Apply for Community Impact Grants

Infographic showing the MCF grantmaking process for Community Impact grants
MCF's Community Impact grantmaking process, at a glance. Click image to enlarge. 

Madison Community Foundation’s Community Impact grants advance initiatives that have a long-term impact on our community and the lives of people living here.

Types of Community Impact Grants

MCF’s grantmaking supports opportunities to strengthen innovative or high-performing nonprofits, and invest in the initiatives and natural and cultural assets that create a thriving community. Community Impact grants will be used to provide grants in five focus areas that improve the quality of life for residents in greater Madison. (Click on each category name for examples of grants given in that area.)

  • Arts & Culture: Grants build and support Dane County’s vibrant arts scene.
  • Community Development: Grants enhance the quality of life by strengthening the unique natural and cultural assets found in Dane County, investing in neighborhoods, enhancing equity and building bonds among residents.
  • Environment: Grants preserve natural spaces by supporting conservation, restoration, education and policy-making.
  • Learning: Grants support public K-12 academic achievement and learning, out-of-school-time programs, GED-equivalent and transition-to-adult programs.
  • Organizational Capacity Building: Grants strengthen the infrastructure and long-term impact of Dane County nonprofits.

These grants fall into three broad categories:

Program Grants support new programs or the expansion of existing programs that have a track record of success.

Capital Grants support the construction, purchase and renovation of facilities, land acquisition, and occasionally the purchase of vehicles or equipment.

Endowment Challenge Grants build capacity and sustainability by helping nonprofits leverage additional funds and incorporate endowment fundraising as a regular part of their ongoing development program. Typically, endowment challenge grants are two-to-one matches but may vary by the size of the grant awarded. Learn more about endowment challenge grants.

Scope of Funding

Approximately 25% of grant applications are funded at some level. We are rarely the sole financial supporter of projects; we expect organizations to also seek additional resources to accomplish project goals. For examples of grants we have funded in the past, visit Recent Grants.

Grantmaking Criteria

  • Long-term impact on residents or physical environments in Dane County.
  • Meaningful, reasonable and measurable outcomes.
  • Innovative approaches to address community issues.
  • Strengthen and enhance community assets.
  • Build self-sufficiency of individuals or organizations.
  • Attract additional funding.
  • Use partnerships or collaborations.
  • Sustainable beyond the scope of the grant. 

Eligibility for Grants

Organizations must meet the following criteria:

  • Public charities, exempt from federal income taxes under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or governmental bodies, including schools and municipalities, as long as the project is above and beyond regular budgeted items and does not fill budget gaps.
  • Organizations must be located, and projects must take place, within the borders of Dane County. The one exception is endowment challenge grants, for which there is no geographic limitation. But the resultant endowment fund must reside at MCF.
  • Conduct business without discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or arrest or conviction record, or any other discriminatory basis prohibited by applicable local, state and federal law (“Anti-Discrimination Status”).
  • Repeat grant applicants who are in good standing with MCF and propose a new project that fits within the focus areas are welcome to submit subsequent proposals. However, when having to choose between projects, an applicant that has not been funded regularly may have an edge over one that has.
  • Local communities with community or education foundations that are unaffiliated with the Madison Community Foundation must submit a letter of support from the local foundation as part of the application process.

What MCF Does Not Fund

  • Individuals
  • Endowments not held by MCF
  • Debt retirement
  • Lobbying
  • Film production
  • Annual campaigns
  • Scholarships
  • Religious organizations for religious purposes
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Health care services, including dental, mental health and capital campaigns for health
  • Capital grants to support ongoing maintenance or annual operations
  • Sports and recreation, except in the case of those using sports programming for academic purposes
  • Short-term events such as conferences, festivals, fundraising functions and celebrations, except in the case of a special celebration or major anniversary of an organization offering programmatic content that fits MCF's focus areas. (Preference will be given to MCF Agency Fundholders.)
  • Multiple project requests from the same organization simultaneously, unless the projects differ significantly (often when projects take place in different facilities or communities).
  • The University of Wisconsin, although projects sponsored by other nonprofits in which the University of Wisconsin is a partner agency will be considered.

Grant Application Process

MCF awards Community Impact grants to nonprofits working in five areas of focus: Arts and Culture, Community Development, Environment, Learning, and Nonprofit Capacity Building.

MCF's Community Impact grantmaking process begins with organizations submitting a Letter of Inquiry (LOI). MCF staff review these letters to ensure the organizations are eligible to apply and that the requests conform to MCF's mission and focus areas. LOIs are due to MCF on June 3 by 4:30 p.m.

Organizations with approved LOIs are invited to submit a full grant application for consideration. The deadline for applications is August 12 by 4:30 p.m.

The Grantmaking Committee reviews the grant applications and forwards recommendations to the Board of Governors, which makes the final decision on funding at its October meeting. Grants will be announced in late October.

If you have any questions about grant proposals, please contact Angela Davis.


For more information, visit our Nonprofit Resources