Northwestern Mutual

Nonprofit Grant Application

Here’s what you need to know to apply for a nonprofit grant from the Northwestern Mutual Foundation.

The following guidelines can help you understand Northwestern Mutual Foundation’s funding focus and navigate the grant application process.

We will accept funding requests through a two-stage application process for new grantees, with a separate application process for our current nonprofit partners. Grants are limited to programs and projects in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There are no open national application opportunities for funding.

  • Current Funding Priorities
  • Our Funding Guidelines
  • Submitting Your Application
  • FAQ

Current Funding Priorities

This fiscal year, we will  be accepting proposals for only two areas of focus: Third Grade Reading and Neighborhoods, specifically projects serving Amani, Metcalfe Park and Muskego Way.

The Third Grade Reading Initiative

We know that children who are not proficient readers by third grade have poor long-term outcomes, both in school and beyond.  We also know that the prosperity of all Americans is dependent on the nation cultivating a future workforce that is highly literate, knowledgeable, and skilled. That said, more than 84 percent of Milwaukee third graders are not proficient in reading, which poses a long-term problem for the state of innovation, employment and overall progress in our city.  Learn more about the Third Grade Reading Initiative. Read about a program where Early Literacy Spells Success.

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Milwaukee Neighborhood Scholarship Program

To encourage more Milwaukee-area students to pursue and succeed in higher education, Northwestern Mutual awards grants to support scholarship opportunities for first generation college students.  The company matches each scholarship recipient with an employee volunteer mentor to help the student succeed both in school and in making the transition to a career. Read a success story.  Access program guidelines and application form. 


The Northwestern Mutual Foundation has supported the nonprofit Dominican Center as it works with residents to solve problems affecting education, health, housing, safety and employment. The support is part of an outreach by Northwestern Mutual to create welcoming, safe and healthy neighborhoods for more than 70,000 residents in three Milwaukee neighborhoods, Amani, Metcalfe Park and Muskego Way. 

More than $6 million has been awarded to nonprofit partners throughout these neighborhoods.  Learn more about our work at the Dominican Center.  See our Neighborhood Map for locations and parameters of these neighborhoods. Learn more about our focus on neighborhoods. 

Making Milwaukee a Great Destination

The Northwestern Mutual Foundation supports attractions and events in Greater Milwaukee that make the city a destination where employees want to live, work and play.  Organizations may apply for funding by invitation only.  Learn more 

Our Funding Guidelines


Northwestern Mutual partners with organizations which have a tax‐exempt classification under 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. We do not make grants to organizations that advocate, support, or practice activities inconsistent with Northwestern Mutual’s non‐discrimination policies, whether based on race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age or status as a protected veteran.

In addition, an organization is required to be:

  • A U.S.-based organization
  • Located in and/or serving clients in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a preference towards serving clients in our targeted neighborhoods of Amani, Metcalfe Park and Muskego Way

What we don’t fund:

  • Organizations that are not tax-exempt under paragraph 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service Code
  • Individuals, for any purpose
  • Nonprofit organizations located outside of the U.S. and those that primarily serve clients located outside of the U.S.
  • Grants that would represent more than 10 percent of a nonprofit organization’s annual operating budget
  • Endowment, debt-reduction or debt-retirement campaigns
  • Capital campaigns, unless invited to apply by Foundation leadership based on our philanthropic interests and priorities
  • Groups or organizations that will re-grant Foundation support to other organizations or individuals (except for those approved on an exception-only basis)
  • Schools or community athletic events or teams, bands or choirs (including requests for equipment, uniforms, travel and any requests for in-kind donations to support special events)
  • Labor, religious or fraternal groups that do not provide services to the community at large
  • Organizations that do not align with Northwestern Mutual’s non-discrimination policy as provided above

Submitting Your Application

Please note:

  • The Foundation’s deadlines for fiscal year 2017 are as follows:
    • Letters of Inquiry (New Grantees Only) – October 17, 2016
    • Stage 2 Applications (New Grantees) and Invitation for Existing Partners: January 6, 2017 

      No late applications will be accepted. Our fiscal year 2017 began July 1, 2016 and continues through June 30, 2017.
  • All Letters of Inquiry/applications are to be submitted online using the online system.
  • Access your account to do any of the following:
    • Return to an application you have saved but not submitted
    • Access record of your previous submissions
    • Access requirement forms

How to Apply Online

Step 1: Read the background materials provided by the Northwestern Mutual Foundation

Please visit to review the Northwestern Mutual Foundation’s giving strategies and focus areas. Reading this content will help you determine whether or not your organization is a potential fit for funding. The FAQ  tab above provides further information about the electronic application process. If you have any questions that are not addressed in these documents, please contact us.    

Step 2: Complete the application

Our online system is designed to make the application process as easy as possible for our nonprofit partners while still obtaining all of the information that is essential to us during our review. Please note: There are separate applications for grants and event/table sponsorships.

How to apply for a grant:

  1. Submit an online Letter of Inquiry (LOI) to provide an overview of your project and explain how it will make a significant, lasting impact on third grade reading or on our targeted neighborhood outcomes.
  2. The link for the LOI will be available on September 15 and the deadline to submit your LOI is October 17, 2016. Existing nonprofit partners will be invited to submit a single stage grant application, which will be open on November 16 with a deadline to submit of January 6, 2017.
  3. If your project is selected for further consideration, you'll be asked to submit a more comprehensive grant application. Grants are usually announced three to four months after a completed grant application is submitted.

