Initiative Foundation: Innovation Fund Grant

Initiative Foundation

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Next deadline: Nov 6, 2020 (Letter of inquiry)

Later deadlines: Feb 8, 2021 (Letter of inquiry), May 1, 2021 (Letter of inquiry), Aug 7, 2021 (Letter of inquiry)

Grant amount: Up to US $7,500

Fields of work: Basic Human Needs Civic Leadership Development Entrepreneurship Job Creation Business Development Workforce Preparation & Job Readiness Poverty Alleviation & Services Show all

Applicant type: Nonprofit, Government Entity

Funding uses: General Operating Expense, Education / Outreach, Project / Program, Training / Capacity Building

Location of project: Counties in Minnesota: Benton County, Cass County, Chisago County, Crow Wing County, Isanti County Show all

Location of residency: United States

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About this funder:



COVID-19 Updates

The Foundation is updating its grant guidelines to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic; learn what this means for you.

The Initiative Foundation's grant-making focus through September 2020 will be on the region's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants are made through the following funding mechanisms:

  • Central Minnesota Emergency Relief and Recovery Fund: Initiative Foundation grants typically support start-up or capacity-building projects across the 14 counties of Central Minnesota. However, we are redirecting our efforts through September 2020 to respond to community needs and the sweeping effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Refer to the 2020 Innovation Fund Review Schedule for dates.
  • Partner Funds: A number of grants awarded through the Initiative Foundation are funded by donor-advised or community-based Partner Funds. Each fund has specific priority areas and varying grant schedules. Many of our Partner Funds and their advisory teams also are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and awarding grants accordingly.

Guidelines Temporarily Change in Response to COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, our grant guidelines are temporarily changed. Instead of our normal focus on innovative new programming, strategic planning and other capacity-building projects, we are prioritizing basic needs and general operations to serve those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

These temporary guidelines will extend until at least September 2020.

Initiative Foundation Grants: The Innovation Fund

The Initiative Foundation awards about $1 million annually in grants to qualifying organizations in Central Minnesota. The Initiative Foundation makes grants for projects and programs that advance its mission to empower people throughout Central Minnesota to build a thriving economy, vibrant communities and a lasting culture of generosity.

Innovation Fund Grant Priorities 

Innovation Fund grants seldom exceed $7,500 and are generally 50 percent or less of the total program/project budget. We typically receive three to four times more applications than we can fund, so our process is highly competitive. 

Innovation Fund grants support new strategies, new ideas or creative ways to serve and reach those who were previously underserved. Think of Innovation Grants as venture capitalism for good ideas in community and economic development. These grants often support feasibility studies or planning endeavors and serve as early investments that help our partners increase capacity or enhance their efficiency. Because of our investment-minded approach, the Initiative Foundation seldom provides ongoing or general operational support so that we can dedicate the majority of our funds to support innovative projects.

Proposals which focus on at least one of the following areas are given priority consideration:

  • Support for development of businesses and social enterprises through improved access to technical assistance, mentorship, succession planning and education efforts. The foundation is especially interested in supporting minority business ownership and/or job creation in areas of concentrated poverty.
  • Help for communities to address opportunities or barriers to business growth and creation or retention of quality jobs.
  • Advancement of creative activities or strategies to address the workforce shortage in communities which lead to improved skills, access to employment opportunities or professional development in growing sectors.
  • Innovative community planning, design and engagement strategies to help attract and retain skilled workers, young families, and/or underserved populations.
  • Support for strategic planning, fund development, board training or other capacity building initiatives for nonprofits that advance economic security for vulnerable households and financially disadvantaged people.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Grant applicants must be 501(c)(3) nonprofits, school districts or local units of government that serve the people and communities in Benton, Cass, Chisago, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena and Wright counties, and the sovereign tribal nations of the Leech Lake and Mille Lacs Bands of Ojibwe. 


  • Priority will be given to new or existing programs or services that provide for the basic needs of individuals and families negatively affected by the COVID-19 health crisis.
    • Examples include food security, housing, clothing, health care and employment.
  • Due to current funding limitations, the likely maximum grant award is expected to be $5,000.
    • Larger grants may be considered based on the scale of impact.
    • Although we strongly encourage local support, we are waiving our normal expectation that local support be at least 50 percent of a program or project’s estimated cost.


  • Funding requests for outside our service area will not be considered.
  •  Individuals are not eligible to apply for grant funds.
  • The following expenses are ineligible and will not be considered for Innovation funding: 
    • Grants or reimbursements to individuals and businesses
    • Expenses incurred prior to the receipt of a grant award
    • Capital expenses (e.g., buildings, equipment, vehicles, etc.)
    • Programs or projects that DO NOT directly benefit residents in the Initiative Foundation’s 14-county service area
    • Replacement of or substitution for government funding
    • Religious activities
    • Lobbying or campaigning for a candidate, issue or referendum vote 
    • Development or purchase of school curriculum or support for school athletic programs 
    • Out-of-state travel


This page was last reviewed October 02, 2020 and last updated April 13, 2020