setting ideas in motion

Breakthrough Initiative Grants

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

WCF will not offer a Breakthrough Initiative Grant opportunity in 2024 or 2025. Information about a potential Breakthrough grant opportunity, if available in 2026, will be announced in summer 2025. More information about applying for a Breakthrough Initiative grant is at the bottom of this page. 



Previous Breakthrough Initiative Grants

Collective Impact Lincoln, Civic Nebraska: Collective Impact Lincoln received a three-year, $1.175 million grant in 2017 for a collaboration to create meaningful, resident-led investment and change in 6 of Lincoln’s core neighborhoods. Civic Nebraska in partnership with Nebraska Appleseed (and previously South of Downtown Community Development Organization) have canvassed neighborhoods and sponsored community events such as Community Builder Workshops to help neighbors examine communities’ natural strengths and identify ways to improve. This project received a follow-up three-year grant in 2020 for $900,000, and a three-year followup grant in 2023 for up to $550,000.

UPLIFT Project, Legal Aid of Nebraska and Center for Legal Immigration Assistance (CLIA): UPLIFT received a three-year $600,000 grant in 2018 for Legal Aid and CLIA to offer legal services and education through four of Lincoln’s community and cultural centers: the Malone Center, the Good Neighbor Community Center, the Asian Community and Cultural Center, and El Centro de las Américas. The centers help identify clients with legal needs affecting their economic stability, and attorneys provide on-site legal assistance. This project received follow-up three-year grants in 2021 and 2022 totaling $450,000 to serve three community and cultural centers.

Bridgeway to a Better Life, Lincoln Literacy: This grant supports staff and operational growth and development of this Lincoln Literacy program that helps residents build foundational skills in English language and literacy and continue with job skills and occupational training, with a wide range of community partners. This three-year $500,000 grant was awarded in 2020. Lincoln Literacy received a two-year continuation grant in support of general operations and adult-skills classes totaling $150,000 in 2023. 

Safe and Healthy Families Initiative, Family Violence Council: The Safe and Healthy Families Initiative received a three-year, $900,000 grant in 2021 for a collaboration to provide a coordinated response to child abuse cases in Lancaster County in which domestic violence also occurs. The collaboration engages five Lincoln partner organizations: Voices of Hope; Friendship Home; CASA for Lancaster County; BraveBe Child Advocacy Center; and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center on Children, Families and the Law. Its goal is to improve child safety through a more domestic abuse-informed coordinated response by agencies that work with families, improve partnerships with parents, provide professional development and education for professionals engaging with these families, and hold perpetrators more accountable. The Safe and Healthy Families Initiative received a one-year continuation grant in 2024 granted to the Center on Children, Families and the Law.



About Breakthrough Initiative Grants

Breakthrough Initiative Grants have been awarded as multi-year grants in the range of $200,000-$400,000 per year. Funded projects address challenges or needs of broad relevance to Lincoln or 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 that apply for a Breakthrough grant are eligible to also apply for WCF’s traditional funding awards during its regular grant cycles in May and November.


Nonprofit organizations with a 501(c)(3) status located in Lincoln, Nebraska, or with a proposal directly benefiting Lincoln are eligible to apply when Breakthrough Initiative Grants are available. 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.

More information on our:

  • Funding Interests is available here.
  • Grant-making considerations is available here.
  • Projects and areas ineligible for funding is available here.

How to Apply

If offered, the steps and timeline for applying for a Breakthrough Initiative Grant will next be available in summer 2025. Nonprofits interested in applying for a Breakthrough grant must first contact WCF to discuss the proposal, and then be invited to complete an online Letter of Intent (LOI). The completed online 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 finalists will be expected to present information about their proposal to the WCF staff and board of directors.