application. We will also request additional information about your organization and your idea during this stage. We then make a final decision and will notify the applicant organization.
If your organization is selected as a finalist, we will request additional information about your organization and 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 to six months. We may get back to you within a month with a decline, but a successful application may take months to process, depending on the complexity of the proposal. We want to ensure we have enough time to talk with people in the communities impacted by the proposal and to fully understand the potential impact of the idea. Proposals over $1 million will go through an approval process with the board and will generally take longer. 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. With your permission, portions of these reports will be shared publicly.
- We acknowledge that not all grant projects will lead to transformative impact. And, in fact, sometimes the path to transformation includes unexpected or undesirable outcomes. Learning from these moments is an important part of creating new community solutions.