Downeast Innovation Fund

Application deadline: October 15


Entrepreneurship and innovation are deeply ingrained in Maine culture and a critical part of our economy. Encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship and innovation will grow existing businesses in Maine and inspire new startup ventures. These in turn create the thriving local economies that we need to improve the quality of life for all Maine people.


As part of Maine Community Foundation’s strategic focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, we are partnering with Machias Savings Bank and other donors to launch a new competitive grant program, the Downeast Innovation Fund. Our goal is to support nonprofit organizations that provide programs to improve or increase entrepreneurship and innovation in business and the local economies of Hancock and Washington counties.

Maximum award: $10,000


The Downeast Innovation Fund Grant program supports projects and organizations that are focused on supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in the local economy. Priority will be given to projects or organizations that:

  • Increase or improve skills, opportunities, and/or willingness of community members to be entrepreneurial or innovative
  • Use partnerships or collaborations with other organizations, networks, and/or programs
  • Engage community members in the design, implementation, or evaluation of activities or programs
  • Have local support for the proposed project or activities through financial or in-kind donations
  • Have the potential to positively impact the local economy.

Types of Support

The Downeast Innovation Grant Program awards two types of grants to support entrepreneurship and innovation: project grants and capacity-building grants.

Project grants: Project grants are only for new or expanding projects.

  • New projects are those that are being implemented for the first time.
  • Expanding projects have already been successfully implemented and will be serving a new or different population, geographic area, or include new services or content other than what was previously implemented.

Projects must have clear start and end dates and have defined goals or outcomes. Projects running for more than two years are not considered new projects and are not eligible for grants unless they are expanding.

Capacity-building grants: Capacity-building grants support organizations that are actively engaged in work to support entrepreneurship and innovation. These requests can be for activities that will make such an organization stronger, more successful, or more efficient. Capacity-building activities may include but are not limited to:

  • training for board, staff, or volunteers
  • improving financial management or information systems
  • acquiring technology to improve or expand services
  • developing new sources of earned income
  • strategic planning focused on achieving a specific goal.

Capacity-building requests must include an explanation of how the proposed activities will improve the organization.

Examples of eligible projects and expenses:

  • Incubator programs that educate/train business startups
  • Programs that support innovation in natural resource-based activities
  • Programs that provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs
  • Workshops geared toward strengthening innovation and entrepreneurism Downeast
  • Mentorship programs for entrepreneurs
  • Programs that will engage young people, new Mainers, people of color, and older people in entrepreneurial endeavors
  • Innovative collaborations with potential to contribute to economic growth Downeast


All applicants must meet the Maine Community Foundation’s general grant eligibility requirements. In addition, please note that:

  • Applicant organization must be a 501c3 nonprofit organization located in Hancock or Washington county, and serve people in either one or both counties
  • Project or program must include strategies and goals to increase entrepreneurial innovation in Downeast Maine
  • Grants will not be made for endowments, capital improvements, scholarships, or annual operating expenses. Costs for equipment necessary to implementing a proposed project may be funded.

How to Apply

  • Complete the online grant application by clicking the link in the grant application box at the top right corner of this page.
  • Online applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on October 15. Decisions will be announced in December.

Project Progress Report

All grant recipients are required to submit a Project Progress Report approximately 10 months after receiving payment of the grant. Reports are submitted through the online system. Organizations that fail to file a progress report will not be eligible for future funding from the Maine Community Foundation competitive grant programs for one year or until the missing report is filed.


We are happy to discuss project ideas with potential applicants. Please contact Cathy Melio at or by phone at (207) 412-2002.