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.

In 2021, these competitive grants ranging from $100,000 to $300,000 per year will be awarded 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. For this grant cycle, Woods Charitable Fund will only accept inquiries for funding from nonprofit organizations that have previously received WCF grants.

Funded projects could 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 with a 501(c)(3) status located in Lincoln, Nebraska, or with a proposal directly benefiting Lincoln are 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.

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

Nonprofits interested in applying for a Breakthrough grant must first contact WCF to discuss the proposal, and then be invited to complete an electronic Letter of Intent (LOI). To discuss the proposal idea, please call Woods Charitable Fund at (402) 436-5971 or email information about the proposal to [email protected]. The completed electronic 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.

Request for Proposals Announced August 3, 2020
Letter of Intent Due September 15, 2020
Notice Inviting or Declining Full Proposal October 1, 2020
Full Proposal Submission Due January 15, 2021
Notify Finalists February 1, 2021
Proposal Presentation by Finalists Late February 2021 (date TBD)
Award(s) Announcement mid-late May 2021

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 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 up to $900,000.

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.

Bridgeway to Better Living, 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.