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Bright Idea Fund

Information for Grantseekers

Formerly known as unrestricted or discretionary, this permanent fund seeks to preserve the quality of life in Calumet, Outagamie, Shawano and Waupaca counties and the Neenah-Menasha area of Winnebago County. Our Bright Idea Fund combines dollars from generous donors who believe in giving in ways that address ever-changing community needs together. The fund awards grants through application and review processes (including Discovery, Spark and Bright Idea Forum) that align with our five focus areas, each with specific priorities. See our current fiscal year 2018-2019 grant recipients. About 5% of all grants awarded from within the Community Foundation each year come from the Bright Idea Fund.

The Bright Idea Fund:

  • Combines gifts from generous donors who chose to have their funds work together to address community problems and opportunities. Want to join them? Learn how.
  • Is informed by community-based data found in research such as the Fox Cities LIFE Study.
  • Engages staff, board members and volunteers representing diverse professional, personal and community backgrounds when making grant decisions.

Focus Areas and Priorities

We review ideas based on these focus areas and priorities.

(Click headings to display information)

Arts & Culture

Purpose: To enhance appreciation of and participation in visual, musical, performing and literary arts, history and other cultural experiences.

  • PRIORITY 1: Increasing access and inclusion — Create thoughtful ways to include people who ordinarily do not or cannot participate.
  • PRIORITY 2: Educating children and youth — Develop opportunities for school-aged children and youth to understand the value of artistic or cultural experiences, especially those who ordinarily do not or cannot participate.

Basic Needs and Self-Sufficiency

Purpose: Reduce the number of people in our community who are living in poverty by using innovative or collaborative approaches to address root causes.

  • PRIORITY 1: Self-sufficiency — Support affordable educational and training opportunities or programs that remove barriers to earning a family-sustaining income.
  • PRIORITY 2: Children and youth — Address barriers to future success, including risk-related behaviors, mental health challenges, bullying, abuse and neglect, and opportunity gaps for children and youth.
  • PRIORITY 3: Community Education and Awareness — Educate the community about critical issues or potential solutions related to root causes of poverty.

Community Development

Purpose: Build strong communities by supporting government, business, philanthropic and/or nonprofit sectors, along with residents, to improve the places in which they live, work and play.

  • PRIORITY 1: Neighborhood Development — Enrich local neighborhoods by building connections and bringing people together to address local issues, with particular attention to neighborhoods with significant opportunities for improvement.
  • PRIORITY 2: Community Partnerships — Support communitywide projects or planning efforts involving partnerships between people and organizations in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.
  • PRIORITY 3: Community Education and Awareness — Educate the community about issues key to improving quality of life.

Environmental Sustainability

Purpose: Support creative, economically feasible solutions to environmental challenges that benefit broad segments of the population to improve quality of life for current and future generations. Smaller environmental grants are available through the Environmental Stewardship Fund.

  • PRIORITY 1: Children and youth — Provide innovative opportunities to help children and youth fully understand and appreciate the importance of a healthy environment, particularly for children with less access to these opportunities.
  • PRIORITY 2: Sustainable practices — Creatively address environmental issues affecting our communities, homes and places of business, while considering social and economic consequences.
  • PRIORITY 3: Community Education & Awareness — Raise the level of public knowledge about issues of environmental sustainability by offering educational opportunities and experiences open to all members of our community.

Nonprofit Effectiveness

Purpose: Strengthen the internal functioning of nonprofit organizations so that they can effectively serve our community.

  • PRIORITY 1: Organizational Planning — Encourage and support organizations to plan for change, expansion or partnerships to fulfill their missions more effectively.
  • PRIORITY 2: Capacity Building — Help organizations implement changes in leadership, management or outreach capacity arising from systematic planning.
  • PRIORITY 3: Education and Training — Provide opportunities for nonprofit leaders to become effective in fulfilling organizational missions.


How to apply

STEP 1: Are you eligible?

If you answered NO to any of these questions,

Explore other funds at the Community Foundation
or from other community funders.

STEP 2: Which path do you take?

If you answered YES to all of these questions above, consider which option best fits for your idea

Do you need help with organizational planning? Grants typically up to $5,000.

Do you need a small grant quickly? Grants typically up to $5,000.

Does your idea need a larger grant? Grants typically over $5,000.


Questions? Visit our Bright Idea Fund FAQ page.

Want to see what the Bright Idea Fund is doing? Check out our current 2018-2019 fiscal year grants. For the prior 2017-2018 fiscal year, click here.

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