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Community Engagement Manager
Carolyn Desrosiers


[email protected]

Bright Idea Grants

We believe in partnering with nonprofit and community leaders to support ideas that help meet the ever-changing needs of our community and enrich its quality of life. Through our Bright Idea Forum grants process, we create space where ideas can be fostered and realized.

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. Eligible applicants present their ideas face-to-face in one of our Forums in the fall, winter or spring. In the spirit of shared learning, staff, committee volunteers, and other applicants are all present for the discussion.

How It Works

What is a Bright Idea?

The most important factor to consider if you’re wondering whether your idea counts as a “bright idea” is whether it advances the purpose of one or more of the Community Foundation’s focus areas. Will your idea achieve the focus area’s purpose and meet at least one of its underlying priorities?

The committee will consider proposals to:

  • Pilot an idea
  • Implement an idea post-pilot
  • Strategically expand an existing program or initiative
  • Build organizational capacity

Lightbulb Labs

Bright ideas develop when they’re shared with others.

  • Have a kernel of a Bright Idea but you’re not sure if it’s “ready” yet?
  • Running up against challenges and not sure what to do next?
  • Attend a Lightbulb Lab!

Lightbulb Labs are informal opportunities to learn more about the Bright Idea Forum grants, talk about your ideas, and receive feedback from Foundation staff and other interested applicants.

Attending a Lab is a required step in the application process for the Bright Idea Forum. Please make sure your idea aligns with one of the Bright Idea Fund focus areas and priorities prior to registering for a Lightbulb Lab.

When: First week of every month. Upcoming Lab dates: January 8, 2020, February 5, 2020 and March 4, 2020. Select a date for more information and to register. Please note Lightbulb Labs are held when 3 or more participants have registered.

Where: Various coffee shops and cafes in the Fox Valley.

Lightbulb Letter

After you’ve attended a Lightbulb Lab and your idea is more well developed, you may be invited by staff to submit a Lightbulb Letter online. This is your opportunity to share your organization’s idea with our committee volunteers and staff in a simple, concise format, and acts as your application into an upcoming Forum.

Bright Idea Forum

Your Lightbulb Letter will be reviewed by our staff and committee volunteers. If selected, you will be invited to present at an upcoming Bright Idea Forum. You will present to a supportive audience of committee members, staff, and fellow nonprofit applicants in the spirit of shared learning. Other donors or funders may also be present to learn about your idea.


  • Five minutes to present your bright idea, followed by 15 minutes of discussion with the committee.
  • All applicants presenting stay to hear other organizations’ ideas, offering an opportunity to learn from each other, and potentially spark collaboration.
  • After the Forum, committee and Foundation staff members determine which projects receive a grant, require additional information, or have the potential for further development.

Range for Grantmaking: 

The Forum grants process is different from traditional grant applications – we seek to understand the full scope and cost to implement the idea, and then consider what aspect of the proposal is the best fit for a Bright Idea Grant.  Grant awards typically range between $10,000-$50,000 for one to three years but depend on the size and scope of the idea. Multi-year awards are the exception, and are typically reserved for ideas that require multiple years to implement.

2019-20 Forums and Deadlines:

Fall Forum:

Lightbulb Letter deadline – Sept. 12, 2019, 4:00 p.m.

Bright Idea Forum Sessions – Oct. 10  &  11, 2019

Winter Forum 2020:

Lightbulb Letter deadline – Dec. 20, 2019, 4:00 p.m.

Bright Idea Forum – Feb. 10, 1:30-3:30 p.m. & Feb. 12, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Spring Forum 2020:

Lightbulb Letter deadline – April 9, 2020, 4:00 p.m.

Bright Idea Forum – May 6, 1:30-3:30 p.m. & May 7, 8:30-10:30 a.m.

If you’re seeking a grant, stay informed by subscribing our new monthly e-blast, and be sure to share with a friend!

What We Do Not Fund

  • General operating expenses that are not directly related to the project or initiative
  • Salary support for pre-existing positions
  • Fund-raisers
  • Grants to individuals
  • Travel expenses for projects, performances, training or meetings that occur outside the Fox Valley Region
  • Feasibility studies or other major capital projects or capital campaign expenses
  • Ticket purchases or subsidized admission fees
  • Medical research
  • Previously incurred expenses
  • Full cost of any project
  • Financial audits
  • Rent or facility expenses

Questions? Ideas? Contact Community Engagement Manager Carolyn Desrosiers at 920-702-7625 or [email protected].

Want to learn how to make your grant successful? Check out our grant workshops.

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Questions? Visit our Bright Idea Fund FAQ page