Mississippi River Grant Program

The McKnight Foundation

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Grant amount: US $25,000 - US $300,000

Next deadline: May 1, 2019 (Letter of inquiry)

Later deadlines: Aug 1, 2019 (Letter of inquiry), Nov 1, 2019 (Letter of inquiry), Feb 1, 2020 (Letter of inquiry)

Applicant type: Government Entity Nonprofit Indigenous Group

Funding uses: Education / Outreach, General Operating Expense, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota Expand all

Location of residency: United States

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About this funder:

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Program Goal

The goal of the Mississippi River program is to restore the water quality and resilience of the Mississippi River. We pursue two core strategies, described below. Within both strategies, we seek to support efforts that emphasize:

  • Innovation — to develop new solutions or accelerate adoption of existing, underutilized solutions.
  • Scale and scalability — to achieve systemwide impacts.
  • Testing and learning — to refine solutions over time.
  • Capacity building — to enable advocates to develop and advance cutting-edge policy solutions.
  • Inclusion — to ensure all river communities benefit from a high-quality, resilient river system regardless of geography, income, race, or ethnicity, and have opportunities to define what a resilient Mississippi River means to them.

Program Strategies

Restore functional hydrology in the Mississippi River corridor.

We focus primarily on efforts in the upper Mississippi and coastal Louisiana that:

  • Protect and expand floodplains and wetlands.
  • Reduce and manage agricultural drainage and increase the water storage capacity of the Midwest agricultural landscape.
  • Protect and restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.

In this work we emphasize approaches that:

  • Foster innovative solutions — and test, learn, and refine them over time.
  • Prioritize non-structural, natural approaches to reduce flooding and manage the river for multiple uses.
  • Bring together conservation organizations with nontraditional allies.
  • Develop opportunities for enhancing economic and recreational benefits from wetlands and floodplains.
  • Support civic engagement to build public awareness and support for improving the water quality and resilience of the Mississippi River system.

Reduce agricultural pollution in four states along the northern half of the river (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois).

We focus on efforts that:

  • Increase the sustainability of crop and livestock systems.
  • Support the development and adoption of sustainable alternatives to conventional crop and livestock systems.

In this work we emphasize approaches that:

  • Encourage new markets for sustainably produced products by catalyzing supply chain innovation and building demand through public awareness.
  • Build corporate, community, and individual demand for clean water.
  • Encourage adoption and implementation of policies that incentivize changes in farming systems by reducing risk and enhancing economic returns of sustainable practices.
  • Build farmer knowledge, capacity, and cultural acceptance of sustainable agricultural practices and products.
  • Broaden scope of allies to explore and develop innovative solutions to agricultural pollution.
  • Leverage new technologies that encourage improved soil and water quality outcomes.
  • Build public awareness of the relationship between agriculture and water, and encourage advocacy that protects water resources.

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


  • We provide planning, operating, and project grants.
  • With very few exceptions, to be eligible for a grant applicants must be classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization.
    • We discourage the use of fiscal agents.
  • Units of government may apply for funding for special projects, although we will not fund activities that are traditionally the responsibility of government.


  • We do not consider capital grants. 
  • For example, we do not make grants for:
    • research in academic disciplines;
    • scholarships or other types of assistance for individuals;
    • conferences, including attendance or travel, except when related to existing McKnight support;
    • endowments;
    • activities that have a specific religious purpose; or
    • lobbying prohibited by the Internal Revenue Code (see note below)
      • The Foundation may consider funding requests for efforts such as advocacy. However, as required by the Internal Revenue Code, the Foundation will not fund attempts to influence specific pending or proposed legislation, including referenda, local ordinances, and resolutions.