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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 Region & Communities (R&C) organizations in our grants database.

If, after reading our website, you feel your organization fits within our funding strategies, contact the R&C 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.

Selection Criteria

To achieve our ambitions for systems change, there are several characteristics we look for in the work we support. They provide a lens for assessing whether to sustain or deepen our involvement in current areas of work. They also provide a set of criteria for evaluating new proposals. They include:

  • clarity on how an organization or initiative fills gaps and adds value to current systems
  • potential for solutions to scale by influencing or disrupting policies and/or markets
  • alignment of strategies and resources to contribute to collective impact
  • solutions that emerge from the communities being served
  • solutions that are responsive to current needs and windows of opportunity
  • ability of solutions to lift people up in good times and in bad
  • strong organizational leadership
  • committed partners connected to work on the ground with communities
  • cross-sector participation
  • collaboration focused

What We Don’t Fund

Foundations can be most effective by concentrating their resources in a few areas. This means there are many worthy projects outside our program interests that we cannot support. For example, we do not make grants for:

  • basic social services
  • health services or policy
  • urban agriculture or youth-focused programs (such as playgrounds) not directly impacting current program goals
  • historic preservation projects
  • projects outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area
  • 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 2January 15May
April 1April 15August
July 1July 15November
October 1October 15February

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 Region & Communities team.

Initial Inquiry Instructions

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

Initial Inquiry Deadlines:
January 15
April 15
July 15
October 15

Start Application

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