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Community Engagement Manager
Carolyn Desrosiers

Phone
920-702-7625

Email
[email protected]

Bright Idea Fund FAQ

The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region recently launched our revised competitive grant program – the Bright Idea Fund! 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.

What’s new?

Focus areas and priorities have been updated to reflect LIFE Study data. We’ve created a more nimble process that allows for projects that cross-cut more than one focus area.

We’ve created monthly Lightbulb Labs, a space for nonprofit leaders to share ideas with each other and Foundation staff early in the application process.

What hasn’t changed?

Generous donors still entrust their unrestricted funds to the Foundation to address community needs and grantmaking decisions are informed by community-based data such as the Fox Cities LIFE Study.  Staff, board members and volunteers representing diverse professional, personal and community backgrounds are engaged in making grant decisions.

Have the focus areas and priorities changed?

Yes! We have changed our priorities for the Basic Needs & Self Sufficiency focus area and added a focus area for Community Development. We have eliminated the Community Education focus area. The priorities of Arts & Culture, Nonprofit Effectiveness and Environmental Sustainability also have been revised.

Is this the only program from which I can get a grant?

No, only about 5% of grants awarded through the Foundation each year have come from the unrestricted grant program, now the Bright Idea Fund.

I have an idea, what do I do now?

First, carefully review the Bright Idea Fund webpage. If you represent an eligible charitable organization, the most important thing you can do is ask yourself whether your idea helps advance any of our focus areas and priorities. If you think you are a strong match, then follow the steps on the Bright Idea Fund webpage.

When do I apply?

Application deadlines vary by process.

Discovery – Awarded year-round by working directly with our staff. If you think you are eligible for a Discovery grant, we encourage early conversation with staff while your idea is still in the formative stages.

Spark – A two-step process involving both an online inquiry and application. Both steps must be completed in our online grant portal at least 60 calendar days prior to your event or project start date.

Bright Idea – A more complex process, it involves attending a Lightbulb Lab, submitting a Lightbulb Letter and, if invited, presenting at a Bright Idea Forum. Forums generally take place quarterly with six to eight invited nonprofit participants.

Does my idea have to be new?

Not necessarily. Bright Idea grants support ideas in our service area that will make a significant community impact in one or more of our focus areas and priorities. Ideas can be small or big, new or an expansion of what’s working well. Bright Idea grants do not, however, support general operating costs for existing programs or previously incurred expenses.

What’s the maximum available for Bright Idea grants?

Discovery – Typically up to $5,000. Spark – Typically up to $5,000. Bright Idea – At this time we have no maximum guideline. Grants will be right-sized based on the potential scope and impact of the idea.

Is having collaborators or partners a requirement?

No, however, collaboration is strongly encouraged. The extent to which an organization’s ideas appear to be in tune with broader community concerns or initiatives may factor into the committee’s decision.

What happened to the Environmental Stewardship grants?

The Environmental Stewardship Fund still provides grants up to $2,500 to support smaller projects that help people preserve, enjoy or understand nature better. Learn more.

Who reviews my idea?

For Bright Idea grants, the Bright Idea Fund Committee (volunteers representing diverse professional, personal and community backgrounds) reviews ideas and makes grant recommendations. Spark and Discovery grants are initially reviewed by staff, sometimes with input from the committee.

How do I sign up for a Lightbulb Lab?

Lightbulb Lab dates are on our website calendar or listed on the Bright Idea Grant page.

Do I have to attend a Lightbulb Lab in order to apply?

To apply for a Bright Idea Grant you must attend a Lightbulb Lab. However, to apply for a Spark or Discovery grant, you do not need to attend a Lightbulb Lab. If you’re not sure if you should attend a Lab or not please contact staff member Carolyn Desrosiers.

How is the Bright Idea Fund funded?

The Bright Idea Fund is actually a collection of unrestricted endowment funds set up by Donors who trust our Board of Directors to determine the best ways to use the grant dollars to meet ever-changing community needs. The grant dollars are awarded to Fox Valley area nonprofit organizations through our Bright Idea Fund processes. If you are interested in creating an unrestricted fund, giving directly to the Bright Idea Fund, or partnering with us by co-investing, click here.

Still Have Questions?

Contact our staff.

Carolyn Desrosiers
Community Engagement Manager
[email protected] 
920-702-7625