Funding for events and table sponsorships:

For fiscal year 2017, the Northwestern Mutual Foundation is funding events on an invitation-only basis. (We've already contacted organizations we intend to support this fiscal year.) Please refer to the FAQs if you have questions about the event sponsorship process.
Step 3: Review process

Once we have received your application in full, the program officer assigned to review your application will be in touch with your organization for follow up should the need arise. Within 60 days of deadline, we will either request a full proposal, ask for additional information, or send notification that we are unable to fund your request.


The Northwestern Mutual Foundation accepts all applications for grants and event sponsorships using an online tool: MicroEdge IGAM. We do not accept applications via postal mail or e-mail. Here is some information for you to review.

Online Grant Application FAQ  

  1. How can my organization apply for a grant from the Northwestern Mutual Foundation?
    You may submit your grant application electronically through our Web site (

  2. How do I apply online?
    To apply online, click the “Submitting Your Application” tab on our Web site, choose the correct application for your request and follow the instructions provided. To expedite the process, it is helpful to type answers to the application questions into a word processing document, and then copy and paste the responses into the appropriate sections of the online application.

  3. The person who set up my organization’s online account no longer works here. Should I create a new account?
    No. If you still have access to the old login information, please use it to sign into your organization’s account, and click “Change my E-Mail/Password” to update the account information. In the event that the login information is unavailable, please contact the Foundation at (414) 665-2200 for assistance.

  4. I clicked the “Forgot Password?” link but did not receive a message from the system.
    The system will only e-mail temporary passwords to users who have created an account in the past. If you do not receive a message, you may create a new account.

  5. I receive an error message when I input my organization’s tax identification number. What should I do?
    If your organization has tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code, please make sure that the nine-digit number you have entered is, in fact, correct. The same applies if you are working with a fiscal sponsor. If the number is correct, please leave it as is. Upon submission of your application, the Foundation will perform a manual check against the IRS database and contact you for more information as needed.

  6. I received an invitation to apply for funding via email. I started an application and saved my progress, but every time I try to re-access the application, it starts over from scratch What do I do?
    The application link in the email can only be used to start a new application. To return to an application you've previously saved, you will need to access your account's "My Account" page. Look for the application you've started on your list of In-Progress Applications and click on it to continue working on your saved application.

  7. If I am in the middle of completing my application, can I save it and continue working on it later?
    Yes. You may save your work on an application by clicking the “Save & Return to My Account” button located at the bottom of each page of the application. When you decide to return to an application, go to the “Submitting Your Application” tab on the Foundation’s Web site (, and click the “Access your account” link. Then, log in using your e-mail address and password to view all of the applications saved under your account.

  8. Does the Northwestern Mutual Foundation require any documentation in addition to the online application form?
    This varies, depending on which application type you are submitting. If attachments are required, that will be indicated on the online application’s Welcome page.

  9. How do I submit these additional documents?
    Instructions for uploading these documents as attachments are provided within the application. We prefer that you use Word (.doc, .docx), Excel (.xls, .xlsx), and Adobe (.pdf) file formats. Please note that the total size of your attachments cannot exceed 50 MB.

  10. I’ve filled out all required fields and added my attachments. What happens after I click the “Review Before Submitting” button?
    Clicking this button does not submit a final version of your application for consideration. You will have the opportunity to review your application one more time. When you are satisfied, click the “Submit Application” button at the bottom of the screen to send us your application.

  11. I submitted my application, but there’s a mistake in it. Should I submit another one?
    If you discover a mistake after the application has been submitted, contact the Northwestern Mutual Foundation at (414) 665-2200 for assistance.

  12. What should I expect after I submit my application?
    Once your application is submitted, you will receive an automated confirmation e-mail. For grant applications, please allow 60 days after the application deadline for a response. For event applications, this timeframe will be less than 45 days after you submit the application.

Event Application FAQ

  1. How do I know if my organization is eligible for an event sponsorship from the Northwestern Mutual Foundation?
    Northwestern Mutual Foundation has moved to an invitation-only online application process for fiscal year 2017 (July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017) for all Event/Table Sponsorship requests. We no longer accept unsolicited requests for Event/Table Sponsorship.

  2. Are there any deadlines for event applications?
    We have removed the 60-day deadline for event applications. Completed applications received by the end of the month will be paid by the middle of the following month. For example, applications received in September will be paid mid-October, those received in August will be paid mid-September, etc., provided that they meet the sponsorship criteria.

  3. What is the sponsorship criteria?
    • Your organization must have an ongoing funding relationship with our Foundation (focus area funding received within the past two years).
    • A Northwestern Mutual corporate employee needs to be involved with your organization (board member or volunteer) in order to host any table that we purchase.
    • Additionally, the Foundation will sponsor a maximum of one event per nonprofit partner per our fiscal year (July 1-June 30). The Northwestern Mutual Foundation does not sponsor conferences, conventions, golf outings, school trips, concerts, or performances.

  4. Do I need to submit any additional documentation?
    Yes, we require that you attach a listing of all sponsorship and benefit levels. If you have an electronic version of the event invitation or save-the-date card, please include that as well.

  5. What should I expect after I submit my application?
    Once your application is completed and submitted, you will receive a confirmation e-mail. Please allow 30 days after submission for review, during which the staff member assigned to your application will contact you for further information as needed.

  6. What if my organization did not receive an invitation to apply?
    Invitations to apply were sent via e-mail in August, 2016 to the Event Contact (i.e. Events Coordinator, Development Director) provided on your fiscal year 2016 online application. You can access an electronic copy of previously submitted applications via your My Account page. The invitation-only link was also sent to Northwestern Mutual employees who serve on the boards of these select nonprofits.

    Invitations were sent to organizations which meet all of the sponsorship criteria noted above. If your organization meets the criteria and did not receive an invitation to apply, please contact your Northwestern Mutual Foundation program officer.

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