Addressing racial wealth gaps

Our Commitment

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Ecosystem Grants


Application deadline was February 13, 2020.

About Ecosystem Grants

The Bush Foundation works to inspire and support creative problem solving — within and across sectors — to make our region better for everyone. We know problem solving is hard. Our Ecosystem grant program is designed to provide operating support to the programs and organizations that do the most to support the people doing this work. 

Some might call these infrastructure organizations or intermediary organizations or just can’t-do-without organizations. We call them Ecosystem organizations because they create the environment for organizations and leaders to solve problems and make the region better for everyone.

What We Fund

Ecosystem grants provide operating support to programs and organizations that our grantees, Bush Fellows and other organizations rely heavily on to:

  • Provide critical data and analysis.
  • Advance public awareness and policy.
  • Spread great ideas and build capacity.
  • Build and support leadership networks.

We are looking for Ecosystem grantees that support organizations and leaders working to advance the goals of our focus areas.

Organizations may apply to receive as much as $300,000 over three years in operating support. The annual grant amount is typically 25% of the organization’s expenses, up to $100,000 per year. All Ecosystem grantees will receive an additional $10,000 in capacity building funds to build or increase their skills to work across differences. 

Information for Applicants

Ecosystem grants may be awarded to 501(c)(3) public charities or government entities. Coalitions or collaborative efforts are eligible to apply, but only one organization may receive the grant.

  • Organizations that do not have 501(c)(3) status may submit an application through a fiscal sponsor. The fiscal sponsor must submit the grant application. If the grant is approved, the fiscal sponsor becomes the grantee and receives the funds. Learn more about fiscal sponsorships.
  • Grants must be used for a charitable purpose that supports people and organizations in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or the 23 Native nations that share the same geography.

Impact on other organizations and leaders

To what degree does the organization support other organizations and leaders in one or more of the following ways?

  • Provide critical data and analysis.
  • Advance public awareness and policy.
  • Spread great ideas and build capacity.
  • Build and support networks of leaders.

Do other organizations and leaders find the organization uniquely and significantly valuable?


Fit with the Foundation's focus areas

Working Across Issues, Not Focused on a Specific Issue

  • COMMUNITY INNOVATION: Does the organization support other organizations to collaboratively solve community problems?

  • LEADERSHIP: Does the organization inspire, equip and connect leaders to more effectively lead change?

Working on a Specific Issue

  • COMMUNITY CREATIVITY: Does the organization help others to use art and culture to solve community problems?

  • EDUCATION: Does the organization help schools and educators move toward student-centered learning?

  • NATION BUILDING: Does the organization support tribal governments to exercise sovereignty?

  • SOCIAL BUSINESS VENTURES: Does the organization support people to start and grow businesses that solve social problems?

Note: We don't award Ecosystem grants to organizations working on specific issues other than these four.


How the organization operates

  • Is the organization stable and strong in terms of governance and finance?
  • Does the organization operate in a way that aligns with the Bush Foundation's operating values?

Across all our work, we are committed to advancing racial and economic equity in our region. As we review applications, we will consider whether organizations have the skills and orientation to support leaders and organizations working toward that end.


Additional Considerations

We will also consider the diversity of our portfolio across:

  • Size of community served.
  • Size of the organization.
  • Demographics of communities served.
  • Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share the same geography.

The application deadline was February 13, 2020 at noon Central.

View application questions (PDF)

Ecosystem grants are currently awarded every three years. If you are interested in learning more about this program, please set up time to talk with us.

  1. A group of five Foundation staff will review applications and select finalists using the program criteria at the end of March. Decisions will be shared with applicants in early April.
  2. In April, Foundation staff will call finalists to learn more about their organization and how they fit with the Ecosystem program. In order to better understand the value and support the applicant provides to other organizations and individuals, staff will conduct reference calls at this time as well.
  3. A group of eight Foundation staff will review the finalist applications and any additional information gathered and will select grantees using the program criteria. Decisions will be shared with the finalists at the end of June.

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 below.

We're Here to Help

For more information, or to talk with a member of Bush Foundation staff, use our online scheduling system to set up a call. You can also contact us at or 651-379-2249.