Next Stage will celebrate its 10th birthday in 2024!

And to mark a decade of social impact work and partnerships, we want to give back to the community that has given so much to us. As a result, we’ve designed a grantmaking initiative like no other –The UnFundable Project. 

Fact: We Are Big Fans of Trust-Based Philanthropy

Given their relationships, knowledge and proximity to issues and constituents, nonprofits are able to build trust in their communities and among those they serve. We believe this makes them best equipped to determine how to make an impact with the resources entrusted to them.

Because we are big fans of trust-based philanthropy, we’ve partnered with the Charlotte Ledger to bring attention to the importance of trust in formulating social impact efforts.

The UnFundable Project

To highlight just how much we believe in this approach, we designed The UnFundable Project – a grant opportunity that will award $10,000 in cash support for a nonprofit need or opportunity that would typically struggle to receive investment in a traditional grantmaking process. Maybe it is so innovative, it is too ahead of the curve for more traditional sources of support. Or maybe it seems too frivolous to some or lacks data to back it up.

Or maybe it just isn’t all that flashy as an initiative, and yet you know it would significantly move the needle for your nonprofit’s work.

We want to know about it. We are using this process to increase awareness of the importance of trust-based philanthropy. While there can only be one recipient of the grant, we hope everyone will benefit from the advocacy the effort will produce.

What to Know

The Timeline

  • September 27 – Application opens at 6 am.
  • October 5 – Zoom Office Hours for applicant questions. Drop in anytime between 9 – 10:30 am.
  • October 20 – Any questions due to Next Stage by 5 pm. No questions regarding the application will be answered after this date.
  • October 27 – Application closes at 5 pm.
  • December 1 – Top 10 Finalists determined.
  • February 8, 2024 – The UnFundable Project Celebration! The grant winner will be announced during a special event.


Organizations must have 501(c)3 status and be legally registered in Mecklenburg County or the majority of the organization’s work must occur in Mecklenburg County. There are no restrictions on budget size or mission, but preference will be given to organizations with less than a $5 million annual operating budget. Total project budgets must be at least $10,000 and must take place between March 1, 2024 and February 28, 2025.

While the project may be challenged to receive investment through traditional channels, it still must be a purposeful use of funding, i.e. no setting fire to a pile of money.

The most compelling applications will demonstrate how the project advances the organization’s mission and/or vision.

Meet the Panelists

The Next Stage team, along with the following six panelists who represent great work being done at the intersection of profit and purpose, will be reviewing submitted applications to determine the grant recipient.

Valaida Fullwood, The Soul of Philanthropy

Don Jonas, Atrium Health

LeDayne Polaski, Mecklenburg Metropolitan Interfaith Network

Manny Rodrigues, Broad River Retail

Nicole Storey, City of Charlotte

Martha Yesowitch, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Follow Along

Ensure you’re following us on our social channels and subscribe to our newsletters so you don’t miss important updates, like application updates or celebration announcements. Additional info will be available at

Get in Touch

Questions about requirements, eligibility or tech troubleshooting may be directed to 

The Application

You can access the application here.

We’ve also included all of the questions below. You won’t be able to save an incomplete application online, so we recommend copying the questions and requirements below into a separate document to work on a draft. When you’re ready to submit, follow the link above and insert your answers.

  1. Please enter the point of contact details for this grant.
    1. First Name
    2. Last Name
    3. Phone Number
    4. Email Address
    5. Company Name
  2. What is your organization’s mission?
  3. Share the link to the organization’s website (or the point of contact’s LinkedIn page, if no website is available)
  4. What was your organization’s annual operating budget from its last complete fiscal year?
  5. What is the name of your UnFundable Project?  (Maximum 100 characters)
  6. Tell us about your UnFundable project. (Maximum 1,000 characters)
    1. Make sure you’re answering these questions:
      1. Why is your project considered “unfundable”?
      2. How does this project support your mission and/or vision?
  7. OPTIONAL: Video Upload
    1. If you would like to upload a video sharing details about your UnFundable Project, please follow this link. Videos must be no longer than 60 seconds and should be simple – there is no need to provide an edited, “produced” video.
  8. When will your project begin? (Must begin between 3/1/2024 and 2/28/2025.)
  9. When will your project end? (Must end before 2/28/2025. )
  10. What are the potential barriers to success and alternative plans to ensure project success? (Maximum 750 characters)
  11. Upload an Excel sheet with the budget breakdown for your UnFundable Project.
    1. The document must be in Excel format. The total project budget must be at least $10,000. The UnFundable Project will provide $10,000 in grant dollars and the organization must show a plan for covering the costs of anything above and beyond $10,000.
  12. What else should we know about your UnFundable Project? (Maximum 500 characters)


In Partnership With