Below are some questions and answers regarding McKnight’s Vibrant & Equitable Communities (Communities) program. For more information, we invite you to read the Communities program strategies and application guidelines, and view this informational webinar, which we hosted in December 2021, following the first year of the program.

Grantmaking Logistics

1. How many grantmaking rounds are there each year?

Our team reviews proposals on a rolling basis, with September 1 as the deadline to be considered in the current year (applications received after September 1 will be considered in the next calendar year).

Within two weeks of receiving your application, Communities staff will be in contact with you regarding news steps. We will make a funding decision within three months of receiving your application.

2. What is the expected duration of a grant? Do you make multiyear grants?

McKnight typically makes grants for one or two years. We work closely with the requesting organization to determine both the grant type (general operations, project, program, etc.) and the grant duration. If you have questions, please contact a program staff member before submitting your grant request.

3. What is your grantmaking budget?

The Communities program’s 2022 grantmaking budget is $32 million. Because some of those dollars are already committed to multiyear grantees, we expect to deploy roughly $17.5 million in new grants in 2022.

4. Will the Communities’ program allocate its annual grants budget equally throughout the year?

We do not allocate a fixed portion of grant funds each month or fiscal quarter. Instead, our team works to ensure that we make a meaningful amount of grant dollars available throughout the year. With respect to grant size, there is no advantage to applying earlier in the year versus later.

5. What types of grants are available—general operating, program grants, others?

The Communities program regularly invites both general operating and program/project grants. In rare instances, we consider capital requests. If you have a capital request, we encourage you to connect with a program staff member at least six months before you require funding.

6. Will McKnight consider program planning grants?

Yes, we will consider grants for program planning and for implementation.

7. Will McKnight consider funding research projects, or more direct services programs?

McKnight funds a range of activities, from community organizing to research, analysis, and planning. We also fund nonpartisan policy advocacy and implementation. However, we typically do not fund direct or human services.

8. Is it necessary to secure matching funding?

We look at an organization’s entire budget and appreciate when organizations identify diverse sources of support. However, we do not require matched funding.

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Eligibility Requirements

9. What types of organizations are eligible?

With very few exceptions, applicants must be classified by the Internal Revenue Service as tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations to be eligible for a grant. Government entities, including state, county, and municipal, may apply for funding for innovative projects. We generally will not fund activities that are traditionally the sole responsibility of government. Contact Renee Richie, program and grants associate, who can connect you to a program staff member to answer more specific questions about your situation.

10. If I have a fiscal sponsor, can I apply for a grant?

We do consider requests from fiscally sponsored organizations. Organizations, projects, or programs with fiscal sponsors should contact a program staff member before submitting an application for funding.

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12. Can you share what you mean by working statewide? Does that mean multiple sites? How do you see your grantmaking divided between the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro and Greater Minnesota?

The Communities program is committed to working with grantees and partners across Minnesota’s cities and towns. We do not have a set funding breakdown by region of the state. We welcome and encourage proposals from Greater Minnesota and look forward to building funding relationships statewide.

13. Can you clarify terminology about funding in Minnesota? Must the organization be based in Minnesota, or can it be outside the state as long as it has programs applicable to Minnesota?

Most of the Communities program’s funding supports Minnesota-based organizations. However, we do review applications from partners outside of Minnesota who are working to support vibrant and equitable communities in our state. We recommend contacting a program staff member to discuss your work.

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Types of Partners

14. Are you looking to fund more established organizations and projects, newer efforts, or a combination?

The Communities program funds a combination of requests from new partners and from organizations with historic ties to McKnight.

15. Will you fund intermediary organizations? What are your thoughts regarding funding community work at an intermediary level versus closer to the ground?

McKnight often works with a range of intermediaries with greater proximity to grassroots leadership. Accordingly, we welcome proposals from intermediary organizations. Intermediaries most often leverage additional grantmaking resources, provide grants and other capital, provide technical assistance within a field of work, and participate in and shape the systems that enhance the impact on the ground.

