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Ecosystem Grants & Organizations


Organizations that help others problem solve in the region

Supporting organizations that support others

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 program provides operating support to the organizations that 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 needed for organizations and leaders to solve problems. 

The Ecosystem program primarily supports organizations helping people solve problems across a number of issues, rather than orgs focused on a particular issue area. The exceptions to this are organizations working on spreading student-centered learning or using the arts to address community challenges. (These exceptions reflect our long-standing commitments to education and the arts.) We also want to make sure we are funding organizations focused on Native nation building in ways that support sovereignty.

2023 Ecosystem organizations

In 2023, we funded 38 Ecosystem organizations that are recognized in their communities as helpful resources. View the complete list to learn more about the resources and opportunities they offer.

What we Fund

We award Ecosystem grants to organizations that other organizations and leaders within our region rely heavily on to do one or more of the following:

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

Ecosystem grantees work across a variety of issues, or on one of three specific issues: supporting the sovereignty of Native nations, spreading student-centered learning, or using art to solve community problems. Organizations may apply to receive as much as $450,000 over three years in operating support. The annual grant amount is typically 25% of the organization’s expenses, up to $150,000 per year. All Ecosystem grantees receive an additional $10,000 in capacity building funds to build or increase their skills to work across differences.

Our selection criteria below outlines the type of organizations we’re looking for. Please take a look at the selection criteria and application questions to determine if your organization is a good fit for the program. If you are unsure, please reach out to us using the contact information at the bottom of this page.

Information for Applicants

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.

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.

What issues does your organization work on?

  • Does your organization support individuals and organizations solving problems on a variety of issues rather than focusing on a single issue? 
  • Does your organization support Native nations to exercise sovereignty?  
  • Does your organization support schools and educators moving toward student-centered learning?  
  • Does your organization support others in using art and culture to solve community problems?  


Note: We don't award Ecosystem grants to organizations working on specific issues other than the three noted above.


What is your organization’s impact?

To what degree does your 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.


Does your organization specialize in supporting leaders and organizations to advance equity?  

We work to make the region more equitable in opportunities and outcomes for all people. We strive to improve conditions for all marginalized communities, and especially for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and people from rural communities.  This is not an expertise that all Ecosystem grantees will have, but if your organization does, we would like to hear about how you support others in this way. 


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

Ecosystem grantees are organizations upon which other organizations and leaders rely. We speak with references to understand if Ecosystem applicants play a critical role for others, and how they help them be more effective in their work.

How does your organization operate?

  • Does your organization work to advance racial equity internally and externally?  
  • Is your organization stable and strong in terms of governance and finance?
  • Does your organization operate in a way that aligns with our operating values?


Portfolio considerations

We want to support as many people and communities as we can. We aim to select a group of grantees that support creative problem solving within and across sectors throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share that same geography. 

In order to build a comprehensive portfolio that supports the work of many types of organizations and leaders across the region, we will consider the following factors as we select grantees: 

  • Place - ensuring we are supporting work happening throughout Bush Foundation region (MN, ND, SD and the 23 Native nations we serve)
  • Sector - ensuring we are supporting work happening within and across sectors (government, nonprofit, and business) 
  • Cultural focus - ensuring we are supporting work happening within and across cultural communities
  • Issue - ensuring we are supporting work happening on a broad range of issues while also making sure we are supporting work related to the arts, education, and Native nation sovereignty  

Ecosystem grant applications open every three years with the next opening in 2026.

For reference, you can view the application questions from our most recent application.

  1. Bush Foundation staff will review applications in April and May. 
  2. Applicants will be notified whether they’ve been selected as a finalist at the end of May.
  3. In June, a staff member will talk with finalists to discuss the application, learn more about their organization and how they fit within the Ecosystem program. We will also conduct reference calls to better understand the value and support the applicant provides to other organizations and individuals.
  4. Throughout July, staff will review the finalist applications and any additional information gathered and will select grantees. We will share decisions in early August.

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.

Contact us

Connect with us through our Contact Hub. Send us an email at; or call 651-379-2249; or book a brief call with us via online scheduling.