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 inquiries and invites proposals quarterly. Inquiries are due January 15, April 15, July 15, and October 15. We are currently accepting inquiries for the October funding round. Inquiries that advance to the full proposal stage this round will be considered at our February 2022 board meeting.

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 McKnight allocate the $15 million grants budget equally across the four grant cycles?

We do not allocate a fixed portion of grant funds each quarter. Instead, our team works to ensure that we make a meaningful amount of grant dollars available each quarter. 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. How does McKnight intend to fund cooperatives for the community wealth grants, since most cooperatives are for-profit entities?

We are interested in exploring new models of shared or cooperative ownership. Typically, our funding will support not-for-profit cooperative efforts. However, we might consider providing some support for for-profit entities that clearly contribute to wealth building within low-wealth communities and/or BIPOC communities. Any support for a for-profit entity would have to align with applicable legal requirements.

11. 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 a funding inquiry.

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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 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 defines a “BIPOC-led” organization as one that has at least four of the following six attributes:

  1. 50% of senior staff are BIPOC identified
  2. 50% of board members are BIPOC identified
  3. Organization has BIPOC leadership (executive or senior level)
  4. Group mission explicitly focuses on BIPOC communities
  5. Project or initiative is being led by a majority of BIPOC group members
  6. Organization is implementing DEI initiatives and/or navigating organizational transition for greater equity in program or operations

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 inquiry.

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Education and Region & Communities-Focused Grantees

20. What are the significant differences between Communities and the former Region & Communities program?

We see three significant differences relating to our focus and guidelines:

  • The new program intentionally focuses statewide.
  • We include strengthening democratic participation as a key strategy.
  • We are deepening our commitment to leaders in the communities most affected by Minnesota’s racial, cultural, and economic disparities.

21. How open is the Foundation to proposals that see education as a lever for advancing economic mobility, democratic participation, or community wealth? Are grants for systems change in K–12 education a good fit?

We are proud of our former Education grantee partners and the progress they have made. As a funding organization, we are required to make difficult decisions, one of which was to end our focus on early childhood and K–12 education. If you feel your work aligns with other elements of our new program guidelines, we invite you to contact a program staff member.

22. Our organization does not fall squarely within the four funding strategies (economic mobility, community wealth, housing, and democratic participation), but may have a down-the-road impact on all of them due to our education focus. Are you only funding organizations that specifically address one or more of these four areas, or is there flexibility?

Given the volume of funding requests, we prioritize organizations working within our four strategy areas. If you feel your work aligns with these, we encourage you to contact a program staff member to discuss your ideas.

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Applying for a Grant

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

We invite you to preview the applications on McKnight’s website.

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

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

25. 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.

26. 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.

27. 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 an inquiry.

28. 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.

29. What is the approximate timeline from submitting an initial inquiry to acceptance of a proposal? 

  • The team reviews proposals shortly after the initial inquiry deadlines: January 15, April 15, July 15, and October 15.
  • Those inquiries that advance to the full proposal stage are notified and asked to submit materials with a deadline typically three to four weeks after the initial inquiry deadline.
  • McKnight’s board then reviews grant recommendations at the next scheduled board meeting.

30. What happens between the application and the final consideration by the board? Will there be site visits during that time?

We will assign a program officer to each invited grant request. That officer will reach out to discuss your proposal.

31. If my initial inquiry does not get selected, will you carry it forward to future rounds?

Inquiries are not automatically carried forward to future rounds. If we received an inquiry that aligned well with our funding guidelines but was beyond our capacity to fund during that round, we would consider advancing the proposal to the next quarter and would communicate directly with the applicant. We will not move forward inquiries that do not align with our guidelines or fit well for other reasons.

32. 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 invite you to submit a full proposal, you are welcome to schedule a time to talk with a team member.

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Contacting the Communities Team

33. 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.

34. 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.

35. 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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