Mn fashion awards

2018 Innovation Fund Grant Opportunities

The Initiative Foundation makes grants for projects and programs that advance its mission to Empower People to Build Thriving Communities and a Vibrant Region across Central Minnesota

Grant applicants must be 501(c)(3) nonprofits, school districts, or local units of government that serve the people and communities in Benton, Cass, Chisago, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, and/or Wright counties. Funding requests for use outside of this area will not be considered. Individuals are not eligible to apply for grant funds. 

Innovation Fund Grant Priorities

Innovation Fund grants seldom exceed ,000, and generally fund 50 percent or less of the total program/project budget.  We typically receive three to four times more applications than we can fund, so our process is highly competitive.  Priority consideration is given to projects that have local financial support.  The Initiative Foundation also strives to allocate our grant resources around our entire region, so geographical diversity is a consideration in our review. 

Innovation Fund grants are intended to support start-up or capacity-building projects which address at least one of the following priorities: 

  • Help small businesses and social enterprise ventures through access to technical assistance, mentorship, succession planning, and education efforts. The Foundation is especially interested in supporting minority business ownership and/or job creation in areas of concentrated poverty.
  • Help communities address opportunities or barriers to business growth and creation or retention of quality jobs.
  • Support activities or strategies to address workforce shortages in communities within our region that lead to improved skills, access to employment opportunities or advancement in growing sectors.
  • Support community-based early childhood efforts that advance literacy and school readiness, particularly in communities not served by one of our existing Early Childhood Coalitions
  • Support strategic planning, fund development, board training or other capacity-building initiatives for nonprofits that have a core focus on poverty.
  • Support activities by communities and nonprofits to engage new and emerging leaders interested in serving on civic, community or nonprofit boards.
  • Support innovative community planning, design and engagement strategies to help attract and retain skilled workers and young families.

    To discuss whether your project fits with these priorities, you are welcome to contact the Grants Assistant at (320) 631-2014 or by email grants(at)

Ineligible Expenses

The following expenses are ineligible and will not be considered for Innovation funding:

  • Grants or reimbursements to individuals and businesses.
  • Expenses incurred prior to the receipt of a grant award.
  • Capital expenses (e.g., buildings, equipment, vehicles, etc.).
  • Programs or projects that DO NOT directly benefit residents in the Initiative Foundation’s 14 county service area. 
  • Replacement of or substitution for government funding. 
  • Religious activities.
  • Lobbying or campaigning for a candidate, issue or referendum vote. 
  • Development or purchase of school curriculum or support for school athletic programs. 
  • Out of state travel. 
  • Arts, health-related and media production applications are discouraged unless they directly address at least one of the priorities listed on the previous page.

Application Process

Qualified organizations interested in applying to the Initiative Foundation are required to complete an online application. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis and are reviewed quarterly

The Foundation reserves the right to decline a request for any reason including a history of inappropriately spending or closing out previously awarded funds within the allotted time. If approved, applicants are notified by email and grants will be awarded.

Application Deadline: Notification of approval or denial: 
Jan. 12  Jan. 26
April 6 April 27
July 13 July 31
Oct. 5 Oct. 26

The Initiative Foundation strives to treat applicants with courtesy and respect. Staff members are sensitive to varying levels of experience in completing applications and encourages open communication with applicants needing additional assistance.  

For assistance please contact us: 
Email:    grants(at)
Mail:      405 First Street SE, Little Falls, MN 56465
Phone: (320) 632-9255 or toll free (877) 632-9255

Staff support is typically available from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday.

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