Breakthrough Initiative Grants

A Message from Tom Woods, President of Woods Charitable Fund

As a foundation, we know our nonprofits in Lincoln are working hard to fund and fulfill their basic missions and rarely have the luxury to dream big on new ideas. We hope this new funding initiative can offer the chance for those potentially transformative projects and collaborations to take shape. We recognize that some of the best ideas won’t work perfectly the first time. We accept that risk because we believe the magnitude of challenges we’re facing in Lincoln present opportunities to try new approaches and take chances. The end result could be significant.

Breakthrough Initiative Grants from Woods Charitable Fund will support promising and groundbreaking new programs, collaborations and/or organizational best practices in Lincoln, Nebraska.

These highly competitive grants ranging from $150,000 to $500,000 per year will be awarded annually to one or more selected projects, with multi-year funding possible. Applying for a Breakthrough grant will not exclude a nonprofit organization from also applying for WCF’s traditional funding awards during its regular grant cycles in May and November.

Funded projects could address challenges or needs of broad relevance to Lincoln or could address a very significant challenge affecting a small but unique and vulnerable population in Lincoln. A proposed project could test a specific, innovative new response to an identified problem with a commitment to make the findings widely and openly accessible.

Those applying may propose activities or approaches that involve risk-taking, as long as the risk is balanced by the significant potential for improvement for the nonprofits and the populations they serve.


Nonprofit organizations with a 501(c)(3) status located in Lincoln, Nebraska, or with a proposal directly benefiting Lincoln would be eligible to apply. If the project is a collaboration, partnering organizations must submit evidence of support. University or government entities may collaborate as partners on a project but cannot serve as the project’s lead agency.

The proposed project must fit within WCF’s traditional funding interest areas: Arts & Culture, Civic & Community, Education and Human Services. For more information on our funding interests:

Additional information on WCF’s grant-making considerations is available here:

More information on projects and areas ineligible for funding is available here:

How to Apply

Nonprofits interested in applying for a Breakthrough grant must first complete an electronic Letter of Intent (LOI). To receive the access code for the electronic LOI, please call Woods Charitable Fund at (402) 436-5971. The completed LOI will include:

  • a summary of the need, problem or opportunity to be addressed, supported by local data;
  • a proposed plan detailing project goals and the activities the grant would fund to achieve them;
  • an explanation of how the project qualifies as innovative;
  • a list of project partners and their roles, if applicable; and
  • an estimated one-year project budget.

WCF staff will notify organizations if they may proceed with a full proposal for a Breakthrough grant, and applicants will be expected to present information about their proposal to the WCF staff and board of directors.

Breakthrough Grant Schedule

Request for Proposals Announced August 1, 2016
Letter of Intent Due September 15, 2016
Notice Inviting or Declining Full Proposal September 30, 2016
Full Proposal Submission Due January 15, 2017
Notify Finalists February 1, 2017
Proposal Presentation by Finalists Late February 2017
date to be determined
Award(s) Announcement May 1, 2017