MLK50: The Next Step Forward

MLK50: The Next Step Forward grant program is no longer accepting applications. 

As our community continues to reflect on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis seeks to honor the legacy of Dr. King and the work he pursued here in Memphis in 1968, by launching a grant program designed to seek answers to the question asked of all of us on April 4: Where do we go from here?

We recognize that our community has come a long way since 1968, but we also understand that there is still ample work to be done. In the city of Memphis, 27% of our population lives below the poverty line, and this poverty disproportionally affects African-American and Latino populations. We have the highest child poverty rate among cities our size. Shelby County’s incarceration rate, although falling, is still well above the national average. When those jailed are released, their ability to find a quality job is severely limited. More of our kids have access to high-quality schools and teachers than they did in decades past, but plenty still lack that opportunity. And when those kids walk home, many walk through neighborhoods that lack adequate housing and other basic amenities.

For every exciting, new development in Memphis, there is a statistic that shows us there is more we must do to build our city. Dr. King collaborated with others to coordinate his social justice work during the Civil Rights Movement. We seek organizations looking to build on his platform and effect real and systemic change. His work was focused on six pillars:

  • Poverty
  • Better Jobs – Higher Wages
  • Decent Housing
  • Quality Education
  • Justice
  • Peace

The Community Foundation will award one $25,000 grant in each of these six categories to agencies that are working in that area to change the path forward for Mid-Southerners. Applicants are encouraged to learn more about these pillars as detailed by the National Civil Rights Museum as part of its MLK50 programming.

How to apply for a MLK50: The Next Step Forward grant

Organizations operating in the Memphis area that have had their 501(c)3 status for at least three years and have a published, reviewed profile are eligible to apply. Organizations should also have a current strategic plan that is approved by their board of directors and uploaded to their profile. 

Each organization can only submit one application. As part of the application, organizations will be expected to answer the following questions

  1. How does your organization’s mission specifically address the pillar for which you are applying?

  2. Within the pillar for which you are applying, what is your current assessment of the status quo? In other words, what do you believe the current state of poverty, housing, education, etc., looks like in our community?

  3. How is your project designed to change the status quo? Although we are interested in your outputs, it is important that your project demonstrate the potential for breakthrough and system-wide change. How will you leverage these funds to achieve that breakthrough? What will change as a result of your work that moves our community forward?

Organizations will be required to submit two letters of support. Those letters should be reflective of the community in which your program will operate. The organization should clearly define your community in the questions above. The committee will want to see evidence that your organization has demonstrated a commitment to that community, and that you will continue to engage them throughout the duration of the program. 

Applicants will also be required to submit a project budget to demonstrate how grant funds will be utilized.


Grantmaking timeline

  • May, June: Attend one MANDATORY pre-application information session held at the Community Foundation (1900 Union Ave.) throughout May and June (REGISTER HERE). 

  • June 15: Application opens online via the grants portal. Register as a Grant Administrator for your organization to begin the application process.

  • July 18: Deadline for eligible applicants to submit a profile for review, including profile updates.

  • August 1: Deadline for applicants to submit an application via the grants portal by 4:00 p.m. All eligible applicants must also have a published, reviewed profile by this date. 

  • September: All applicants will be notified via e-mail about their award status no later than September 28.