In addition to funding intermediaries, we consider funding requests that come directly from new partners that are closer to the ground and whose work advances our program goals. We encourage nonprofits to apply even if an intermediary in your region or community has already received funding, and we recommend contacting a program staff member to discuss your work.

16. How does McKnight view proposals that are relevant to more than one program at McKnight, such as the overlap between the Communities program and the Midwest Climate & Energy program?

We collaborate closely with staff members in other McKnight programs, such as Arts & Culture and Midwest Climate & Energy, and we welcome proposals that intersect with multiple programs. Contact a program staff member for guidance on the best approach.

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17. Are you exclusively funding Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC)–led organizations in this new program? Will a percentage of the awards be designated for Black-founded and Black-focused organizations?

Though McKnight is committed to increasing its support to BIPOC-led organizations, we continue to fund multicultural, multiracial partners inclusive of all communities who call Minnesota home. In its first year, more than half of our program’s grantees self-identified as BIPOC-led.

18. How do you define BIPOC organization or BIPOC-led?

McKnight currently defines BIPOC-led groups as those for whom at least four of the following are true. Please check any of the following criteria that apply to your organization:

  • 50 percent of senior staff* identify as BIPOC
  • 50 percent of board members identify as BIPOC
  • Organization has executive director(s)/leader(s) that identify as BIPOC
  • Group mission explicitly focuses on BIPOC communities and/or racial equity
  • Project and/or initiative is being led by majority of BIPOC-group members
  • Organization is implementing DEI initiatives and navigating organizational transition for greater equity in programming/operations

*We define senior staff as staff with decision-making authority or management responsibility with the organization.

19. Will you consider proposals that address community equity and climate solutions in tandem?

Yes, we welcome proposals that intersect with multiple McKnight program areas. Please contact a program staff member to discuss your work and for guidance on submitting an application.

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Applying for a Grant

20. What is the best link for the grant applications?

We invite you to preview the application form (PDF, Word).

21. Do I need to talk to a program staff member before I apply?

Yes, we recommend that you discuss your application with a program staff member. Renee Richie can help connect you to a team member.

22. What if I’m a current grantee? When should I apply for new funding?

If you are applying for funding for the same purpose as your current grant, we encourage you to apply when your existing grant is up for renewal.

That said, we want organizations to apply when it makes sense for you. If you want to apply at a different time of the year than you have historically, please reach out to your program contact.

23. How many times can my organization apply in one year? If we are awarded a grant, can we submit another application for a different period?

To minimize work for your organization and help McKnight manage the numerous requests we receive, an organization should request funds once only per year.

Occasionally, circumstances, such as new opportunities or challenging current events, may present a reason to apply again. Contact a program staff member if you believe there may be sufficient justification for an additional request.

24. Is there a maximum grant request?

There is no maximum request amount. We recommend that you discuss the level of support you require with a program staff member before submitting a grant proposal.

25. Can grantees have multiple grants with you at one time?

Grantees may have multiple grants concurrently, though we prefer to reduce the administrative burden on both McKnight and grantee staff members with a single grant that either provides general operating support or funds multiple projects simultaneously.

26. What is the approximate timeline from submitting to acceptance of a proposal? 

Within two weeks of receiving your application, Communities staff will be in contact with you regarding next steps. We will assign a program officer to each submitted proposal. That officer will reach out to discuss your proposal.

We will make a funding decision within three months of receiving your application.

27. If my proposal does not get selected, will you carry it forward for future consideration?

Proposals are not automatically carried forward for future consideration.

28. If not selected to receive a grant, will there be an opportunity to receive 1:1 feedback? What is the follow-up process?

Absolutely. If we do not accept your proposal, you are welcome to schedule a time to talk with a team member.

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Contacting the Communities Team

29. Are individual staff members assigned to each of the four strategies—economic mobility, community wealth, housing, and democratic participation?

At this point, there is not a designated staff member for each area. The Communities team as a whole reviews grants across all strategies.

30. If we are new to the McKnight Foundation, who is the best staff person to talk with?

Please contact Renee Richie and she will direct you to the right person for your needs.

31. How can I stay updated?

The Vibrant & Equitable Communities page on McKnight’s website is the best place to find the latest information.

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