Applications are accepted year-round.
About Community Innovation Grants
This is a region with amazing strengths and tough challenges. The region’s success depends on how much the people in it work across differences to make big visions a reality.
We need to think bigger and think differently about what is possible. We need to inspire, equip and connect people to effectively lead change. We need to continuously develop and test ideas to solve problems and create opportunity, and then spread the best ideas across organizations and communities. That is the purpose of Community Innovation grants.
Community Innovation grants fund the most promising ideas to change communities and systems.
Community Innovation grants are meant to be transformation capital. They are an investment in an equitable future where every person has the opportunities and the support they need to thrive.
The Bush Foundation provides Community Innovation grants above $20,000. In order to support big transformation in our region, we have no set limit on our grant amounts. We’re also open to ideas for Program Related Investments (PRIs), which are low-interest loans for work that transforms the region.
Grants under $20,000 are available from our intermediary partner organizations.
What We Fund
Community Innovation grants invest in great ideas and the people who power them. These grants support organizations coming together to solve community challenges, and efforts that help people lead in strong, equitable and connected ways.
These grants are flexible in a lot of ways. They can be used to develop new ideas, test ones you’ve already imagined or spread proven ideas for more impact.
We are open to considering proposals on a range of issues, with an eye toward whether they could have truly transformative impact. We are looking for proposals with the greatest potential to make the region better for everyone. The concept can be big in scale from the start, or one that is starting small and could grow and spread.
We prioritize proposals that will make the region more equitable in opportunities and outcomes, especially for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and/or people from rural communities.
If you have a great idea, our staff is happy to talk with you about whether your idea is likely to be a strong fit.
HOW WE’RE ADAPTING TO support community needs
This is a time of unprecedented community need and we are adapting Community Innovation grants to respond.
We streamlined the application with fewer, simpler questions. We made our selection criteria simpler and more focused on impact and equity. We are prioritizing and expediting proposals that address critical and urgent community challenges.
We will consider every proposal in the context of this moment, when needs related to COVID-19 are profound and the uprisings following the murder of George Floyd have focused greater energy and attention on addressing racism in people and institutions. We know there is creative problem solving happening in this moment and we want to be as available and supportive as possible.
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, 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 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 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 grants fund organizations to develop, test or spread great ideas to make the region better for everyone, and/or to inspire, equip and connect leaders to more effectively lead equitable change.
Of all the great ideas in the region, we will fund those that are consistent with our operating values and most meaningfully advance our organizational purpose: to inspire and support creative problem solving — within and across sectors — to make our region better for everyone. 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/or people from rural communities.
- Is the plan strong? We will consider whether the plan is doable and whether it thoughtfully 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 (a variety of issues, communities and organizations). At times, we invest in things that will complement or amplify investments we've already made, including those that align with our strategic initiatives. For proposals related to leadership development, we focus on initiatives for adult leaders rather than youth. 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.
For grants above $20,000
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.
In order to support big transformation in our region, we have no set limit on our grant amounts. Please indicate in your application the amount you need to support your idea.
It is new for us to provide PRIs and Community Innovation grants above $200,000. We are refining our internal process for applications in these categories, and will update our website soon. However, you don’t need to wait to apply. If your application moves forward, we will work with you to walk through any changes in the process.
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 of these grants is the same as for the Community Innovation grants offered by the Bush Foundation, though the selection criteria are different. Deadlines and grant amount offered vary by state. Applicants should apply directly to the state program most applicable for their project:
We are refining our selection process for PRIs and Community Innovation grants above $200,000, and will update our website soon. However, you don’t need to wait to apply. If your application moves forward, we will work with you to walk through any changes in the process.
The current stages of the Community Innovation grant selection process:
- Bush Foundation staff 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 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 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.