Jen Ford Reedy

Note from Jen: Upping our commitment to community-based philanthropy

June 17, 2021

In March, we shared how we are working to be a stronger force for equitable change in our region. This included a goal to share more power in our grantmaking and to work in deeper partnership with community.

This is not a new concept for us. We have engaged community partners in our grantmaking for many years – from asking community leaders to select Bush Fellows to funding local institutions to operate state-level versions of our Community Innovation grant programs. We want to build on this experience and do more.

We are excited to announce two specific changes in this direction.

We are moving from our current Community Innovation intermediary grant program to a new approach that will increase flexibility and local ownership, add a fourth partner focused on serving Native communities, and triple the funding.

Since 2013, we have had one Community Innovation intermediary in each of the three states we serve. We have loved our partnership with these organizations and are taking all that was successful about that work into this new approach. We also see the limitations of how these partnerships have worked. Most significantly, because we set up the programs to all be “Community Innovation Grants,” with the same criteria as the grant program we operated at the Bush Foundation, we all had to stay lockstep with each other and there wasn’t much room for adaptation to fit differences across the region.

The new approach will allow for much more differentiation across communities. We will invite partners to work with their communities to design a grant program that is aligned with the overall Bush Foundation objectives to (1) develop, test and spread ideas that make the region better for everyone and (2) inspire, equip, and connect leaders to more effectively lead equitable change. We are open to lots of different program designs. What we care most about is that the design of the program and grant decisions are truly guided by community. We will expect that partners share our commitment to equity, with a particular focus on ensuring the programs work well for organizations led by and serving BIPOC and rural communities.

We are adding a fourth intermediary to support increased grantmaking by and for Native communities. Native-led and -serving organizations will be eligible to apply for funding from this new intermediary and also the partner organizations serving their state.

Along with these changes, we are tripling our financial commitment to this strategy, which will now total $6 million per year.

We are adapting the Bush Prize to be jointly owned with community-based partners.

I love the Bush Prize. I love that is a way to give truly no-strings-attached creative capital to organizations that are making great things happen.

With all the challenges and change happening in our communities in the last year we put the Bush Prize on hold to focus on responding to immediate needs. We then invited input on its future. Thanks to all of you who shared your thoughts with us! We heard strong enthusiasm for the transformational impact of the Bush Prize.

So – we are bringing the program back, with a twist. We are going to give the Bush Prize to organizations identified by our grant program partners. This will ensure the prize is granted to those organizations that are most valued and admired in their community context.

In practical terms, it means there will be four separate Bush Prize selection processes, MN, ND, SD and Native nations. As with the new grant programs, we will expect these processes to be shaped and guided by community members and designed with equity at the center.

To make these changes real, we are currently seeking four community-based program partners with the interest and capacity to design and operate both of the programs—flexible grantmaking and the Bush Prize. The Request for Proposals is open until July 29. We will select the organizations this year and give them time and resources for planning. We expect the new grant programs and the redesigned Bush Prize to start up in 2022.

These are big changes for us. They are examples of how we are pushing ourselves to be more of what we want to be – more equitable, more open, and more responsive to community. We are excited to for what these new partnerships will mean for impact across the region and hopeful that many of you will value and benefit from this new approach.