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How to Apply


For organizations that wish to apply, the first step is to familiarize yourself with our approach. You may also want to review the Foundation’s general funding FAQ.

If, after reading our website, you feel your organization fits within our funding strategies, contact the Vibrant & Equitable Communities (Communities) team before starting an application.

To help you prepare, you can preview both the initial inquiry and the full proposal application forms. Please note that we have updated the initial inquiry form to reduce allowable word counts in response to partner feedback. Responses to each inquiry need not meet the maximum word count. Additional resources include a recorded webinar we hosted in September 2020 and a FAQ with commonly asked questions specific to the Communities program.

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.

If your organization was a grantee under the former Education program or the Region & Communities program, please contact a Communities program officer before submitting your initial inquiry application.

Eligibility & Types of Support

We provide operating and project grants to organizations in Minnesota. 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. However, we generally will not fund 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:

  • Basic social services, such as food shelves, case management, or emergency shelter
  • Health services
  • Parks and open spaces
  • Transit- and transportation-related efforts
  • Pre-K-12 educational programming
  • Scholarships or other types of assistance for individuals
  • Conferences, including attendance or travel, except in rare cases
  • Endowments and capital campaigns, except in rare cases
  • Activities that have a specific religious purpose
  • Lobbying prohibited by the Internal Revenue Code (see note below)

A note on lobbying and public policy analysis: 

The Foundation may consider funding requests for efforts such as advocacy and education to improve the policies and administrative rules of executive, judicial, and administrative agencies; information-sharing that is neutral, nonpartisan, and fully descriptive of both sides of pending legislative issues; and policy research.

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 Opens Initial Inquiry Due Board Consideration
January 2 January 15 May
April 1 April 15 August
July 1 July 15 November
October 1 October 15 February

Important Notes

  • All new initial inquiries start here. 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 the 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