Next Step Fund

Notice to 2020 Next Step Fund Applicants: Even with COVID-19 we are on schedule with the review of the proposals and will be notifying artists by the end of March about their application status. Watch your email in-box for a notification. Finalists will have approximately 2 weeks to prepare work samples and full instructions will be sent.

The Next Step Fund, funded by the McKnight Foundation*, provides project grants up to $5,000 to professional artists in any discipline for the purpose of career development and artistic achievement. Applicants may be at any stage of their career, but must demonstrate achievement in their artistic field and have a history of public presentation or community contribution. This is a highly competitive program. Please read the guidelines before you apply. The application will be activated six weeks before the deadline.

Text Guidelines for screen readers and translation applications are here.

An ideal Next Step Fund project is one that:

  • helps an artist overcome a barrier to significant, long-term success
  • professionalizes or increases artistic output and quality
  • enables an artist to complete a project that marks a significant milestone in their career, and/or
  • assists an artist in reaching a new community or market

Recorded Grant Workshop

A one-hour video of the Next Step Fund grant workshop available via YouTube with captions. This is a helpful way to learn more about this grant program and how to put together a competitive grant proposal for the Next Step Fund.


Monday, January 27, 2020 - 11:59 pm

Program director

Bethany Whitehead

Program requirements & eligibility

This program has a two-tiered process for review. A peer review panel rates all eligible applications based on the program criteria. A smaller group of the highest-rated applicants are selected as finalists and asked to submit work samples as context for their proposals. The grantees are selected from the finalists after a public panel review. 

The requirements listed below are intended to give a sense of the program and are NOT comprehensive. Applicants are required to read the complete guidelines before beginning their application.

  • This program funds emerging, mid-career and established artists, working in any discipline, who have evidence of artistic excellence respective of their career stage.
  • Applicants must have resided in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott or Washington County during the entire year prior to the deadline.
  • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older.

This program does NOT fund:

  • Projects being produced by an organization. This program provides support for the professional and artistic development of an artist independent from their organizational identity.
  • Fellowship support to sustain an established artist’s profession.
  • Activities that engage in political lobbying, serve the religious socialization of participants, or discriminate against persons or groups.

Help with your application

MRAC program directors are available to review a draft of your application on a first come, first served basis. Send your request as soon as possible but no later than noon on Friday, January 24, 2020 to To obtain a review, applicants must provide a completed Artist section and Project section; applicants may choose to submit a resume/CVs as well. Documents may be submitted in the following formats: Word, PDF, or text in the body of the email. Written feedback will be provided via email. If you are a person with a disability you may request other accommodations.

Previously funded projects

MRAC staff can email you two applications from previous awardees; email program director Bethany Whitehead at to request the two you would like to review. To see a list of this and last fiscal year’s funded projects, visit our recent awards page.

*The McKnight Foundation’s arts program is founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive. The McKnight Foundation supports working artists to create and contribute to vibrant communities.

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