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How to Apply


The first step is to familiarize yourself with our approach. You may also want to review our funding FAQ and the Mississippi River organizations in our grants database.

If, after reading our website, you feel your organization fits within our funding strategies, contact the Mississippi River team before starting an application.

To help you prepare, you can preview both the initial inquiry and the full proposal application forms at any time.

We will respond via email four to six weeks after receiving your inquiry, either to decline funding or to provide instructions to submit a full proposal online.

Eligibility & Types of Support

We provide planning, operating, and project grants. We consider capital grants only in exceptional circumstances. 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 may apply for funding for innovative projects. We generally will not fund, however, activities that are traditionally the sole responsibility of government.

What We Don’t Fund

Foundations can be most effective by concentrating their resources in a few areas. This means we cannot support many worthy projects outside our program interests.

For example, we do not make grants for the following:

  • advocacy efforts related to biofuels production (contact the Energy Foundation)
  • efforts broadly addressing endocrine disruptors
  • conventional water supply, wastewater treatment, stormwater conveyance, or flood control facilities
  • 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, except in rare cases
  • activities that have a specific religious purpose
  • lobbying prohibited by the Internal Revenue Code

A note on lobbying and public policy analysis: 

The Foundation may consider funding requests for efforts such as advocacy. As required by the Internal Revenue Code, however, the Foundation will not fund attempts to influence specific pending or proposed legislation, including referenda, local ordinances, and resolutions.

Learn more about our general funding guidelines.


McKnight’s initial inquiry deadlines are quarterly. If invited, the inquiry submission date will determine when a full proposal is considered by our board. Please note the online application system is open approximately two weeks prior to the deadline so the open dates below may vary from year to year by a day or two.

Application OpensInitial Inquiry DueBoard Consideration
January 17February 1May
April 17May 1August
July 17August 1November
October 17November 1February

Important Notes

  • All new Initial Inquiries must use the “Start Application” button at the top of this page. Inquiries that are in progress can be accessed from within your online account.
  • To access saved applications or to check the status of a report, use the Account Login link (upper right corner of any page on this website).
  • If you have any trouble with the online application system call us at (612) 333-4220 or send an email to our Mississippi River team.

Initial Inquiry Instructions

The online application system is accessible for two weeks prior to deadline.

Initial Inquiry Deadlines:
February 1
May 1
August 1
November 1

Start Application

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